Monday, July 07, 2014

Writers Don’t Use Typewriters

There's a strange trend I've noticed for a while now. Whether it's on a T-shirt, bumper sticker, or online graphic, the word "Writer" is often seen with the image of a typewriter.




The image of a writer sitting in front of a typewriter is so common, we accept it without question.




Yet most of us writers can't relate to the image above. Our writing lives look a little more like this:




Or this:




Or this:




For many of us, it likely involves yoga pants or PJs, no makeup, and our living room sofa.




Despite all of this, though, the typewriter continues to be the universal symbol of "writer." So it wasn't surprising when the TV show Mike & Molly chose to throw one into a scene with Susan Sarandon. It was part of the background, stocked with things to demonstrate what a writer would have.



Perhaps Susan Sarandon's character, a successful novelist, prefers using a typewriter. It's possible. But of all of the writers I know, I can't name one who uses a typewriter.

Can you?

81 comments:

  1. I haven't seen that episode of Mike & Molly yet. It's weird. You'd think the set dresser would realize no one uses typewriters anymore. But it could be worse - the international symbol for writers could be a feathered quill and inkwell - only 100 years out of date! lol

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  2. That's because no one uses a typewriter anymore. They did back in the day. I remember using one in high school and junior high.. We didn't have computers and printers.
    Although I never used one to write a story. Just did that with a pad and pencil.

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  3. I have a typewriter in the back of a closet... I haven't used it for 10 years. I'm pretty sure writers would use computers now... instead of archaic typewriters :-)

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  4. It must be fun to try the old way but I don't think it's the best thing...

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  5. I've never thought about it, but yes, that is very strange!

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  6. Funny, I saw a typewriter in a charity shop the other day and I almost bought it lol. I wasn't planning to use it, I just thought it would be a cool thing to have as a writer!

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  7. Stephanie, you read my mind. I was just thinking about this when we watched a movie called, The Family, over the weekend. Not sure if you have seen it but it stars Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer. Robert De Niro poses as a writer and uses a type writer to write his memoirs. Even though his character was using a type writer, I thought to myself, "Do writers still actually even use these things?"
    I laughed to myself when viewing your photos for this post. I see myself mostly as the PJ-wearing writer in the wee hours of the morning but eventually, I'd like to have a view of the ocean with my laptop in front of me=)

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  8. It's not odd to me seeing the typewriter image. We had them in high school and folks probably may still have them hanging around their attics, but I doubt anyone uses them anymore.

    However, there exists a lot longer time period with typewriters than there does exist with computers, making the typewriter a more likely candidate for connoting images of writers.

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  9. The typewriter is such an iconic image of the hack reporter rushing to a deadline, or the plucky novelist - it's kind of like the save icon in many computer programmes being a floppy disk, even though most of the modern generation wouldn't have a clue what one was.

    I remember Murder She Wrote had a typewriter for so long in the titles and it was such a surprise when they swapped to a computer :)

    I did once use a typewriter, when I first started writing as a child. It was a little blue portable - I remember it fondly :)

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  10. old writers still use them, and I mean those above 70 or 80 :) but us youngsters can see them only in museums.... and praised be Destiny for that....

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  11. I wrote a series when I was in Jr. High (10 books and they were rather big-where did that creativity go?! sigh...), and I did them up on an old typewriter :) Then my parents bought me a word processor and I though it was the neatest thing ever, lol. I actually used a computer for the first time, after I had graduated from HS and went to a technical school for a year. I was home-schooled as a kid and my parents didn't see the need for a computer :p They still don't have one!

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  12. I can't think of a name off the top of my head, but I know there are a couple best-selling authors currently publishing who still write on typewriters. And I have used them in the last 15 years.

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  13. It's like the save icon being a floppy disk. A homage to the past.

