Yes, I have finished my manuscript. I wonder how many versions and changes I have saved in the process of writing this book? Which leads me to realize, that although I wasn’t introduced to a personal computer until I was in graduate school – I simply can’t imagine finishing a manuscript without one.
I was so excited to receive a typewriter as my high school graduation present. My journalist dad certainly selected it, and it wasn’t until I got to college did I realize many students my age – if they had a typewriter – had an electric one. I told myself mine was better because I could write in some rustic spot without electricity, although I don’t recall ever carrying my typewriter to such a rustic location. Ironically, my now grown daughter enthusiastically used her own allowance savings as an eight-year-old to buy an old typewriter at a garage sale: computers rather mundane to her so early in life, but quite excited by this “new and novel” machine. (I tried to talk her out of it but to no avail.)
But what about those authors who came before us, including my own grandfather? Apparently, Mark Twain was the first to offer a book to a publisher in typescript, submitting Life on the Mississippi in 1883. He did, however, finish up Tom Sawyer seven years earlier with a submitted handwritten manuscript. That means that our earliest Oregon authors of literature, such as Joaquin Miller, producing Specimens in 1868, and Frances Fuller Victor, who wrote a biography about Joseph Meek, River of the West, in 1870, were produced in longhand. And as I learned about these early works of Oregon literature online in A Working Chronology of Oregon Literature, I enjoyed spotting the listing of my own grandfather’s books, The White-Headed Eagle and Young Northwest, though he certainly had enjoyed the use of a typewriter in his day.
And although there is a type of meditative beauty in longhand – and I have heard of present day authors who only craft a first draft with pen, it’s hard for me to imagine. With the simple option of cutting and pasting, saving as many versions as we like, inserting text: I am just not certain I’d have the patience to do that by hand – or even by typewriter. What about you?