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What I Learnt From a Typewriter

It was on this date in 1868 that the first commercially successful typewriter was patented by Christopher Latham Sholes, marking the momentous occasion as, what is now called, World Typewriter Day. This intricate machine, with its many arms, gears and keys, changed the course of writing history forever; and is still highly regarded as the patriotic symbol for writers across the globe today.

In April I received the most magnificent antique Royal Typewriter. It’s an antique—the serial number dates back approximately one hundred years, and it’s taking a lot of time and effort to restore it back to a working state. But as I’ve been studying this marvellous piece of machinery, it dawned on me that one can gain many philosophies from the humble typewriter, including seven that I will share with you in this post:

Good Things Take Time

We live in a world where we can seemingly get whatever we want in just a matter of seconds. Everything is fast-paced; all the modern advertising is about making things easier and quicker to achieve. In such a world, it’s very easy to lose sight of the fact that often the best things come to the people who are willing to wait

Not only is cleaning an antique typewriter a (very!) slow and meticulous process, the typing process itself is slow. Sure, touch-typing started with typewriters, but you have to take it easy, making sure none of the keys get stuck, or arms get bent or caught on one another. It takes time, but the reward is worth it. 

Enjoy the Process

I’m not someone who greatly appreciates the concept of ‘the journey is better than the destination’. After all, is spending 16 hours on a cramped flight really better than seeing your friends and family again? I think not. But, it cannot be ignored that if you didn’t spend those 16 gruelling hours on a cramped flight, you wouldn’t reach your destination.

Like our previous point, the same goes for a typewriter. Cleaning it takes time. Restoring it takes time. Writing with it takes time. But instead of waiting for the reward at the end, it’s good to slow down and enjoy the process. Appreciate the hundreds of tiny mechanisms inside it; take that opportunity to learn the art of restoring such an old artefact, and thereby appreciate the artistry within the machine. Enjoying the “journey”, and see if you can watch a few movies on that flight.

No Unfair Judgements

First impressions are known to make or break a person’s reputation. The world is full of judgement and critics just waiting to rip into you, your personality, and your character. And while it can still be good to take some feedback, it also has the ability to become criticism, and to hinder us from being who we were made to be.

Typewriters were created one hundred and twenty-five years before autocorrect. That’s one hundred and twenty-five years of commercially writing without computer aid. And let’s not forget that before then, people had already been writing for thousands of years! Typewriters, unlike modern word-processing software, don’t have autocorrect and spellcheck. They don’t care if you make a mistake. They don’t correct your typos. They let you express yourself however you write. You are your own harshest critic.

No Turning Back

Regret can be a painful thing, and so often we end up thinking “If only I had…”, or wonder what life would be like if only something hadn’t happened the way it did. It’s difficult to keep one’s eyes facing forward, not turning back, and knowing that the past cannot be changed. 

The original typewriters have this amazing feature —and are notorious for—where, if you make a mistake, you cannot go back and change it. Up until whiteout was invented, if you made a mistake you were given one of two choices: to either start over, or to grin and bear it and carry on writing. Of course, in the real world not all mistakes can be overlooked easily, and that’s where making up for past mistakes comes in. But it’s letting go of the past mistakes, and to keep looking ahead to where you’re going to type next, that’s so important as well.

Patience Is a Virtue...and So Is Gentleness

In the world where everything is rushed it’s easy to become rough, even when you don’t realise it. When we’re constantly under the pressure of deadlines and answering people as soon as possible, it doesn’t take long before we cut corners and do a rushed job. 

Quick, before you reach that deadline. Faster, we can’t get there late.

When you’re restoring something, it’s important to be gentle and careful in the process. If my typewriter is centuries old, I can’t carry it and swing it around like I do with my one-year-old backpack and expect it to be in perfect working condition afterwards. I can’t use all my strength to bend the arms back into place and expect them not to break. If I lose focus and rush what I’m doing, damage occurs. Gentleness and patience is always important, no matter the deadline or pressure. It’s a good example of how we might approach life on a daily basis—with patience and a willingness to slow down.

Sometimes It Takes a Little Scrubbing

Being gentle is essential, but that does not mean that effort must be forsaken—on the contrary, effort is even more important. Seeing friends, or making a good meal? It all takes effort in one way or another, but the reward is great—like having a long conversation with that person whom you love to talk with, or enjoying a well-earned steak for dinner.

When I’ve been restoring my beloved typewriter, I’ve noticed that there is a lot of rust, caked on dirt, and peculiar flecks of white paint that confuzzle me as to how they got there. All of this does not come off easily, I’ll have you know. It takes a lot of scrubbing, all while still being very gentle not to damage the old machine in any way. It’s painful to do now, but I always keep in mind that the reward will be worth it when I can finally use it one day to write my own stories.

Perfection Is Impossible to Achieve…but Satisfaction Isn’t

We live in a world where we can just turn our heads around a room and pick out countless imperfections of all kinds. In our hearts we know that perfection is impossible to achieve, so why do we strive so hard to reach something so unattainable?

In tidying up my old Royal, it hasn’t been difficult to find quirks in it that cannot easily be fixed back to “normal”. And quite frankly, I don’t want it to be completely seamless at the end. It’s an antique; it’s supposed to have blemishes and spots, parts where the paint has come off and where there are nicks in the metal keys. It may not have been made that way, but now that’s part of its story. And so while it has those imperfections that might make it “ugly” in some people’s eyes, I’ve found satisfaction and joy in it. 

I’m not saying to be satisfied with something if you’re really in a bad situation, but too often we envy what others have and are dissatisfied with what we do have, when instead we can be so grateful for the countless blessings that are around us.

Image: my 1926 Royal Typewriter Model 10

I cannot give you any satisfactory statement to conclude, apart from admitting that working on this magnificent old machine has brought out in me an enormous appreiation and wonder for something so intricately designed. So I leave you with this: 

What’s something you are grateful for? What past mistake can you let go of, and what can you make up for? Who is someone you can make an effort to reach out to this week?

And finally, consider the dents and scratches in your life, and consider if they build your character, or if they’re things you can scrub off. Think about what you can wait for, and what “scrubbing” you can do now to evoke a great reward later. That old 1926 Royal of mine might not be fully ready to use yet, but I know that when the time comes for me to write my own story on it, I will love every single moment.



8 comentários

Wow....This is an AMAZING post, Christopher! I would have never thought of all this from working with a typewriter (which I have!). I love this!! Thank you so much for sharing! 😁Hope you can get your typewriter into a working state soon!


Elaine Riley
Elaine Riley
24 de jun.

Christopher - this is a fantastic masterpiece - one I couldn't put down. It is clear that you have a love affair with this "old girl" and are demonstrating loving characteristic that are essential in building successful human to human relationships. Keep up the great work 😉 Elaine

Respondendo a

Thank you! It's amazing what you can gain from a typewriter - or any old machine! 😊


Bella Raine
Bella Raine
23 de jun.

Aww, I love this post so much, Christopher! Beautiful and profound thoughts you have here. Thank you so much for sharing! 😊

Respondendo a

You're very welcome! I thought they might be worth sharing 😄


Self help book by Christopher J Watt incoming....

Respondendo a

Ha! Thanks Edan, I'm glad you liked my post 😂


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