Sunday, September 16, 2012

September Theme: (Type-)Writing Misconceptions (Stephanie Burgis)

This month's theme is "Misconceptions about the writing life", and having watched multiple movies lately about writers, I just have to ask...

...What is up with all the typewriters?????

I just watched the rom-com The Decoy Bride, where David Tennant plays a blocked novelist. He's incredibly artistic and literary about his own work, while the heroine (Kelly Macdonald), a former online copywriter who now writes tour guides, is incredibly pragmatic about her own books. They flirt, they spar, they engage in a lot of battle-of-the-sexes banter about whose books are best, and then they each sit down to work...and guess what? There's one thing about both of them that's exactly the same:

They're both working on typewriters!

Huh?

OK, I thought maybe the filmmakers might be trying to make a point about Tennant's character's artiness, but what about the heroine? Didn't she buy herself a laptop back when she was writing online copy fulltime?

Well, never mind. I shrugged, moved on...and then watched the trailer for the upcoming movie Ruby Sparks, about another writer:

All you have to do is watch the first five seconds to see a scene of the hero writing...on a typewriter!

Do all Hollywood scriptwriters use typewriters instead of laptops? Or do Hollywood directors not actually realize that we've moved on?

I get that typewriters have a certain nostalgia value nowadays...but really. I grew up using a typewriter until I was in my mid-teens. I was in HEAVEN the day I switched to a computer word processor.

Suddenly I could save my work, whole novels' worth! I could make changes without having to use white-out or retype the whole page! If I lost my whole printed-out manuscript, I would still have my novel waiting for me on-screen, ready to be printed out again!

An awful lot of people in Hollywood apparently think that writers still use typewriters, though. Hmm. I wonder why?

What do you guys think?

12 comments:

  1. Well, let's face it. Writing is not a particularly cinematic activity. I mean, when I think about filming what the actual writing process is like, it would be me staring at a screen for an hour, walking around muttering nonsense to myself, moving through all five stages of grief, and still having nothing but a blinking cursor. This alternates between me tapping away like a secretary taking dictation. I suppose that might belong in a movie somewhere, but probably a more experimental one.

    The typewriter, on the other hand, is full of nostalgic cultural reference. the sound of the keys is orderly, productive--I start out slow, come to the end of a line with a ding (notice how very few people in movies are typing on the fully electric typewriters that any professional would have used even in the 1970s), and you can hear and see my thoughts speeding up as I tick-tick-tick away. On a laptop on the other hand, when I'm typing speedily, there's barely a sound, and the sound of computer typing could just as easily be me arguing with the internet or playing Facebook games as it is Making Art.

    At least that's my thought--there aren't many actual typewriters floating around Hollywood, at least as far as I can see.

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    1. I think they must save all the typewriters for the film sets! ;)

      And you have a point - there's certainly more drama (and noise) in typewriting. (Which is of course one of the reasons why it's so much easier and faster to write on a computer!)

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  2. Thank GOODNESS we have other options now. Probably using a typewriter (or longhand) is also a tool for characterization... how eccentric in these technological days! But, then, not so much, when so many movies featuring writers use them. (And aren't there a lot of movies featuring writers? Write what you know....)

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    1. I am SO glad not to be stuck with a typewriter nowadays!

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  3. My earliest manuscripts were written on a modem-less pre-Internet computer. It was kinda like a glorified typewriter. And now, I draft all my work on one of those Alphasmart NEOs (no Internet distractions, runs on AA-batteries). I'm pretty low-tech at heart...

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    1. Ah, but AlphaSmarts are the perfect in-between machines, aren't they? None of the distractions of a laptop, but you can still save full documents and transfer them back to your computer afterwards...perfect!

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    2. So true! I don't know what I'd do without mine...

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  4. I walked into my local Staples store pick up some printer ink the other day and discovered they have a small section devoted to electric typewriters (and all the accessories)! Maybe they are making a come-back! Not for me, though. I remember writing TV news scripts on a manual typewriter - DING!

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    1. Wow. I wonder what the temptation is, for the people buying them? (If they enjoy them, that's great! I'm just baffled by the appeal of them myself, after being so frustrated by them in the past.)

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  5. I do find it silly that writers are always on typewriters. It does work as a better visual than a computer, but it doesn't portray the true process. I guess showing the process isn't what they intend; it's supposed an image that separates writers from other types of artist/workers.

    I prefer writing my drafts in longhand, and revising on the computer. The creative flow comes to me much easier when I'm holding something.

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    1. That's interesting to hear, Jazz! I used to have to draft all of my scenes longhand before transcribing them, and honestly, I think I may have had more polished "first" printed drafts that way...but it's something I had to give up when I had MrD and lost most of my writing time. The funny thing is, though, now I have a hard time handwriting stories at all, because I've gotten so used to typing all of my very first drafts over the last four years!

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  6. Have you ever seen the movie Stranger Than Fiction? Talk about totally misunderstanding the writing life! In that film, the publishing company actually sends an employee (played by Queen Latifah) to follow a writer (Emma Thompson) around to make sure she finishes her novel. Now every time I get writer's block, I think, "Where's my Queen Latifah??"

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