Why I Love Typewriters

A few weeks ago, I bought an Underwood typewriter at a garage sale for $20.

The S and A keys are almost entirely rubbed out, the keys stick sometimes, and the space bar doesn’t work.

I love it.

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I’m hoping I’ll be able to get it working somehow, but I’m just content to punch the keys and watch as the letters appear on the page in front of me for now

Typewriters have been increasing in popularity among creatives, and it’s easy for me to see why.

“Why would you want to use a typewriter?” you might say. “They’re noisy, heavy, and you can’t delete anything. If you mess up you have to start all over again. Only a dumb hipster would want a typewriter.”

Here’s why you’re wrong:

Typing Is More Enjoyable 

It’s fun for me to type on my Macbook and listen to the click clack noise the keyboard makes. But I can’t deny there’s something infinitely more exhilarating about punching the keys of a typewriter. The ching ching ching sound it produces while you’re keying as well as the inner mechanisms working in tandem with you makes you feel like you and the machine are connected.

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I enjoy using my laptop and it’s many functions, but when they replaced the typewriter with a computer, they left out one key ingredient: intimacy. When you’re working on a typewriter, you can see the process being carried out right before your eyes.

You feel just as vital to the process as the ink and paper indicator.

No Distractions

Some people would say that one of the typewriter’s weaknesses is that it can only type. However, I would argue this is to a creator’s benefit.

In an age where people are constantly bombarded with distractions, it’s never been easier for people to procrastinate. When a character isn’t doing what you want them to do, or plot threads isn’t coming together, it’s so tempting to check your email.

And if you check your email you have to check Facebook.

And if you have to check Facebook then you have to click on a funny Youtube video a friend shared, and etc, etc, etc.

Using a typewriter is like being on a first date with the person you’ve had a crush on for months. Your entire focus is on what is directly in front of you, and what you’re doing. Nothing else matters but the task at hand. 

Brain Exercise

I used to be a good speller, then everything changed when the Word Processing Nation attacked.

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Suddenly, I didn’t have to be a good speller anymore. All our essays were suppose to be typed on a word processor that knew how to spell the word for me. Since my brain found no use in learning proper spelling, I stopped internalizing.

A typewriter actually depends on your own spelling abilities, forcing you to exercise your brain. I’ve noticed this when I’ve written stories out long-hand and it’s definitely applicable to the typewriter. When I spell a word out without the help of spellcheck, it’s strangely liberating.

At least when the robots overlords take over, I’ll know how to spell “acquiesce.”

Low Maintenance

It took me a while to get the typewriter tape I ordered off Amazon to load up into my Underwood, but when I finally hooked it on correctly I felt accomplished.

It could be a pain at times just because I’ve never had to learn to operate this type of machine before. But looking back on it, it’s a lot easier (and less expensive) to try fixing up an old typewriter than an old laptop.

In fact, after a certain point, laptops inevitably crap out and you’re forced to shell out hundred or thousands of dollars to replace it

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Typewriters don’t really have this issue.

All you need are a few parts and it should be good to go.

There are plenty of videos on Youtube that can help you along the way if you’re stuck.

I’m happy with how technology has progressed over the last few decades. I love my laptop and my iPod, and couldn’t operate the same way if I didn’t have my cellphone.

Nonetheless, when you want to unplug from the rest of the world and just create, sometimes the old ways are the best.

What Sylvia Plath Taught Me About Perfection

I find it difficult to get started on a new writing project. Not necessarily because I lack inspiration, but I often can’t bring myself to make that first step out of fear I will be dissatisfied with the results.

I procrastinate giving out my work to friends or others for critiquing. I have this undying need for perfection. Every adjective has to paint the perfect picture, the pacing has to be exact, the reader must think exactly what I want them to. But, more importantly, I must be perceived as a literary genius. That’s not too much to ask, is it? Don’t answer that.

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With this in mind, none of my drafts are ever perfect enough to send out. I spend hours languishing over what makes a sentence work, whether or not my protagonist is likable, etc. This is what an artist is suppose to do, but as a result of my concerns, I often keep my writing hidden under a bushel and never allow anyone to see it. I pass up opportunities to enter writing contests and publishing in magazines, all for fear that it’s not good enough yet.

