Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Self, typing

Will Self on his writing practices:

Self, who prefers to write his fiction on a typewriter, adds that his daily word count is lower than it used to be, "partly because I shifted to the Imperial Good Companion, which is a slower machine, about four or five years ago. Writing on a manual makes you slower in a good way, I think. You don't revise as much, you just think more, because you know you're going to have to retype the entire fucking thing. Which is a big stop on just slapping anything down and playing with it." Joan Didion once told an interviewer that she used to retype her whole draft every morning to get back in the rhythm. "I'm not that good a typist," Self says incredulously. "I'd aim to write, on a first draft, not a great amount any more, only about 1,200 words a day. I write the book through. And then I start rewriting it, in successive waves."

I’ve been telling myself for years that I’m going to take out the old Smith-Corona that I used all through college and most of grad school and . . . nah. Not gonna happen.

3 comments:

  • I recall you saying that you'd eventually write a book using nothing but moleskines? Is that still a plan?

  • Tony Comstock said...

    You would appear to have my nostalgia vein tapped, Alan.

    Between the kindly english professor and the roommate's Macintosh, I purchased a portable manual typewriter at the Salvation Army for $3 and began to use it for writing letters. It was a of West German manufacture, and came in a zippered leather case with a red and black plaid lining.

    At the time I was living in my VW bus and I fancied myself quiet the bohemian, clacking away on the typewriter, and would make almost any excuse to do so if I had an audience (sound familiar?)

    I still remember my uncle's (who was/is a professional writer in NY) response to one particularly florid missive:

    "You spell like a lithuanian immigrant, but you're a good writer. Uncle with have to think about that..."

    10 years later I was living in New York, my uncle was without a fulltime job for the first time in 35 years and we were collaborating on freelance projects. Just yesterday I was helping him with some wordsmithing for Amex.

    He's sentimental. I bet he's got those old letters of mine packed away somewhere.

  • David, I think the Moleskine plan is more likely than my using a my old typewriter. Not that that's all *that* likely.

    Tony, it's interesting how the cases of those old typewriters constitute part of their charm. I love the case of my old Smith-Corona.

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