Use a typewriter, like a real man

Real paper, real words, real wood box: reading (and writing) a work-in -progress.
Real paper, real words, real wood box: reading (and writing) a work-in -progress.

I read a blog post the other day about how writers need to, well, get their game on. For a lot of writers, just plain old writing is the problem and the solution. A tough way to go, that. You might call it a Catch-22. You want to write, you don’t even start. You want to finish what you started, you can’t make yourself sit at the desk and do it, for love or money. The blog post asked a lot of things (are you writing the wrong book for you? is that why you aren’t doing it??), but mainly, it asked: did you finish your last book? If not, why not? If yes, HOW?

I sent a comment that, yes, I finished my last book, but it may have been easier for me than it is for many others. I have written four previous books and completed my new one, the non-fiction “Finishing Year” (about going on a student exchange overseas – at age 48 – to finish my first university degree) last year, a year after completing my degree in art history. I was a University of Victoria (British Columbia, Canada) student and graduated from there, although I last studied in Europe.

But even for me, it is not all fun and games. It still took about a year to write it, although I had none of the work a fiction author would face. Where the blog post noted “write the best chapters you possibly can – but in terms of what happens in them, not necessarily the line-by-line language,” I rejoiced that, as a non-fiction author, I get to spend all my time concentrating on that language, because the story is complete – at least, chronologically or event-wise, it writes itself. The incidents happened to me, or I caused them to happen, through my unintentional bumbling or my insatiable desire for a life filled with adventure, take your pick. This is truly the wonderful benefit, for a writer, of not having to make things up.

I write screenplays and find that to be much tougher. The only way to get through those is to do absolutely nothing else at the time and just force your way through. You have to do it. Who cares if you do not shave during this time? Who is going to see it anyhow?

Still, I had not written a book for quite a few years, and I felt like it was quite a task producing this one, even though I worked on it from about the second or third month of my one-year overseas exchange. It should have gone easier. The thing is, I worked as a journalist for several years at the beginning of my career, and followed that up with years of marketing writing. So the writing chore is perhaps not so much of a burden for me as it might be for others, but I still found it like rolling a rock uphill, at least at times.

The other thing the blog noted was, “print out your book as you go,” which is golden. It is one thing I learned to do right at the start of this new book and will do for all the ones that follow, because I write them on a typewriter. In case you are not too familiar, a typewriter is a device that works like your computer keyboard attached to your printer. You write and voilà, the device instantly prints your pages. I pile the pages in an old, wooden artist’s paint box, which equally suits North American or European standard paper sizes (try it). And, I figure out the word count/finished book length simply by typing a few pages from someone’s finished book, the size and layout of which impresses me as being about what I am aiming for in my self-printed form, and each page I complete equals almost exactly a page of final, printed book. This helps me know when enough is enough.

The greatest thing is that, after all this (and after you shave), you have a product, you sell it, and you make someone’s day brighter, possibly even your own.

My Hermes Baby. It also addresses envelopes.
My Hermes Baby. It also addresses envelopes.

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