The other day I was researching depression in the library and came across a biography about Sylvia Plath called Rough Magic. I didn’t know much about this poet prior to reading this book except what Plath is, unfortunately, most known for: sticking her head in the oven and killing herself.

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A character I’m currently writing suffers from a similar mental affliction, so I thought reading about Plath would help me gain a better understanding of the condition.However, not only did learning about her help me with my research,  it also assisted me on a more personal level.

Plath was a well-accomplished person for much of her young life. She was a scholarship student at Smith (a very prestigious school at the time) as well as a published author of many poems and short stories. She was also very attractive and laid claim to so many hearts I would need at least three pages to list all of her conquests. Her teachers adored her, boys loved her, she was relatively popular and had a successful life. 

It was never enough for her.

Not only was she susceptible to bouts of depression, she frequently made herself physically ill with stress over her studies and writing projects. She was going to fail her history class (she made an A), her talent for writing was gone (she published hundreds more poems), and if she could not obtain perfection, then her life was over.

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Her lack of faith in her abilities haunted her throughout her life. Each victory only granted her temporary relief from her crippling self-doubt. It didn’t matter how many magazines accepted her work, or how much money she earned. There would always be one or two that would turn her down, and this was what she focused her mental energies on.

 On occasion, she would even experience long dry spells brought on by her negativity, a feeling I’m familiar with (although not to the same extreme). One lead to her first suicide attempt.

While her extreme behaviors were a result of her mental instability, her feelings of inadequacy aren’t unique to sufferers of depression. Most of us feel the need to achieve perfection and seek validation from others. After all, if we’re not the best no one will pay attention to us, right? And if no one pays attention to us, then we’re not important.

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Not necessarily.

We writers need to let our babies out into the world and create as much as we can. Not so people will pat us on the head and tell us we’re a good girl/boy, but so we can become better authors. If someone doesn’t like our work, it isn’t the end of the world. It just means that, perhaps, there is room for growth.

Moreover, we don’t have to be this century’s greatest author and we shouldn’t strive to be. All we need to do is aim to be the best that we can be individually, not compared to the greats or even our colleagues.

So let people see your work in all its prickly glory.

And remember:

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To All The “Scary-Glarey” Girls

When I was about 8 years old, I went to a three-day equestrian camp during the summer and enjoyed several rain-soaked days riding on the backs of beautiful horses. The animals smelled like manure and my clothes were usually drenched all the way through, but I loved every second of gently trotting along the red dirt path, following the scout leader with my fellow campers in a wide line while the earthy smell of rain permeated the air.

My celebratory mood would soon be broken by a camp counselor who turned towards me mid trot with a parental look on her face. “Your attitude will get you off the horse,” she said sternly.

I blanched and stared back at her, uncomprehending. Without any word of explanation, she pulled her mare away from me and kept riding.

Attitude? I thought, lagging behind. What attitude? I didn’t do anything wrong.

I reexamined my behavior from the past two seconds and concluded that I really hadn’t done anything wrong. The only thing I had been preoccupied with was keeping the horse on a straight path. I hadn’t made a face at her, complained, or talked back so I couldn’t see how she thought I was misbehaving.

Nevertheless, I was on my very best behavior for the rest of the outing, lest I give this woman a reason to keep me from riding again.

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Not many years later, I unintentionally made a classmate so afraid of me, she actually gave me her pencil as a peace offering when all I had done was glance up from my book to look at her. Don’t misunderstand, I wasn’t angry that she interrupted me. I was just in an intense reading session and my mind was reeling from all the action going on in the novel. Nonetheless, no amount of reassurance would convince her that I was not out for her blood.

I was ostracized by certain groups at school for being too serious, as well as called out by a coach or two for being “disrespectful” and all without knowing what was going on. It wasn’t until one of my friends broke it down for me that I look, to put it charitably, like a Disney villain most of the time, that I understood.

I didn’t even know until last year that there was an actual term for the condition I have suffered with since childhood. Nonetheless, after dedicating hours of research to the subject and interviewing several reliable sources, I have diagnosed myself with Resting Bitch Face Syndrome.

Resting Bitch Face (sometimes known as Bitchy Resting face) is when a person unintentionally expresses aggression or agitation while their face is at rest.

To those who don’t have this problem, the solution seems simple: smile more.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.

