The Medium of First Drafts Doesn’t Matter

I was recently seduced by a typewriter. It happened while I was watching Finding Forrester. The typewriter came on screen and it intrigued me the way a record player or an old computer might. Something inside me said, this is how they did it before for years and years. No sexy, overpriced multitasking machine with tweets, browser tabs, chats, games, and a thousand other lovely modern distractions. Just the keys, the pages, and me. I could almost feel my fingertips resting on the loud and ancient keyboard. I pictured setting up a new writing area in my apartment somewhere in a comfortable corner by a window overlooking the foggy hills. How many more drafts could I finish if I just had this dandy distraction-free machine?

It’s easy to get seduced by technology, even if it’s outdated. I started a small vinyl collection a few years ago based on an idea of music formats through time. When the Doors recorded their debut album in 1966, it wasn’t mastered for an iPod. Maybe I’d enjoy and appreciate the songs more if I heard them they way they sounded in their time. So 80s music would be on tapes and the 90s would be mostly CDs. It felt pure and tickled the collector in me. I have most of the Doors albums on vinyl now but it hasn’t made any difference in how I listen to them. By default, I break on through to the other side via an iPod or my computer. I do pull out the records when I feel like escaping my computer or when there’s company, since it’s always a conversation starter, but I missed the point. My goal is to hear and enjoy the music. The medium barely matters.

My most basic writing goals are to write and finish what I start. The typewriter wouldn’t make a difference and might even collect more dust than my vinyl. That’s why I won’t be buying one despite that lovely vision of me typing on paper in the corner while Jim sings in the background. I admit it feels better to pen poems in cursive on cheap paper, pencil short stories in thick notebooks, and type my novel in the safety of my backed-up computer. But the medium isn’t what makes me a writer. I’ll drown text files and Moleskines. I’ll write on checks with leaky pens. I’ll cram ideas into post it notes and tweets and on the back of junk mail. I’ll yell at my phone’s speech recognition software when my hands aren’t free. Whatever gets that elusive first draft done. And I’ll start the second by rewriting all of it into my computer, where it’ll be easily editable, distributable, and backed up. The rewrite will improve the quality. The medium won’t be my excuse.

3 thoughts on “The Medium of First Drafts Doesn’t Matter”

  1. I tried writing a short story on mom’s old manual typewriter when I was 15. If you’ve been introduced to a word processor I wouldn’t recommend going back to one of those machines no matter how much nostalgia it might instill.
    Though I will say that there is something seductive about writing a novel long hand like they did in the real old days.

    1. Thanks for sharing. Nostalgia’s one thing but results are another. I’d rather finish that draft than feel all giddy and magical about my tools.

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