Is there anything in the human psyche more irrational than nostalgia? Is nostalgia ever just objectively, factually accurate? Today, I am thinking about the typewriter. And the crazy people that want it back.
But let’s pause for a second so I can tell you why I’m thinking about this particular artifact:
You see that stack of papers up there in that photo? That’s my new book. It’s coming out next year. That stack of papers is the final draft that’s going to my editor today. (It was not written on a typewriter.)
I’m going to talk about the book in a minute, because I’m super excited about it.
But back to my point about the typewriter. If we were back in the Age of the Typewriter, that stack of papers up there would have been literally the ONLY COPY of my manuscript. Which is the stuff of nightmares for a writer.
You’ve seen it before. There is always that scene in the movie where the author types out his last page and yanks it triumphantly out of the typewriter’s platen with that satisfying thumbnail-down-a-washboard ripple and in the next moment the maid opens the window and bam, papers are raining down on lower Manhattan like wartime propaganda dropped from a C-130, and the next two hours of the movie is consumed with getting the pages back and inevitably one of the pages is in the mouth of a stray dog who sits there with its head cocked before it runs away and the author chases it and runs into the woman of his dreams but not before somehow getting his head stuck in a shopping cart.
Funny for a movie. Real life? Nobody wants that. Nobody.
Don’t get me wrong. Typewriters are gorgeous pieces of machinery – if I was a collecting sort of fellow, I would collect them.
But that’s because I love the memories typewriters have provided me. I recall being curled up in our worn old armchair, reading a library book, listening to my father tapping out poems and prose on his typewriter. It remains one of the great ambient sounds – like shuffling through fallen leaves on an autumn day or a dog’s contented sigh – the whip-snap of a typebar, courier-branding a white page before gliding back into its tight platoon, letters and symbols waiting to be called into action.
But let’s not pretend like we prefer typewriters.
A friend of mine, a collector of typewriters, said that to me last year. That he missed typing on typewriters.
I wanted to say this to him: “Oh? Which part exactly do you miss? Was it the fact that when you made a mistake of a single letter you had to go get a bottle of white plutonium that smelled like chemical warfare and literally brush away that single letter and then use the breath in your lungs to blow it dry with the patience of a mother bird feeding her young and then go and find a dictionary and look up how to spell ‘rhythm’ properly and carefully type that word again lest you make a mistake and have to reopen the Wite-Out and pray you aren’t overcome by fumes and are found passed out three days later by the landlord demanding his rent?”
I didn’t say that. Because I don’t love conflict. (Instead I said “Oh, me too!”)
We used to use typewriters to type letters to people. I get it – kinder, simpler times. There was something wonderful about getting a letter in the mail, something exciting about typing up a formal letter. No argument there.
But right now I can communicate with people instantly, and I can do it with almost comical ease, frantically slapping my keyboard with an open palm like a monkey trying to put out a burning bag of monkey food and yet somehow gmail will still know exactly what I am trying to say, will correct my spelling, and will even offer to complete my sentences in a seasonally and culturally appropriate manner. (I typed ‘happy’ yesterday and in grayed out letters gmail suggested I finish with ‘Thanksgiving!”)
So by all means, let’s sink into those memories. I believe that they keep us happier as we get older.
But give me my Mac. Give me Word. Give me auto-correct and auto-save and a printer in our home office. Because that, my friends, gave me that stack of paper in the photo up there.
So, as promised, back to that.
I have a book coming out next year.
It is a middle grade adventure fantasy world-creating book, the first of a trilogy. It has probably taken me close to five years from the earliest seedling of a story in my head.
Writing non-fiction comes naturally to me – this blog, my memoir. Writing fiction is a completely different skill set altogether. I had to learn it.
But I didn’t give up. Maybe thirty drafts total, from beginning to end. Probably a million words written total. All to get us to a book of a little under three hundred pages, ninety thousand words. Early mornings, late nights, and every commute on the train.
Here’s maybe my favorite part of all of this. (My non-Christian friends can tune out for the next couple of paragraphs if you’re more comfortable – I get it, I was an atheist for the first thirty years of my life and I know that sometimes hearing others talk about their faith can feel like an imposition. I don’t mean it as such, but I love you guys and I totally get it. I’ll let you know when it is safe to come back with the following code word: “Caterpiller.” I’ll put it in caps so you can just blur your eyes and scan down.)
My favorite part is which publisher bought the book: HarperCollins Christian.
The backstory there is that our friend Cindy, a budding writer herself, read the early draft and said that I should consider sending it over to HarperCollins Christian. I thought they wouldn’t be interested in this manuscript (even though publishing with them would be a dream come true) because it’s not a Christian book, per se. There is no reference to Jesus or anything overtly Christian. In the world created in this book, Christianity isn’t a religion.
But I sent it to them. And to my delight, they loved it. They loved the idea of the Narnia-type cross-over. In the way non-Christians read Narnia and couldn’t care less about the allegory, and Christians read Narnia and find the allegory plain as day. They saw the allegory in my book immediately. This book is about good and evil and self-sacrifice. It is about how what we believe about the world defines who we are and what we do with our lives.
But story comes first. And I think this book, the first in a trilogy, is a good story.
Welcome back everyone!
Oh – last thing! I may not be able to publish a blog every single Wednesday as I’ve done over the last twelve months, since I’m working on this other project. But every other week or so I’ll be posting. Not that you’re asking.
Okay, that pretty much brings us to…
The Top Five Dumb Things I’m Nostalgic For.
1. Marshmallow Peeps.
I walked into the grocery store as a college student and saw a massive stack of Peeps – it must have been Easter. I realized I no longer had to beg my parents for Peeps, I could spent $10 on Peeps if I wanted, and I did, and I took them home remembering how much I loved them as a kid and then I took one bite and all my teeth fell out.
2. Letter Writing.
I loved letters. But I don’t think they are actually better. With letters I lost touch completely with people with no hope of finding them again. Now, with Facebook, I know now what old high school friends are doing. I can watch them with their kids in real time. When I look at how much they have changed I realize how much I have changed. You can complain about info overload all you want but I’m totally into that.
3. Lazy Saturday Mornings.
Before kids, my Saturdays were breakfast sandwiches and turning on the TV in my sweatpants. I would end up watching some reality show spinoff marathon and the day would be gone. (“Daisy of Love.” Hoo-boy, was that a bad show. And so addictive.)
4. My First Car.
I had a 1986 Buick LeSabre, two door, white on the outside, crushed velvet on the inside. It was a ridiculous car that actually shut off if you dropped below about 9 miles per hour, which meant I never came to a full stop, and I just kept making hard right turns. My friend Charlie dubbed it the Speed car because I was like Keanu Reeves on that bus that couldn’t slow down or it would blow up. I find myself missing that car and then I realize if you gave me that car now as a present in my driveway I would just walk right past it, staring at the sky and whistling awkwardly like when you see somebody you don’t want to say hi to.
5. Making Art Projects.
I like doing projects with my kids now, I find it fun and I find myself missing those days. Which ignores the fact that while my mom would patiently take me to the hobby store and get all the materials and help me glue stuff and I would end up just pasting myself with so much paper that I looked like a papier-mâché boy and my mom with her boundless patience would have to talk me down from throwing the whole thing off the roof.
Okay! That’s all!