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  14. http://mashable.com/2014/02/15/modern-writers-technology/

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  15. a rather romantic notion but totally impractical these days. :)

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  16. My son and I are both novelist (he is just 15). He is pinning away for a typewriter, though I keep trying to discourage him. I have a gorgeous one from the 1930's. Love it to death but have never used it. Use to type in high school, like Alex and it trained me for how to use a computer keyboard by touch but can't truly see myself going back to those times. Especially not to the 30's. Too hard on the old fingers!

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  17. They must do it for nostalgia sake, as I know no one who uses them any more either.

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  18. so funny about Mike & Molly. I haven't used a typewriter since I was about 7 and that was only because I liked the sound it made haha I never actually typed more than a letter to a friend on it!

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  19. Nope, I live with one foot further into the past. (Pen and paper.) :-D

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  20. I miss writing on pen and paper, Misha. I never have time anymore to just set my laptop aside and write!

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  21. I used a typewriter many years ago. I prefer my laptop, it's far more simple. But, you know, this old object has been the instrument for many important writers and journalists in the past :)

    xoxo
    www.bellezzefelici.blogspot.com

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  22. I would hate not being able to save and edit my work.

    Yvonne

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  23. Hi Stephanie,

    I do not the dog typing on a lapdog, um, laptop. Maybe they will update and start using modern technology to represent writers. In my case, I'd be posing with pen and paper. Or chisel and rock.

    Gary :)

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  24. There can't be many typewriters left. And if there are where do you get ribbons and other parts? I've not seen a typewriter in years.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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  25. Don't know anyone else who uses a typewriter, I do have one though. Don't usually use it but did a while ago and it just made me want to hit it, they're annoying. And that is why nobody uses them anymore, haha. I guess they use it because it's trendy. :/ Weird though.

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  26. Nope, I don't know anyone who still uses a typewriter. We still have a couple around the house, but it's been a lot of years since I heard that distinctive clackety-clack DING!

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  27. Uh... I used to use one when I was like 13. It was an ancient, cast iron one which I loved... but quickly discovered I couldn't replace the ribbon on >_< I wonder what ever happened to it...

    But no, no I don't know anyone who actually uses one these days. Especially not a professional writer. It just seems like it would be more work than it was worth to not have an electronic copy of your work.

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  28. Great point! It's true that the image of the typewriter is always used, and I know of no one who actually uses one. I think the image is used because it looks classier than the modern computer/lap top. :)

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  29. I grew up using typewriters, but that was many years ago! I use a computer now, like everyone else. And I never wear make-up!

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  30. I absolutely love that dog gif.
    I don't know if I could handle being a writer if I had to use a typewriter. When I remember what it was like to have to use correcttype and liquid paper, not to mention trying to align the paper, I can nearly have a panic attack LOL.

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  31. Woody Allen writes on a typewriter. I just saw a documentary about him on Netflix Streaming. He's been using the same typewriter since he began writing. Pat Conroy writes in longhand on yellow legal pad and then PAYS someone to type it up. Doesn't he know I'd do it for free?

    Love,
    Janie, who never looks that good with her laptop and certainly isn't as cute as the dog

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  32. I read what Lexa Cain said and realized I need to comment again. She is absolutely correct that the set dresser doesn't get it. I have also noticed on medical shows that when a child is sick that one of the first diseases the doctors consider is chicken pox. In spite of the anti-vaccination people, chickenpox is no longer a common childhood disease and I wish someone on the medical shows would figure that out. It really irritates me that they don't know that there's been a chickenpox vaccine for quite some time. They also have people say, I CAN'T BREATHE! Well, if you can't breathe, then you can't talk. AND when someone has a seizure or something, the doctors prescribe ridiculously small amounts of relaxants that wouldn't do a thing for an adult have a seizure.

    Love,
    Janie

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  33. Oh, how embarrassing. It should have been an adult having a seizure.

    Love,
    Janie, who will now tiptoe away

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  34. I binge-watched Grey's Anatomy on Netflix earlier this year, so I know exactly what you're talking about, Junie!

