What do you do when your Mac breaks down? CRASHES, COLLAPSES? Have you seen the blue screen of death? Have you stared at the small rectangle in the middle of a blue field with the smiling??? face in the center, alternating with a question mark? Have you followed the troubleshooting instructions in the manual? Held down the Option key, held down the start button? Have you turned the power on and off, pulled out the plug? Waited a few seconds and started everything up all over again?
I have. And I hate it.
I mean, how do you write when that happens? That happy hovering of the fingertips over the keyboard, the thought that the fingers might hit the keys and without ever engaging the brain might tap out something unexpected and undoubtedly brilliant is gone. No back space, no delete, no spell check. No dips into Google for a quick check on who, when, and where. No rest breaks in email, no welcome distracting photos of friends and family, no hilarious Youtubes gone viral.
I imagine that most of the modern playwrights we respect and admire had a typewriter. Lillian Hellman probably tapped things out. Arthur Miller. Carson McCullers. On a manual typewriter, do we think? Or an electric Corona? But how did writers without machines manage to write such wonderful things and do it so fast? Charles Dickens wrote fifteen novels with a quill pen before he died at fifty-eight. And he had ten children!
I recently read the oldest poem found, a Sumerian love poem, circa 2030 BCE. Here is the first stanza:
“Bridegroom, dear to my heart
Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet
You have captivated me
Let me stand tremblingly before you.”
The poet or poetess wrote that gorgeous poem by pressing the letters into wet clay using a reed stylus and then baking the clay into a tablet.
So, I’m not going to complain. I can put words to paper. I have some pens I love – the Precise Pilot rolling ball in blue and black. I’m crazy about lined legal pads in white and yellow. I could jot down a few notes. Record some observations.
And stick the Mac hard drive into the freezer for ten minutes. That might work, too.