Fuzzy brained and addle-pated today, so we’ll have to see where this musing, this reverie takes us. It’s not just that I’ve run out of coffee, which as my beloved mom used to say is “Bad News Bears,” (after the movie of the same name), it’s that David and I caught the
late, late show of a movie called California Typewriters. Fantastic!
Fantastic, not just because I’m a typewriter enthusiast, who has four manuals, two of which are in working order. Fantastic, because it’s really about writing. About how we think and
how we write. During the documentary, we see playwright Sam Shepard with his beloved Hermes machine, which one of his kids found for him; we see the award-winning historian David McCullough with an old, remarkable upright Royal workhorse he bought for $25.00 and on which he has written every single one of his books. We see the songwriter John Mayer talking about switching from a computer to a typewriter for his composing. We even see Cormac McCarthy’s trusty typewriter being auctioned off at Christie’s for $200,000.+
All these creatives love their machines, not just for their reliability and functionality, but because of how they shape their writing. Sitting in front of a piece of paper and imprinting ink on it by striking keys gives you a fundamentally different relationship with the word than disembodied dipping into cyberspace. As Shepard and McCullough say so well, it also induces an almost trance-like state: It encourages you to simply sit and think. McCullough observed that he spends a lot of time not researching and writing, but thinking, sometimes even daydreaming. It’s this state of reverie — dreamlike meditation — that many writers describe as being “in the zone.”
I hope you catch California Typewriters. You may well find yourself tempted to spring for a manual — if you do, more power to you! But you’ll also come away with a deep appreciation for what it means to write, especially in a digital age where emails and tweets are often
the coin of the realm. Bravo, California Typewriters. Write on!