You see, for a person with Resting Bitch Face, looking happy is a full-time job. You can’t allow your concentration to slip for even a nano second or BOOM! This happens:

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Most of the time this means I can’t pay attention to what people are saying because I’m too preoccupied with trying to convince the speaker I’m not thinking of ripping their throat out and feeding their carcass to my young.

This makes meeting new people particularly difficult. I can’t count all the times I’ve forgotten a name immediately after hearing it because I had devoted all my mental energies into looking friendly.

Am I smiling too hard? Do my eyes match up, or do I look insane? Okay, tone it down a bit. Not enough? Alright, here we go, that’s it. I think. I need a mirror. 

What people with RBF try to look like while forcing a smile:

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What they usually look like:

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When interacting with people is part of your job, the struggle becomes all the more real. 

My first job was at a fast food establishment and it wasn’t unusual for me to be pulled aside because of my “attitude.” In fact, my co-workers awarded me the nickname “The Scarey-Glarey Girl,” a moniker I originally thought was funny up until the point where I realized they genuinely thought I was angry all the time.

I was routinely asked by customers if I ever smiled and was forced to acquiesce with a grin so they wouldn’t think of me as a humorless piece of cardboard.

No, sir. I never smile. My father died laughing. 

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One particular instance comes to mind when I think of the embarrassing situations RBF has gotten me into:

We were at the height of our lunch rush and I needed to focus to make sure I remembered everyone’s drinks, condiment requests, and place in the chaotic assembly line of food trays. I was restocking styrofoam cups, pumping lemonade, taking orders, and dishing out barbecue sauce like I was a member of the Red Cross passing out aide in a disaster area. 

Once the lunches had been dispersed to the hungry masses and the crowd settled, I was pulled aside by none other than the store owner who informed me that some little old lady witnessed my smoldering look of undirected hatred and took it upon herself to complain to the highest authority.

“Now, I know you don’t have a natural smile,” the owner said, amicably. “But if you could try to look more cheerful….”

 Oh, I try. God knows I try. Do you know how I feel when I see photos my friends took of me when I wasn’t looking? Or when I accidentally catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror while I’m deep in thought?

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The moral of this story is don’t assume that because someone looks bitchy that they are. Maybe they have resting bitch face, too, and you could be missing out on a good friend or love interest if you judge them without getting to know them first. I know we’re scary, but if you’re brave enough to approach us you may be pleasantly surprised.

To all the girls with Resting Bitch Face, I know that just because you aren’t smiling it doesn’t mean you’re bored, or angry, or sad. I understand that you don’t mean to look at others as if they’re a fly you peeled off of the bottom of your shoe.

It’s not you.

It’s your face.

Well, it might be you.

But it’s probably not.

Resting Bitch Face can be a pain in the butt, however, look on the bright side:

At least no one will interrupt your reading.

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(War) Doctor Who: Why Couldn’t McGann Be The War Doctor?

Author’s Note: I realize that this post is coming about three years too late, however, the reason I’m speaking about it now is because Big Finish’s release of the War Doctor’s adventures and plans to expand more on the Time War in the upcoming year. 

Ever since I watched a review of Doctor Who: The TV Movie, I was curious about Paul McGann’s Doctor. While the movie in itself was pretty terrible, featuring a hammy Master, a plot so full of holes Swish cheese would be envious, and, of course, the dreaded “I’m half human on my mother’s side” line, I had nothing negative to say about Paul McGann’s Doctor. In fact, he made the whole fiasco worth watching with his passion, charming naivety, and love of adventure.

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As such, I was thrilled when I learned that there was an audio company that had actually taken McGann’s Doctor and given him several seasons worth of adventures with a diverse cast of companions and stories that rivaled the TV series in quality. I immediately dove in and was not disappointed.

In December of 2015, Big Finish released the audio drama Only The Monstrous, the first installment in their War Doctor series and have announced they plan to increase the mythos around this incarnation of the Doctor created by show-runner Steven Moffat in the 50th Anniversary Special: The Day of The Doctor. An episode I love and hate in equal measure.

I’m excited that they will also be looking at the Time War through the 8th Doctor’s perspective before he became John Hurt. Nonetheless, I’m a bit disheartened that they are going further into the (Hurt) War Doctor’s story for the reasons I will soon divulge.

First off, I would just like to say I love John Hurt and think he’s a brilliant actor (I mean, he was knighted for crying out loud).

