The Muse in the Machine

I started composing a reply to comment made in a post recently, but it was such a thought provoking comment that I decided a full-blown post was in order! If you’re a regular follower of my blog, perhaps you’ve been wondering what has happened to my usual steady stream of reviews. I must admit writing has taken me in other directions, plus my well is running dry of typewriters to review!

Sure, there are uncovered jewels to mine, but since I’m not a collector, my focus has been highlighting the common varieties that can be handily obtained without much fuss for writers. After all, that’s why we’re getting a typewriter, right? To write!

Someone suggested I review what’s called the “standard” size typewriter. There is a case to be made that the standard is a superior machine. And for good reason! They were made to perform under the daily pounding of thousands of words of memos, reports and letters, without causing strain or injury to the typist. They needed to be swift, certain and reliable.

I won’t disagree.

However, many of us are mail order constrained. Meaning the bulkier machines cost more to ship and unless they’re packed correctly, may suffer catastrophic consequences. Moreover, the good portables I’ve found usually come from someone who has nurtured and cared for the machine through the decades. They’ve kept it in a closet, well protected and away from the elements. Besides a term paper or two, it might’ve not even seen much use. Since the standard machine often came from the office, it didn’t quite imbue the owner with as much pride of ownership. My advice: find a local machine and try it out!

But that’s not what this post is about! The comment I was responding to came from “loadedremington” in the post “Why Every Writer Needs a Typewriter.” (By the way, loadedremington, whoever you are, love the moniker and you rock that bow tie!) He said, “Seldom do you encounter something that defines you as a person the way these wonderful machines do…they are an extension of my soul.”

Good news, pilgrim, the Rubicon has been crossed, the Red Sea has parted, Beyonce has been blessed with twins. There’s a reason for this discovery. It’s no accident. You’ve found your muse!

The real secret to a typewriter, the thing you’ll rarely hear discussed for fear that once revealed will disappear, but which you alluded to by writing, “they are an extension of my soul,” is that little creature called the muse.

Many of us are too busy to take notice. Distracted by bits and bytes, our soul disintegrates as if in the Matrix. It’s a fickle creature and like many writers, a bit shy and withdrawn.

But don’t confuse this with being meek.

For once she, or he, finds a home. A REAL home. A place with comfortable boundaries. A place well cared for and loved. She, I’ll call her she, she’s a she to me, is a powerful ally in your creative campaign. But don’t expect her to magically appear once you get a typewriter.

She needs some coaxing and shown that you’re ready to commit to a long-term relationship. Make your writing sessions short at first. Get a feel for writing unplugged. Find the right typewriter. One that fits the eye and the fingers. If you don’t love your machine, neither will your muse.

Since high school I wrote on a computer and I can honestly say I didn’t find my true voice until I started writing on a typewriter some 25 years later. Once you let go and open yourself to the possibility of a magical helper, you’ll tap into a divine experience. But it takes a real willingness to truly let go.

Once you let go of doubt and censure, and just write, she’ll creep in. You might not even notice her at first. Write a page or two, letting your thoughts go, letting go of mistakes and word choices. Do this everyday. Tuck the page(s) in a folder. Don’t read them. Don’t edit them. Just let them steep. Return to them in a week or even a month. That tingle you get in your spine is your muse tickling your soul. They’re your words, but somehow not. It’s not all gold, but amongst the rubble are some nuggets.

This transformation is not possible on a computer. Sure, you’ll turn out acceptable stuff, and with enough edits and feedback, you’ll approach something worthy. But somewhere in this computerized process exists an emptiness. It might even feel sanitized. Writing is messy. Living is even messier. And once you stumble through it with abandon, you’ll find your legs and your true path.

Don’t ditch the computer. Use it for what it’s good at: Polishing your words. Putting the manuscript together. Use the typewriter for strengthening your voice, finding it, nurturing it, exploring and getting messy.

If you’ve had a similar experience, please share your thoughts! No worries, your muse won’t mind, and it’s no shame admitting you have a magical helper!

Or if you just want to weigh in on standard vs. portable, that’s OK too.

5 comments

  1. Lovely post Daniel!

    As far as standard vs. portables… I finally did pick up a 1944 Underwood Model S (whom I’ve named “Plimpton”). This came from my typewriter repair guy Monico. He is local so no treacherous shipping was involved. I have to admit, the whole typing experience with this machine is really superb.

  2. I think you’re right on about typewriters and the muse. And certainly computers are good for the polishing work as you say. As for standard versus portable I prefer medium portables they’re a good compromise between portability and functionality.

  3. Sometimes the passion is interfering with the passion of writing, that is why there’s a difference between the collector and the user. The user seek the best tools for his purpose and often a good typewriter is not the beautiful one you have in your collection. You can’t love many things on the same time collecting and writing is maybe the problem.

    But then you discover that writing is not an hobby for passing time…

  4. Beautifully stated. I think my most intense typewriting experience has been NaNoWriMo a few years ago. 50,000 words and almost 100 single-spaced pages in a month. You really get into a different zone.

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