Daily Archives: June 5, 2011

Writing Then and Now

When I read Linda Cassidy-Lewis post Do You Write Like a Tortoise or a Hare I started to think of how I write and more particularly what I use to write.

As I have said before I always have a notebook and pencil with me wherever I go and this habit began when I was still at school.  I would write about any and everything and the trusty notebook was always with me.

During the last year of school, several of us in the VIIth form petitioned the Headmistress to allow us to have shorthand and typing lessons.  This request was originally met with horror by the Headmistress and most of the (all female) staff members.  The school prided itself on being “for the daughters of gentlemen” even though we lived in the East End of London.

However, we persevered and eventually were allowed 6 months of tuition in these subjects.  I understand that the classes were continued after we left as part of the usual curriculum of the school.

All these years later, I still jot down notes in shorthand or as my daughter describes it “chicken scratch”.

Manual typewriter

Can you believe that typewriters looked like this Olivetti?  Copies were made by slipping sheets of carbon paper between the sheets of paper and if a mistake were made the letters were erased with a special eraser and those offending letters on each sheet also had to be erased.  No photocopying then.

When I rejoined the workforce in 1972, having been a stay at home wife and mother for some 12 years, I was horrified to be faced with an electric typewriter.

IBM Selectric Typewriter

In accepting the position I hadn’t realized that technology would have moved on so far.  I had many battles with this machine before I finally convinced it who was in charge here.

Soon I had my own secretary and we purchased a memory typewriter.  We were both amazed at this fantastic futuristic machine that took pride of place in her office.  From there it was a self-correcting typewriter.  How this changed the lives of millions of typists the world over.  And then to computers.

How easy typing is today and so many people now do their own.  Most executives have a computer on their desk.  Not much call for Shorthand-typists these days!

But for those of us who write,  I think that the days of the typewriter were the most satisfying.  When I used one I could convince myself I was starting when I turned on the machine, inserted the paper and lined up my notes before the blank page looked back at me.

No such preparation today.  When I sit in front of my computer with a blank screen and don’t know how to proceed I can’t convince myself that I have done anything towards starting.

But in answer to Linda’s question – I think in writing my blog I am a hare.  I decide what I want to write about and it just comes.  But in my other writing, I am definitely a tortoise.

“In real life, it is the hare who wins. Every time. Look around you. And in any case it is my contention that Aesop was writing for the tortoise market.
Hares have no time to read. They are too busy winning the game.”
Anita Brookner, 1928 English language novelist and art historian


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