Why I (and the Millennial Generation) Love to Typewrite

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During a recent trip to Madrid, while my husband and I were walking on a narrow, hidden gem of a street on our way to a flamenco show, our eyes got distracted from the beautiful architecture by the colorful and artsy entrance to a bookstore. A piece of paper strategically placed inside of a typewriter challenged my Millennial fascination for anything retro to leave a legacy in the form of a poem. The touch of the steel keyboard immediately ignited a creative reaction.

The process is (in) the feeling

When I was a teenager, I was a writer. I would write anything, from children’s stories to mystery novels. I admired Agatha Christie and the old days when writers, such as the character played by Angela Lansbury in Murder, She Wrote, would write their bestselling novels on typewriters. I associated writing great books with the medium and asked my parents to buy me one for my birthday.

A typewriter welcomes the use of all senses, and this allows for more cognitive connections and associations to be made with a concept. Sound, smell, sight and the tactile senses are all stimulated and become ways for the information to be triggered and retrieved from the learning center.

Tom Hanks, the poster-(older)-child of typewriters, describes this comprehensive, almost enlightening experience in a New York Times article: “The sound of typing is one reason to own a vintage manual typewriter…it feels just as good as it sounds, the muscles in your hands control the volume and cadence of the aural assault so that the room echoes with the staccato beat of your synapses.”

When writing on a typewriter, the process became more important than the outcome. This was a learning that I then extended to other areas of my life, coming to appreciate the value of the journey more than that of the destination.

Using a typewriter is an experience of its own. It’s like riding a bike on a country road with sunshine lighting your way, or taking an old, dusty train. The journey is fantastic. Where does the road lead though?

There is no going back(space)

I believe that the creative process of writing on a typewriter is more immersive and more thorough because a typewriter commands a sense of respect that the laptop does not. The end results seem more precious, more permanent, more demanding than when it is written in an electronic document. Using a typewriter to create a story meant more thorough preparation before actually putting those metal keys to work. It was a lot of effort. And effort was cool. Still is.

Living in a world where everything happens at the speed of a Snapchat filter means that effort is not really associated with the younger generation. It may seem understandable that an oldie and goldie such as Tom Hanks enjoys typewriters, but a surprising fact is that these machines are found on the must-have lists of Millennials.

The special bond between typewriters and Millennials comes from our desire to not let anything go to waste. We award a higher meaning to the concepts of recycling and reusing – from cans and plastic bottles to vinyl records, 35mm cameras, Polaroids, etc. All these remnants of a previous technological era have two things in common: effort and purpose.

“Pressing the keys down takes so much more effort, but that effort says something about the effort of the creative process, the weight of what you’re writing,” says Kali Pollard, 24, an English major at UC Berkeley in an article that explores the fascination of typewriters attributed to my generation.

What really sets typewriters apart from contemporary machines is the lack of the luxury of the delete/backspace buttons. The lack of a safety net allows for a thorough preparation and a more continuous thinking flow once the writing starts. The effort of using a typewriter doesn’t really refer only to the physical process, but, as mentioned before, to the entire creative process.

At Bon Education, we say that first ideas are lazy ideas. Our content goes through many iterations and changes and each stage brings more thorough research and planning, in order to get to the non-lazy, brilliant ideas. The advantages of using electronic paper is that the process can be more collaborative. Sometimes half the team is editing a document at once, which works great when you are located in different time zones. Using a typewriter means this collaborative process would have to happen in person and it allows for more genuine, in-person feedback. But it also means a struggle to make changes and update versions. Intermediate versions remain encrypted in a Google Drive backlog, while nothing gets lost with the physical dimension of paper.

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What is the place of typewriters in history now, besides being on the must-have list of Millennials? These machines are becoming fashionable again in the corporate environment and we might hear the Chalk-Chalk* sound inside an office near us soon enough. Typewriters produce only one copy of a document, which makes it more valuable and safe. The NYPD has been known to use typewriters for their offices in order to ensure that information is not being hacked.

With our fascination of progress and the next tech big think, we seem to be forgetting the things that shall never change: our desire to create, to be inspired, to feel and to leave a long-lasting legacy. The typewriter is just the medium for that. A more immersive experience, a deeper understanding of the creative process and an unexpected comeback in the corporate world. I am dreaming of being back in that bookstore in Madrid, creating a new poem, perhaps an ode to typewriters. The words are in my mind, and my fingers long for the experience to print them.

*Chalk-Chalk is the noise that typewriters make. According to Tom Hanks.

Laura Toma
Education Consultant, Bon Education

Laura is pursuing her dream of changing the world through education. She is passionate about meaningful learning experiences achieved through technology, art and other non-formal programs. While working in advertising at the beginning of her career, she has led creative teams and worked with a variety of international clients. Her dedication to education started while managing projects for children in underdeveloped areas in Romania, and in the past year, it has taken the form of advocating for computer programming education in the MENA region.

Laura holds an MIB from Hult International School, a Master’s Degree in Visual Arts and a BA in Communication and Public Relations from the University of Bucharest. She regularly takes advanced courses via Coursera and has certificates of accomplishment in social entrepreneurship, learning to mod in Minecraft, new business models and blended learning. She is an active member of Rotaract Dubai, and she loves watching and critiquing movies, reading and traveling.

Photo credit: uveX, Pixabay.com

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