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  35. Would you believe it, I've never ever used a typewriter!

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  36. Typewriters are fun to play with and maybe to look at, but not for practical use and writing. Heavens no!

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  37. Lol. I guess the tees and adds are still living in the typewriter era.

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  38. Heyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, I used a typewriter to write my first story.

    Me and my nails are so grateful for computers.

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  39. Bought a typewriter back in 1990 when I was sure I had a crime novel in me...after my daughter was born it got boxed up along with three very bad chapters and put away...most of my blogging is done from my tablet, not even my laptop! How's that for not fitting the writers mold?!?

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  40. I can't think of a writer that is portrayed with a typewriter, now that you mentioned it. In this day and age, laptops etc seem to be the way things are "written" down. I would gladly any day type on a laptop or desktop than a typewriter and have to correct a mistake with liquid paper :)

    betty

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  41. Ahh the days of liquid paper. I learned to type on a typewriter, so I can't imagine writing a novel on one. The worst part would be having to remove a paragraph on page 10 after the rest of the book is finished. Do you then retype the whole thing? Yikes.

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  42. Ever watch, Murder She Wrote?:)
    Back in the day, it was typewriters. Thank goodness those days are gone.

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  43. On NCIS, McGee used a typewriter on purpose. Of course, he admitted that it was strange in this day and age. But for real? I remember using a typewriter. I'd never go back unless I had no other choice.

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  44. That surprises me...since most kids these days have never even seen a real typewriter. I just remember having to write long term papers on them..along with a good supply of White Out!

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  45. I don't know any either - but I did use one when I was a kid, at a friend's mum's house. It was pretty exciting. But that was way before computers were mainstream. ;)

    I also learned typing in high school (also back before computers were in every classroom).

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  46. It does make you wonder - how much longer will writers be portrayed sitting at the typewriter? Today's youth has no clue what a typewriter is. Or a telephone or carbon copies or...etc.

    Fun post!

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  47. Well, Stephen King's writer characters are usually typing away on a "S'lectric," so maybe he still does? Or at least is nostalgic for it.

    I think typewriter is still the universal symbol for writer because typewriters were so annoying that no one would use one if they didn't have to. In contrast, almost everyone has or wants a laptop these days.

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  48. We recently bought my mom a typewriter as a gift. She loves it. I love them too, we have this little bookend typewriter, so great. And typewriter font is my most favorite.

    Have a great week and boogie boogie.

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  49. That's hilarious. I remember back when I first started writing articles I had a typewriter but soon bought a word processor and saved all of my articles to a floppy disc. I still have it for sentimental reasons and it's still in good shape.

    That dog gif is hilarious.

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  50. Holli--I saw Stephen King on an interview where they shot footage of him writing. He was on a desktop PC--this was 10 years ago or so, so he may have graduated to a laptop now. Seems desktop PCs are going the way of typewriters. (Laptops may not be far behind--except for us writers!)

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  51. I've seen typewriters in a few movies or shows, and I always wonder about it. But then, I also here of writers who hand write their entire first drafts before they rewrite onto a computer. Guess I'm too lazy for that. :-)

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  52. Debi, I used to set my laptop aside and handwrite a few pages, then type them up. I loved doing things that way. Someone told me a neuroscientist said that when we write on paper, it fires different neurons in the brain than when we type--especially if we write with pencil and can hear the scratching sounds. It apparently reacts more with the creative side of the brain. If you ever feel stuck, give it a try!

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  53. I wouldn't be able to stand doubling my work, once on a typewriter and then again onto the computer. Too inefficient for me.

    That's why I want one of these.

    Get the look without the hassle!

