It Started with a Selectric

I wrote my first book on a Selectric typewriter, using carbon paper and the Prestige Elite typing ball just like this one. It's not the same typewriter. I found this one at Goodwill for $14. I didn't really have the space, so I thought about it. When I went back, it was half-price. It cost me another $75 to bring it back to top shape.

I'm writing the second book on a MacBook Pro. It doesn't need carbon paper, and research is done without index cards or taking a pen to the library. The entire computer weighs 12 pounds less than the typewriter. And they didn't let you bring typewriters into the library.

But writing books is still the same. Creating something, line by line, that makes meaning to you. Praying that it makes meaning to someone else too. Because every writer's biggest fear is not connecting.

6 thoughts on “It Started with a Selectric

  1. Just for the record, I really disliked the W. Very contrived. For example, everything had to start with the letter W — Reception -> “welcome”; Concierge -> “When and where” (or something like that; it was quite a stretch). Everything in the hotel (and especially the rooms) is for sale. And the room comes with a catalog of its contents. They’ve taken the “minibar” to the next level — a cabinet with caps, jackets, umbrellas, etc.

    The typewriter in the midst of this still strikes me as incongruous because I would think you’d associate such a thing with having used one, or at least with writing; an activity that strikes me as thoughtful and reflective. The W pretty much represents the opposite.

    On the other hand, what was really out of place there was me! Trip was booked at the last minute and all the other hotels were full because of conventions, which produced another incongruity. Walking past the Mosconi center I noticed that it was hosting a convention about lung cancer. I noticed this while avoiding the crowd of smokers standing outside on a break…

    • That DOES sound pretty creepy–everything “themed” with a W and everything for sale. I can see it as a part of our culture, though. (I’m turning into a geezer, I know.) I’m glad you felt out of place, though, it says nice things about you. Ahhh, smokers. I was one of them once. It’s scarier to quit than to keep smoking.

  2. Wow, a trip down memory lane! I used a Selectric for several years, starting with renting one to write my thesis. But really it’s only 12 pounds heavier than your MacBook? I remember them as weighing tons!

    I’ve seen a bunch of even older manual typewriters used as purely decorative pieces, too. The most bizarre placement was in the W hotel in San Francisco — the W tries VERY hard to be super-trendy and the old Remington on the side table in the elevator nook on the 11th floor just seemed out of place. It was also, by the way, for sale. Odd choice: choose an audience you KNOW is traveling, and offer to sell them something very bulky and heavy.

    I’ve often wondered why some things transition from useful to decorative, but others don’t. Why do you think that happens?

    • Selectrics are huge memory triggers. People are still using them, but it’s getting harder to find parts or people who repair them. Lots of people wrote thesis, dissertations, books on them. For their day, they were fast and easy. I love the idea of selling the typewriter–I bet people who stay at the W and can afford a typewriter can also afford to have the staff pay to take it to a FedExOffice or UPS store and have it shipped to them. I’d think the items that make the transitions have to be visually interesting, create a pleasant emotional link to the present from their former use, and allow people to talk about their memories with pride or joy.

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