where the writers are
Typewriter Sounds

I was wondering if the "Typewriter sounds for Mac" I downloaded last week would get annoying; that even though I remember typing happily on a typewriter in secondary school, perhaps these sounds would be not pleasantly nostalgic but instead really irritating. I am both pleased and suprised to find that this concern was unfounded.

Not only is it, to me, a wonderful sound (at low volume) but for some mysterious reason, it is energizing, inspiring even - almost a creative muse.

"Listen, you have typed a word, created a sentence, formed a paragraph, completed a page,"  it seems to say, both participating in the process and cheering from the sidelines.  I feel myself in a 1940s film, when writers were depicted in serious black and white, "pounding the keys" in parallel seriousness.

I used to tease Harlan (Ellison) about his typewriter - pointing out the antiquity of it, the slowness, the clumsiness of re-writing. Whereupon one evening, he rushed to his iconic typewriter and shouted "Slow? I can write you a [expletives deleted] good story in five minutes." Which he did.* I love this little written-for-me story. And it is good. Better than good. Rather stunning, in fact.
The point he said, was to be so good the first time, that re-writing wasn't much of an issue. We write books in our head. I believe that. Believed it before I met him, because I did it. I wrote a book in six weeks once that I had been writing for two years in my head. What was published was pretty much a first draft. It was published by a very fine press and republished by two others. It wasn't the first thinking draft, but it was the first written draft - the product of distillation during a long slow gestation. So, we agreed. But we still talked about it often enough because that was not then the popular view about writing. Nor is it the prevailing attitude out there in the relentlessly amateur-advisory blogosphere. 

But this little app now, this is really something. The tap tap tap, the patterns one makes, the rhythm of the fingertips, the beat, the staccato, the measurement of the brain. Something about this metronomic sound seduces the senses, makes me want to be nowhere else, doing nothing else.  The process of writing - this auditory engagement with methodology and form - becomes addictive.

I'm not sure it makes the quality of what is written any better, though it may. But it makes a difference to the fact of it. It makes the writing act itself mesmerising.  Do what you love, say the professionals and the amateurs who copy them. Listening to the pulse of the process, the cadence of creation, the tempo of thoughts becoming words under my fingers, I can honestly say that I do.


*This little scene is depicted in Epistle for Ellison on this blog: http://redroom.com/member/harrison-solow/blog/epistle-for-ellison