Beth Hautala

Children's Author

 

End Of An Era

The last typewriter factory in the world has closed. Did you know? Some tiny bit of the purist in me, died upon the receipt of that information tonight. It's a sad thing, really—it's the end of a monumental era wherein typing machines and printing presses are now obsolete. Relics. They will forever after be the stuff of steam punk. Also the stuff of my office. 

True.

There is a 1920’s Smith and Corona Typewriter resting resolutely on my desk.

Now and then, I pad down the stairs late in the evening a quietly peer into my writing room. I have the overwhelming suspicion that this dated mechanical, now made obsolete by digital convenience, has been reminiscing over words berthed through the last several decades. This awes and intimidates me. It's almost frivolous—actually punching out my own thoughts and adding them to a list of words so much older and likewise greater than mine. But out of passion and perhaps desperation, I occasionally use that typewriter and make my own little marks in its history. 

I have always believed in making your living at something you love. Writing was my love from the beginning, but I was told vehemently by many that I would never be able to make a living at it—at just writing. And I believed them. So, I shifted my angle, stuck a red pen in my back pocket, and became an editor. Now I live in the best of two worlds. During the day I edit advertising copy, taking note of bias’ and being careful not to impose my personal sense of creativity lest it distort my editorial bent. And after I am done working, I put away my red pen, sit down at my typewriter, and I punch out my attempts at beauty. 

Why a typewriter?

Please don't mistake me, I have a pathetic crush on my MacBook Air. It's ridiculous actually. I carry it with me. I run my hands over its smooth fingerprint-resistant surface and arch my fingers, poised like a pianist, over the keys. But all day long that amiable and wide-screened computer gazes apathetically into my face as I silently tap away at its digitally sensitive keys. This machine makes my life infinitely more simple and convenient. I can spend an entire day analyzing, correcting, editing, deleting, and reading without ever having to break out the white-out. But at the end of the day my sense of creativity is often screaming for release. Just the thought of another blank computer screen, unblinking and noiseless—save the quiet humming of inner-machine-workings—makes me want to throw that infinitely convenient and helpful machine out the window.

Some deep inner part of me longs for the sharp ring of metal keys against inked ribbon against paper. The very look and smell of a new white sheet rolled into the Smith & Corona is inspirational. Even the force required to punch out those words, on keys older than my grandfather, forces me to rest, to think, and to await further words to pound against the page.

In a society where our lifestyles are as expendable and changing as so many of our spoken words, I have found myself writing—using tools with which to do so—to try and pound out something memorable, something lasting. I long to create something I can cling to when the winds of change blow through my life. 

How many ancient Macintosh computers or Hewett Packard machines do you find resting in valued and almost holy places a-top the desks of writers? None. A computer, as with any electronic machine in our day and age, is dated and obsolete almost as it steps from the production line. Convenient, yes—very much so. But expendable, disposable, quickly recycled as the next new model arrives.

As for me, there are a several thousand words—worthwhile I hope—that must be said before I leave this earth, and I want them to last. They are words of memory and story, truth, and lessons learned through experience. Even secrets that must wait several generations to be heard. 

These words I will pad down the stairs late in the evening to write. I will pray quiet prayers for wisdom as I lay my fingers on keys older than my memories, and pound out my words. I will do my best to make them last, especially now, at the end of an era.