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  54. Hahaha, Loni. I've told my husband many times that he's lucky I don't write on a typewriter. I write pretty much from sunup to sundown, so all he'd hear was that loud clacking noise! There's also one that's an iPad stand:

    iPad Stand

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  55. I can't either. It's the vintage image that everybody loves and continues to dream about. :)

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  56. The last time my fingers touched a typewriter was in 1994...my senior year I took typewriting. My kids now take "keyboarding"...oh how advanced we've gotten!
    ~Katie

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  57. See?!!! I knew it was called "keyboarding" in some schools. I asked a group of teenagers and they looked at me like I was crazy and said, "No. It's called typing class, idiot." They didn't add idiot, but isn't that implied at the end of every sentence a teenager says to an adult?!

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  58. Thanks for coming by my blog ;o) Nice to meet you ;o) Very interesting post! I'm not a writer, but for me, I think it's like receiving a hand written letter or an e-mail. I would rather have a nice card, with a written note. Maybe the typewriter just has a lot of nostalgia with it ;o)

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  59. I couldn't use a typewriter either.

    I thought I read that Danielle Steel still uses one though.

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  60. I can't even imagine not using a computer!

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  61. I have noticed this but never really understood it. But also, in a lot of movies that has a main character who's a writer - they have typewriters. Not sure why, most authors I follow use laptops. I don't know anyone who actually uses a typewriter.

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  62. I think some images and associations just stick.

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  63. Hi Stephanie,

    As a blogger, even though my posts and reviews are written on my laptop, many of the notes I make whilst reading a book, are recorded long hand with pen and paper.

    I know that many bloggers will open up a blank posting page for a book and add notes as they make progress through the story. I find it easier to read away from the computer and simply jot notes and quotes down as I go, then transfer it to type in some kind of logical order.

    I don't know if fictional writers can be included in your typewriter search, but the obvious one that comes to mind is Jessica Fletcher in 'Murder She Wrote'

    An interesting post and I enjoyed reading everyone's comments.

    Yvonne.

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  64. Yep, I blog with my laptop everywhere.

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  65. I don't think I've even seen a typewriter in years.

    Recently saw an excellent movie involving typewriters: The Lives of Others. It's a German film about East Berlin in the mid-'80s.

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  66. I haven't really thought about typewriters and writers, but now that you point it out...

    I am so glad the typewriters are a thing of the past. I remember my mom typing my papers in middle school and such--it was so frustrating.

    One image I would add to your modern writer is the parent battling life distractions while at a computer--kids, dogs, cats, etc.

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  67. What puzzles me is authors who claim writing long hand. Takes way too long! Then you have to type it in anyway! If it's atmosphere you are looking for, you can take your laptop anywhere. I think.

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  68. Love this post...makes me wish I had a typewriter again!

    Sad thing is, I'm not sure my 8th grade students would even know how to load paper, etc! Makes me feel old!!

    Have a great week :)

    Jessica @ tinybabyg.blogspot.com

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  69. I love this dog tipying:))
    And he type so fast!!

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  70. Wise words! I was just talking to someone today about how in middle school I had to type papers on a typewriter. By high school computers were starting to be used (not the efficient ones we use today with all the fancy word processing programs). :) I can't imagine typing on a computer- I need spell check WAY too much and I love being able to fix errors instantly. :) I can't imagine anyone using a typewriter to write their book- imagine getting the edits back? Yikes!
    ~Jess

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  71. I actually know one writer who uses a typewriter and one who still writes her books out first...by hand. However, I agree, a typewriter is not my idea of being writerly.

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  72. In the 90's I was eager to throw out both my manual and electric typewriters (although now I wish I had kept the manual one for decor). I wrote poetry and school projects on them, but the electric one kept breaking down and the manual one hurt my fingers pressing down. My typing lessons and fast typing were useless on it. I can't imagine writing a book on those things.

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  73. I think it's a stereotype.
    Typewriter = Author.
    I can remember those days... seems so archaic now...

