Yesterday on the Ruby Slipper blog, I was commenting on a post about typewriters and I recalled what it was like when I bought my first electric typewriter. I was in junior high school and I remember eyeing a box at the local Gemco (or was it K-mart) that was for sale for $99 dollars. I saved up the money to buy it myself because I knew it was a luxury that I couldn’t ask Mum for.
I wanted that typewriter because it was my key to being a writer, of course. I couldn’t submit if I couldn’t type out my stories. I did submit my first story on that typewriter. It as a short story that I sent to the MZB Sword and Sorceress anthology. It was rejected with personalized comments and I wouldn’t submit again for almost another twenty years.
Describing the experience of typing on that typewriter brought me back somewhere. I’d have to carefully dab on whiteout to every mistyped letter and wait for it to dry. It brought me back to how painstaking it used to be. How careful I was in the very act of putting down words.
I had to look down at the third finger on my right hand. I have a little bump on my first knuckle that’s never gone away. My writer’s callus. I used to grip those big blue pencils so hard when I first learned how to write. The fat pencils without the erasers.
Very shortly after I learned how to string words into sentences, Mum told me you can make up stories and write them down. If they were good, people would pay you money for them. I was so excited! The prospect of making money as a child doing anything was such a dream. I think I’m going to admit that if I ever get interviewed about writing. I wanted to become a writer for the money.
All this got me thinking. These little sensations are what memories are made of. The smell of whiteout, the whir and click of my typewriter. The pain in my hand when I wrote so much that summer when Mum told me people could make money writing stories. I was worried when I woke up and couldn’t bend my finger because it was so swollen. Mum just had me soak in ice water and said, “You wrote too much.” I think she knew from experience.
I think all this was why I cried in the elevator when I knew I was going to be published.
I wonder what are the little sensations that make up memories now, when people start by typing on a computer and it’s that much easier? Or do they still have those fat blue pencils somewhere?