Why Every Writer Needs to Own a Typewriter

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Distraction free writing seems to be the buzz these days. In fact, there are dedicated writing apps that have stripped away the formatting doo-dads, leaving you with a cursor and a blank screen, with the idea that you should focus on your words and nothing else. Great concept. However, what these tools still have is a distraction of your own making — the ability to go back and edit what you’ve just written. (Ignoring, of course, a web browser that’s only a click away.) And it’s not the deep edit that’s distracting, it’s the endless twiddling of the sentence or the words within the sentence, that slow the momentum of writing. It’s too easy to want to get things just right before moving on. And while doing this you’ve pulled yourself out of the flow of writing. That stream of consciousness where all great ideas lurk. That childlike ability to create and not critique. That’s where creativity lives. That’s where writing on a typewriter forces you to move the words and ideas forward without the ability to go back and edit.

There’s a physical sensation to writing that connects your fingers to your brain that is different than a computer. Your brain will sense that you’re on the high-wire without the safety net of editing and will respond with a creativity survival response. Once you’ve taken a few steps across the void, you’ll feel an exhilaration, new words and ideas will form, balancing your steps, giving you confidence to continue. As the words are strung across the page, you’ll succumb to a sense of fun, that innocence of creation will return. The rhythm of the typewriter will feel like steps towards a goal. The sound of keys striking paper begin to feel like music and when you stop writing, even for a moment, you’ll feel compelled to continue, because there’s no reward in silence. Your words are your music. They are the soundtrack to your story. And the typewriter is the instrument.

Like any instrument it takes a bit to master, but it’s not difficult. The typewriter will feel cumbersome at first, clunky perhaps, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll want to write more and it may even become addicting. You’ll want to get your fingers on the keys, even if it’s only for a few sentences, because in those brief moments, you’ll experience the thrill of creation that you just don’t get on a computer. And once the pages start piling up, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. Put them in a folder and once you’re done with a section, sit back and read what you’ve written and you’ll be amazed at how your creativity has grown. It’ll read rougher, but in its crudeness there’ll be a raw beauty. A beauty that’s always been inside you, now revealed by the typewriter.

The typewriter is the gateway to your truest expression. Unedited. Unadorned. Unadulterated. With it you’ll tap into words and expressions and ideas you never knew existed. They’ve been suppressed by the computer where they’ve been edited, critiqued and deleted.

Get a typewriter and free your writing! Your muse will love you for it!


  1. Hi there – I am interested in a typewriter because I don’t enjoy starting at a screen for terribly long, and I want to do quite a bit of writing. I generally write by hand, but the things on my brain require a typing tool! My one concern, however, is that a typewriter will be difficult to type on for a while and my fingers/wrists will start to hurt… Do you have any suggestions/input on this? Thanks!

    1. No worries, Grace! There are many portable typewriters that are quite easy on the fingers and wrists. Not quite as easy as a computer, but no serious strains. It might take some adjustment in your typing method. I tend to favor a modified hunt and peck style with my index and middle fingers.

      But the key is getting a good typewriter.

      I’m developing the top 10 list of writerly typewriters. For many writers who want the easiest experience I usually recommend an Olympia SM9. It’s the most modern of manual typewriters. Each key is spring activated, meaning the typewriter does some of the work for you. Plus it has the much easier basket shift. Here’s the full review of the SM9: https://typewriterreview.com/2013/10/08/olympia-sm9/

      Using shift on a typewriter might be the most labor intensive part of writing. I’ll go into more detail in a later post, but for now, just know that there are two ways to get at shifted characters, lifting the entire carriage (heavy) or just the typebar basket (light).

    2. Grace, I had a severe case of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis for many years and my hands love the typewriter. There are good ones and bad ones, but this site will steer you in the right direction. You’ll find a machine you like!

  2. Salutations & Greetings…xD

    I am Joshua, and I am from Mexico, My typewriter is an Olympia SG 3 made between 1977 and 1983. And yes, you are right. Writing this way is slightly addictive. Although I started in an Olivetti Dora, I am writing a book and you are right when saying this way is easier and more fun…xD

  3. I’m doing a seminar on the typewriter (selection and care) at Olympia Zine Fest this month so I will hand out a link to this. I’m sure there will be some hunger for more depth than I’ll have time for.

  4. You mentioned the phrase in there; “Once you learn to use a typewriter…” and I noticed at that point that you left out the most important tip about writing with a typewriter. — You must learn to touch-type! —
    It is not a hard thing to do — it only takes three days and that’s only because you have to sleep on it to let your brain stem learn the motions. I can paraphrase the simple instructions I used to teach myself touch-typing when I was in college if you ask. I read them in a book of “useful information” that I received from my Grandmother’s estate after she died. It was, in my estimation, the most valuable thing I learned in all of my eight years of college.
    The time saved will become incalculable, not to mention that it allows you to keep your mind on the story thoughts as you type (although spelling is often a casualty of this tunnel-visioned concentration on the story)

  5. Hi! I love your text and couldn´t agree more! “MAY even become addicting”? =) I´d say if you love to write, a typewriter will rock your universe, leaving you feeling totally naked unless those keys aren´t within arm´s reach… Seldom do you encounter something that defines you as a person the way these wonderful machines do. In my case I am convinced they are an extension of my soul, giving me the chande to pour myself onto the blank sheets of paper. Writing is living.and typewriters make life good!

  6. Many of the ‘distraction free’ benefits of the typewriter are claimed for the Freewrite by Astrohaus. It’s a go forward only machine and I splurged on one. The mechanical keyboard is a dream and without the ability to go back and edit, it fulfills the goal of simply pouring forth the draft without concern for grammar, typos, etc. One advantage is the synchronization with the cloud allowing import into Word or Scrivener without the hassle of OCR. It is expensive and an extravagance and has been dismissed by many as an affectation. I own and use typewriters and while the experience is not identical, I find myself gravitating more and more to my Freewrite.

  7. Well put. I only use typewriters for writing. I had writer’s block two years ago. I started using a typewriter and, except for a day here and there, have been writing every day since then. I wrote at such a manic pace that I completed nearly 70 poems in six months. Thirty three made it to my last collection, The Elastic Dome. I’m not sure what I like best: writing or typing, but I do make excuses to use them.

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