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  74. It's our logo. Though why they went for the ugly 80's electric typewriter for the show is beyond me. I wrote my first novel (a whole page, front and back!) on the cool black kind (I got it at a flea market at the age of 12...yes, I was a nerd) and still have it. I'm saving it for my museum. ;)

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  75. Considering the typewriter is no longer sold, it is interesting they still show the typewriter:) One day typewriters will be in museums and maybe even be shown on the antique roadshow

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  76. Hi Stephanie,
    This received a lot of comments. I have a prolific writer friend who said he still pulls out an old typewriter from his closet for fun. I also have a small program on my computer that I can click on and off for old typewriter sounds. Sometimes it helps.

    Someone also commented on quill pens. I love pens, always have and I think quill pens are cool (obvious if you seen the purple pens on my site). Many symbols outlast their use. For a long time light bulbs were described by how much candlepower they had, cars are still described by how much horsepower they have. I don't mind. I like looking back and forward. I am however, grateful every day for cut and paste.

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  77. I go crazy when I see a heavy old-fashioned typewriter. Go ooh and ahhhh. I even bought one. Have no idea where it is though. The idea of composing on a typewriter cracks me ups. But, I might give one a try if it inspires words out of me. It would have to be an electric typewriter that has one of those correction tapes installed so I can just backspace over typos.
    The View from the Top of the Ladder

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  78. OMG the dog gif! That should be my personal image. LOL.

    I did learn to type on a typewriter. And then, later, I had an electronic typewriter (better backspace whiteout). I did write two short stories, five articles, and probably a dozen-dozen poems between those two machines. (The electronic one required electricity, which one of the homes I grew up in didn't have. By choice. Just go watch "The Village" 2004 if you're confused.)

    But since 1996, I've only used a computer for writing. (Other than hand written, but that's just notes really.)

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  79. I've not once had an agent request a hardcopy printed/typed manuscript--all of them want an attachment in an email these days, as far as I can tell, and my current agent requires a digital file for the same reason. My editor uses track changes in word; not a red pen on paper. As much as I would love to write my books on a typewriter for the sheer inspirational feel and imagery of it; retyping the whole thing into a word file would kill my eyes and possibly give me an aneurysm.

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  80. Wow. Consider me amazed. There are many very successful writers who use typewriters, or paper and pen, and no, they don't "graduate" to laptops. Each method uses, and stimulates, a different part of the brain. I'm a songwriter too. It is said that every guitar has a few great songs in it. The best instruments are the ones that make you reach for them, again and again. They inspire stories; they inspire the writer to write, the player to play, the singer to create something new. Typewriters are the same, for many of us. I can't love a computer. But a beautiful Art Deco Remington Streamliner? Be still my heart, and pass me two sheets of paper from that ream over there. As for saving and editing - the writing is instantly saved, on paper. Editing happens after the writing. And yes, your computers manage bits and bytes very well, and are necessary for sending it to editors, etc., etc.
    But creating? Writing something original? Try it, folks, you might find yourselves falling in love.
    Y'all ought to get out more.

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  81. Typewriters are more popular now than they have been in years. Writers everywhere are putting down their laptops and buying vintage Coronas, Remingtons and Olivettis. Why? Younger people are drawn to the fact that a typewriter comes with zero distractions. I've tried to write on a computer and I hate it. I'll get a paragraph composed, then an hour later, I've spent $150 on eBay and I'm watching cute cat videos on YouTube.

    I recently bought a 1928 Royal Portable typewriter and I've written more on it in the past month than I have on the computer in the past decade.

    Another reason typewriters are gaining in popularity is that ever-popular word "sustainability." Manual typewriters use no electricity and generate no pollution. The desktops, laptops and smart phones you all posted your comments with will be in a landfill within the next five years - some may even be there already. My Royal will still be able to crank out page after page decades or even centuries from now. So keep clicking away on your high tech soul-sucking machines. I'll continue to write on a historical antique. You can continue to write on a piece of future garbage.

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