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The Best Writing Tool You’re Not Using

Writing a novel on a typewriter? Hard.
Finishing your novel by any means possible? Smart!

Are you stuck in the middle of your novel? Do you keep going back to “fix” things in your story? Believe it or not, you might need a typewriter. 

Yes, a typewriter. Smith Corona, Remington, Underwood, it doesn’t matter. True writerly geekiness is as close as your neighborhood thrift shop. (In fact, if you look hard enough, you can still find brand new typewriters for sale online.) But here’s the big question: why would you want to subject yourself to the onerous labor of using last-century’s technology?

Because sometimes you need to use extreme measures to silence your inner editor. See, writing on a computer screen works great as long as the story keeps flowing. When you’re moving forward, adding words to your novel, you’re in a good place. But the moment you start to doubt yourself, everything can come to a screeching halt.

On a computer, it’s too easy to sabotage yourself. With a single keystroke, you can go back and delete everything you’ve just written. Or tinker around with it endlessly.

But with a typewriter? Not so much. The moment you hit a key, clack, that letter is right there on the page. You can’t take it back. For better or worse, there’s only one direction you can go: forward.

That’s the magic of a typewriter. It forces you to keep going, typos and all. Once you get to the bottom of the page, take it out, put it face down on your desk and crank in a new sheet. Simple as that.

You can write anything this way if you have to. One page at a time. Eventually, you’ll find a rhythm. You’ll build momentum. Every “ding” at the end of a line tells you that you’re one small step closer to finishing your novel.

Chances are, by the time you finish a scene, you’ll have broken out of your inertia. You can kiss writer’s block goodbye and head back to the computer if you want to. If you run into trouble again, your trusty typewriter will still be there, patiently waiting for you.

When the subject of typewriters comes up, I’m often asked (with an air of disbelief) if I really still use one. And the answer is yes, when I need to. Because I’d rather finish a book the hard way than never finish it at all.

Got a favorite typewriter memory you’d like to share? Leave a comment.

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