I typed the original version of this on a virtual typewriter

A virtual typewriter. 

This is what we've come to in our crazy-mixed-up world. I am actually typing on a virtual typewriter that has virtual typewriter keys that when depressed make virtual typewriter arms or whatever the heck they are called fly into the air and virtually strike a virtual page making a virtual imprint on a virtual piece of paper.

And then if I want I can send this virtual piece of paper with virtual type virtually printed on it to a program on the iPad I am using to command this virtual typewriter that will enable me to print and actual copy of this virtual creation.

What a world.

And here's the funny thing about all of this. I actually prefer writing on this thing to simply using a word processing program-- despite how slick it is and despite all of the ways that said program can make my document look snappy.

There was a moment just then when I actually felt my hand start to rise and hit the return on the virtual typewriter. 

Man, I used to love doing that. 

Remember? You would get to the end of the margin and there would be this little "ding" to warn you that you were about to run out of room. And if you were really awesome at typing, you would know that you had just a few more spaces--just enough to fit a word or half a word and a dash. And then you would hit the return arm at the last second and suddenly you would be given a new line to finish your thought, your sentence, or that word that you left hanging on the right hand margin with a dash in the middle of it.

I'm not one of those guys that sits around pining for the good old days of rotary phones. But there is something meaningful about being connected to what you create, isn't there? We've made this too easy I am afraid. There used to be something kind of dangerous about sitting down in front of an honest-to-god typewriter to write.

Think of the variables involved. You couldn't just erase a mistake if you made one. You had to whip out that weird circular eraser with the wisk broom on the end of it and try to make your mistake disappear cleanly without a trace--a task that was very nearly impossible. It was either that or white-out, which would make your errors stand out like a sore thumb.

And God help you if you had to include footnotes, am I right? I remember trying to half turn the roller that held the paper so I could position the footnote just so. Inevitably the footnotes would be at varying heights across my page.

Having someone proofread your work was a maddening and soul- stealing exercise. You would sit there watching your proofreader work, waiting for their brow to furrow and their pencil to descend--your stomach in knots, dying inside every moment. And then they would find an error, or two, or three and you found yourself debating whether you were willing to re-insert the paper and try to line the errors up so you could correct them properly, or just put a new sheet of paper in the roller and start over.

There's no danger in writing any more. There is no thrill, no roller coaster ride of creation, and correction.

When I wrote my recent doctoral dissertation, I purchased a computer program that scanned my document for grammatical errors, content issues and moments when I strayed from Turabian's rules and regulations.

Where's the fun in that?

I rather like this virtual typewriter, to be honest. It actually makes me feel more alive to use it.
I think that in a world where everything is at the touch of a button, where information streams into the virtual desktops of our virtual desks, where we grow impatient when that email that we just sent doesn't get answered in moments... we need to be connected to creating.

We need to relearn what it's like to feel the act of creation--to be connected in visceral and emotional ways with our thoughts and ideas. We need to know that our mistakes aren't always so easily covered up. We need to remember what it feels like to know that starting over might be the best way to correct our errors.

We need to type again.


  1. Yes, we do. I learned to type . . . fgfgfg jhjhjh . . . on an Underwood manual. I'm pretty sure these beasts survived in pairs on Noah's ark.


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