Tuesday, July 21, 2009

To Scratch and Scribble Part 4

My best guess is that I was in seventh grade when I fiddled with my very first typewriter. In actuality, it wasn't mine. It was the family's typewriter. It was a pale tan Smith Corona electric typewriter. To this day, my parents don't know where they acquired it. That worries me. Because my first run-in with this thing led me to believe it was the typewriter from hell.


I'd set the thing down on the carpet in my room, roll in a sheet of paper and sit there with my fist under my chin and cross legged to boot. . . . for hours. This was at a time in my life when I knew I really wanted to write but I didn't have any ideas. I figured that just owning a typewriter would provoke the flood of words.


Days would pass, the blank sheet of paper would still be in there, collecting dust. One day I decided to just start typing something, anything, and figured it would take me to a plot or a well-crafted story eventually. Can't remember what I typed but, oh boy, do I remember what happened after I got two paragraphs into whatever I was dishing out.


I was just finishing the end of one sentence when I made a classic spelling mistake. On any other typewriter, you'd have to deal with it. But with this one, it had an extra ribbon that would erase your mistakes all by clicking a button. I pressed it, hoping it would wipe out the last two words.


It sprung into action with a loud CHUGGA-CHUG! CHUGGA-CHUG!

It erased the whole sentence.

I figured oh well, keep going.



A few more sentences and the thing got going again. CHUGGA-CHUG! CHUGGA-CHUG! CHUGGA-CHUG! It was a nightmare. It was erasing the last two sentences I typed. I didn't even press the button! It was still going, taking out five more sentences, eliminating my second paragraph.


I tried typing some more but this thing would wake up on occasion to feed on my scribe garbage.


The damn thing defied me, mocked me. It had no feelings or remorse after eating my words. It felt no shame when I screamed in fury, "Noooo! Nooo! What are you doing?! Stop that!" I slapped the thing, I flipped it upside down another time. I came close to throwing it down the stairs but didn't.


From then on, I wrote my school papers longhand. I hated that damn thing. A month or two would pass and I'd feel brave enough to try again, but, like before, the thing was waiting for it's daily bread; my poor writing.

I guess I could've removed the ribbon but something told me that if I tried taking this thing apart, I'd get a malicious high from dismantling it and wouldn't stop.


Looking back, I've come to value that little episode as a firm lesson. There is some amount of mystique to being a writer. It's all about timing. You can't force ideas, thoughts or the perfect combination of words. If you try, something, in this mysterious world, will smack you down before you get too full of yourself.

I can still hear the dreaded CHUGGA-CHUG! CHUGGA-CHUG!

But I believe that thing had a voice and it was coming in loud and clear, I just didn't want to deal with it at that time.

It said,

CHUGGA-CHUG! CHUGGA-CHUG!
CUT IT OUT! CUT IT OUT!
YOU'RE NOT READY! YOU'RE NOT READY!


So I stopped typing on it. I took it's warning, reluctantly, but I still took it.


I recently found it in my parent's garage. They're planning to sell it in a yard sale. May God have mercy on the poor aspiring writer who tries to type with that thing. I'm certain that thing will be among the cockroaches should there be a nuclear Holocaust.


Found my dad in the backroom and I asked him if he remembered how I would go crazy trying to type and how that thing tested my patience. How I tried to write but failed to get anything down on paper for more than a few seconds.


"Hmm," He says, scratching his chin. "Maybe it didn't like what you were writing." He says this with a nod and a smirk.



I'm inclined to agree with him.




"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it." ~ W.C. Fields

1 comment:

Alissa said...

Great typewriter story! Perhaps it was haunted by the ghost of a former book editor. I too remember believing that I would be a real writer once I started typing my stories on a typewriter. Our family typewriter was much kinder too me, but the story I wrote was quite awful.