November 2, 2011, by Jon McGregor

You have limited or no connectivity

A lot of the time, when I write, I use a manual typewriter. There are a number of reasons for this. I enjoy the definitive physicality of it, the way in which it forces you into a writing procedure which goes: think – decide – type – move on. By contrast, when writing on-screen, the delete key is always within reach, and I find that this generates a kind of ephemeral indecision. While I’m working, I like to see my revisions on the page – all those strike-throughs and scribbles and arrows and notes – with the original still showing through. And I like the way that each time those revisions force me to retype a page, the physicality of the act naturally pushes me to abbreviate and compress the prose. But most of all, I like the way that my typewriters have absolutely no connectivity to the internet.

(There’s no need to expand on that. You know you get distracted by the internet when you’re using a laptop. And why wouldn’t you? But it doesn’t help.)

I’m not wedded to the typewriter, and I’ve no wish to romanticise it. What people say about the smell of the ink and the clattering sound of the keys hitting the page and the satisfaction which comes from each swipe of the carriage return is all true; but it’s not relevant. It’s not important. If I’m in a hurry, I use a laptop. If I’m away from my office, I use paper and pen. If I fancy a change, I’ll use either. But when I want to concentrate, and to choose my words slowly and carefully, I like to use a typewriter.

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