Second, I loved the War Doctor’s banter with his future incarnations and how he would routinely take the piss out of them for having younger faces and using their sonics too frequently.

And third, I love all the bad puns that spawned from his involvement in this episode.

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In short, I have nothing against John Hurt, nor do I think he played a “bad character” in this episode.

However, the 50th Anniversary had me asking the same question throughout the duration of the episode: Why did this character need to exist?

I would understand if Paul McGann wasn’t on board with taking part in the 50th, but based on the articles I’ve read and how involved he’s been both with the Whovian community and Doctor Who universe through Big Finish Audio over the years, neither availability nor lack of enthusiasm seemed to be an issue with him. So why couldn’t they just use McGann’s Doctor as the War Doctor?

While I have not been able to locate the source (so don’t quote me on this),  I heard through the grapevine Steven Moffat considered McGann’s Doctor incapable of committing genocide because he was “too nice” and that it made more sense to create the type of Doctor (or Warrior) that could carry out such a deed.

Well, that would make sense…were it not for the fact that the War Doctor didn’t seem any more happy about the prospect of wiping out the Time Lords or Daleks than any of the other Doctors would have been. Perhaps Big Finish will do a better job of fleshing out this character and giving him more of a warrior’s edge. Nonetheless, what the 50th showed us was a man that didn’t look angry or vengeful. He was just sick of all the wanton destruction. 

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Perhaps we’re meant to believe that the War Doctor was much more destructive and blood-thirsty in his youth and that, as this incarnation has gotten older, he’s grown tired of it (although nothing in Hurt’s performance seemed to indicate he was any more or less capable of killing than any other Doctor that had come before him).

If it is true that Moffat said McGann’s Doctor was an unrealistic War Doctor, it would seem he hasn’t invested too much time listening to the audio dramas. While he did reference many of the 8th Doctor’s companions in Night of The Doctor as well as the Sisters of Karn, he didn’t seem to understand the full potential of the 8th Doctor’s character. While 8 was romantic, polite, and adverse to violence, the 8th Doctor was just as capable of being cold and even cruel as any other Doctor as evidenced by Big Finish’s Scherzo, one of my favorite (and arguably one of the weirdest) 8th Doctor audio dramas.

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Obviously McGann’s Doctor wouldn’t become a warrior overnight, but after hundreds of years worth of watching planets blow up and thousands of species die out, it’s not difficult to see how his character could take a dark turn. And, as I said, 8 had the capacity for cruelty before the Time War started, and even had a well-known grudge against the Time Lords for the many times they had screwed him over in the past.

I, personally, believe it would have been more impactful to have McGann play the War Doctor and show how much that particular incarnation changed throughout his life-span, having gone from being a wide-eyed romantic with a habit of snogging his companions to the bitter and dreaded Dalek-killing Oncoming Storm. Normally Doctor monologues get on my nerves since they’ve become so frequent in recent years, but I would have given my left shoe to listen to the 8th Doctor speak of the horrors revolving around the Time War and his involvement. Someone needs to write that fanfiction right now. 

 Moffat made the argument that Doctor Who is “all about moving forward” and for the most part he is right. In order for a show to stay relevant it has to adjust to contemporary audiences. But this wasn’t just a normal episode. It was suppose to be an homage to 50 years worth of imaginative story-telling. I feel like the inclusion of 8 would have satisfied both of those needs seeing as McGann’s Doctor nicely embodies both Old and New Who as his adventures tend to incorporate elements from both eras in the show’s history. It’s bizarre and creative like Old Who while also being charming and heart-felt like New Who.

My final point is, even though many Nuvians haven’t listened to the audio dramas as I have, they would still have the opportunity to learn more about him through the material that already exists. The 8th Doctor has character development, unlike the War Doctor who has had very little due to the fact that he has only been featured in a single episode and is unlikely to show up in many others on screen. To me it seems superfluous to create a whole new character when you already have a perfectly viable one lined up and ready to go, especially one that exists as part of the original cannon.

I suppose I should be grateful that 8 was given, at the very least, a six minute short, but considering all the effort McGann’s put into the Doctor Who universe this seems like a pretty weak consolation.

If you’ve never listened to the 8th Doctor’s audio drama adventures, you need to give them a listen. Some of them are hit and miss, but when Big Finish gets it right, they really get it right.