Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Magic in a Manual Typewriter

It's entirely possible that many of you have never used or possibly even seen up close a manual typewriter.

To me, a manual typewriter is the main character in the fantasy of being a writer.

Oh sure, I type this blog post on a computer, but my first love was a manual typewriter...because that's what the real writers in old movies used...and old movies were my reality as a child.

Lately, I have found myself very resistant to writing on the computer...which is usually fine, I hand write most of my new projects first anyway, but I didn't want to do that either.

I needed some magic...and the Universe sent me the answer through a great book, "The Help." The book is beautifully written, engaging, compelling, everything you want in a good thought-provoking read...and even more, it gave me the of the main characters was an aspiring writer who lugged around a manual typewriter.

And so inspired, I got my little manual typewriter out of her box and set her up to work.

I am a writer again.

The typewriter satisfies my senses. I feel the keys working with me, hear the words going onto paper, smell the old typewriter and ink, see the stack of pages pile up (I repurpose the blank sides of old script pages).

The history of being a writer exists with me in these moments...the old newspaper people working toward deadlines, the writers who typed up the classic novels that we love...myself when I wrote my first complete book - a dog training manual - in 3rd grade...and then, in my 20's when I wrote my first play on a manual.

My current typewriter was saved from the streets of New York. She sat on a pile of trash bags by the curb. I couldn't leave her there. Now, she returns the favor by bringing back the magic of being a writer to my life.

What brings out your magic?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

When You Think You're Done, You're Just Beginning

"When you think you're done, you're just beginning," holds as true for writing as it does for artwork.

In the process of illustration it's visually obvious. I start with rough sketches and then do a sketch that I predict will be 'the one.'

For a few minutes, maybe even a day or two...I believe it is 'the one'...that I've gone as far as I can...

But then I see...I could do better and more ideas start to come...and then I push myself.

New sketches evolve and a new 'the one' is almost always obviously better than the previous versions.
This process continues until it's just time to get it out into the world.

I use illustration as the example here because it's obvious at a glance the improvement that comes from pushing oneself further...of enlisting the critical eye in yourself and other people that you trust.

This same principle applies to writing, but you have to sit still and read to see it...but just the same, you do rough sketches and write that initial first draft.

It's important to remember first drafts are rough and not precious...they are the achievement of the first step...then the process begins of pushing oneself further into the story...again enlisting readers that you trust to give you honest feedback...honest...okay, you can have someone read it who will love it and stroke your ego...but know that that's all that person is really want the people who will give you the pros and cons of what you've written...people who will "push you to be your best possible self."

The more I write, draw, paint...the more I see it's all about doing doing doing...working on the craft, delving deeper into the issue at hand, working on clarity, being honest about who you are and what you want to accomplish through the piece...and then continuing this process over and over.

We are lead to believe that any art form just flows out looks that way in movies...books...etc...but that's not true...every artist of any kind puts in the's not one's's not one's many, etc.

Once I understood this, my process got easier...I stopped judging myself on first drafts that were far from ready. Now, I understand that stinky first drafts are just step one...and I appreciate them for that.