I’m just old enough to have used a typewriter for a few things in my youth, though by the time I was old enough to learn to type and write reports for school, it was all done on computers.
The book reports I did in elementary school were all handwritten and I only remember hauling the bulky typewriter out of our hall closet so I could play with it in the days before we had a home computer. I believe the typewriter my parents had was pretty fancy since it was an electric model with a delete key. The machine just dabbed a quick bit of whiteout over the offending letter whenever I wanted to correct spelling, but I still found it impressive.
I was reminded of all this recently as I read a column from an older journalist who made reference to typing out stories in the newsroom. It got me thinking about how past reporters must have done the job I do today. Writing stories on a typewriter had to have been very difficult since they wouldn’t have been able to edit their own stories and move things around like I do today.
Most of the time, I write in starts and stops, usually because of other things going on — like telephone calls, emails or someone talking to me — so I often reread what I’ve written before continuing. This helps me keep my thoughts straight, but I also use it to find the best way to word things and keep from repeating the same word or phrase too frequently.
Because of that practice, I’m constantly moving sentences and paragraphs around or adding to things I’ve already written. Sometimes I’ll even finish a first draft of a story and then decide to restructure the whole thing after I’ve read over it. Without the ability to insert and delete words, this would be a very time-consuming way to write an article.
The only way I can think to compose on a typewriter with my preferred method is to write everything out in longhand. I actually have done this on a few occasions before we all had laptops. It’s pretty easy to write paragraphs in whichever order they come to me and then put them in order later as I type.
The only problem I ran into was by the time I got about two-thirds through a story, my handwriting would get so bad, it was eligible. Today, I could just type the whole thing out on my phone, which is probably exclusively what journalists will do in the near future.