I’m woefully inept when it comes to keeping on task with writing one of my novels. A social butterfly of sorts, I flutter from one story to the next, visiting my characters here, moving things about there. Just when I think we’ve got a chance, something else captures my attention.
Case in point: yesterday, I happened upon a few free moments with which to make notes on a story idea. This particular tale boasts a couple of rather eccentric characters (just the way I like them), one of which happens to own a 1927 Underwood Standard Portable Typewriter, just like me. What are the odds?
Barely had this fact been noted, when I realized I’ve yet to really take my Underwood out for a spin. Before I knew it, I’m moving the fellow to the middle of my desk, inserting paper, rolling it up, locking it in, and pounding away at the keys.
I’m always amazed at how hard you must press the keys. I’m telling you now, your texting speed may be impressive, but you’ve got nothing on those who could type 130 words per minute on a manual typewriter.
I was typing somewhere around five.
Just when I began to feel smug, I reached the end of the sentence only to find my exclamation point missing. I studied each key, on all four banks, multiple times. There was nary an exclamation point to be had. At first, I thought perhaps they didn’t have anything to exclaim; but who am I kidding? It was the roaring twenties, people: Art deco! Jazz! Speak Easies! The fox trot! Women’s suffrage! Flappers! Talkies! The Harlem Rennaissance, for crying out loud! There were all sorts of things demanding attention.
So, I did the only thing for a girl of the 21st century to do: I Googled it.
Sure enough, back in the day, typewriters did not have a separate key for “1” or “!”. Typing an exclamation point went something like this: type a period, backspace, Shift-apostrophe. My attempt produced an exclameight point (top part of the exclamation point, bottom part of the eight, with a period lolling about in the middle). Not that I blame my machine, mind you. Eighty-five years is a long time to recall the particulars.
Needless to say, before I could say Leroy Anderson, the time allotted for writing was gone with the wind.
All the same, I learned a few things: 1) I need a new typewriter ribbon; 2) nothing quite beats the sound of a manual typewriter; 3) if I do, indeed, finish one of my novels we shall party. Of all the things worth celebrating, a miracle deserves top honors.