Fear of Longhand

I’ve been writing on a laptop for the past four years, mostly as a technical writer. I’ve written about HTML, CSS, and Drupal with smatterings of PHP and git source control. It’s important for those who are new to programming or web development. It’s boring for those who just open up their internet windows to look at videos, read buzzfeed articles, and to stare at their neighbors on facebook.

When I wrote in college and in high school, every first draft was written longhand. I’ve been trying to find the best way to break up with typing. But it is a relationship I don’t want to leave.

I’ve even purchased a 1960’s italian typewriter in a nice shade of turquoise to correct my typing. To make me more efficient. There is something redeeming about not being able to use the backspace. It is beautiful knowing that their is only one copy of your words. And it is neat, misspelled but neatly presented. Expertly printed, in one edition. The first and possibly only edition. To be tucked away, as an old teach of mine might say, in the circular file. This way only the paper, the typewriter, the creator, and god knew of its existence. It’s dark and beautiful. However, my typewriter has keys that get stuck, I get frustrated with the noise, and I would not take it anywhere, and I am constantly forgetting that it is not a true qwerty and that it is difficult to use things like apostrophes. But the most interesting and fascinating thing is that it makes me slow down.

My dad’s mother worked as a secretary before she was married and she used to type 100 words per minute on a large black typewriter, in longhand, and without mistakes. I type on a good day with a good stream of consciousness about 70-80 wpm and I make mistakes, all the time. The backspace lets me clear them up. Hemingway mode on draft does not. But then I weasel back in and repair them.

I’d like to use the longhand that I used to use to write poems. We used to experiment with different colors for different genres; we used to create poems on large pieces of presentation paper. This used to help to get over the mental block.

For now I’ll keep experimenting with different types of typewriters and take a break from longhand, it becomes difficult for me to write anymore with a pen and with paper. I want to but the pure act reminds me of my college days, sitting at a bar with a journal and scribing down the dialog around me. It wasn’t healthy and it never produced anything I could actually read. This is the forceful me telling me to create to move forward to do something countable, to be accountable to myself. And to stop procrastinating and to avoid the longhand for fear of falling back into old habits of never being able to read what I actually wrote.


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