Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Thoughts on the Blogging

Blogging really scares the hell out of me. There's not barrier, no little safety net to fall back on in case you say something libelous  wrong, misleading, or worst of all: if you say something that makes you look like an idiot. And that includes spelling mistakes.
The typewriter, in contrast, is a nice slow device, it plods along happily, and it doesn't thrust itself - or the writing it helps to produce - into other peoples' faces on the other side of the world. But blogging is bloody well instant, it is so instant that it can be scary. Not so much in the Typosphere, which I would say is the nicest online community out there, but in other places it certainly does. I really can see why quite a large number of people want to sit back, relax and go slow again.
My problem with a blog post is I write it quickly, and not very well; but I don't want to be sitting around and waiting, I don't want to "sleep on it". This is my own demise when it comes to freaking myself out with a blog. "What will people think of this?", "Will I look like a moron if I say that?", "Can I say that?", "Am I making that up?", "Do I sound pompous, up myself, obnoxious etc etc etc?". These are all questions that I ask before I press the ominous orange button marked PUBLISH. It is a commitment that is made as soon as that mouse has hovered, the finger has come down, and the computer has realised and sent it off into the land of the internet.
But what can you do when you do write something terrible? Can you remove it and pretend it wasn't there? For a typewriter this is easy - it's called a matchbox, but on the internet there are moral questions that get asked. No one would like it to end up like the world in Nineteen Eighty-Four, where the constant editing of  every written record to keep with the current, preferred version of events, but is that where we could lead if everyone just removed things that made them out to be a bit dodge on their blog? It seems like the right thing to do is to leave what you write up, and to not remove it from immediate view. As soon as you start removing things gaps appear in a timeline of posts, and people can't go back and see how the blog has evolved.
I've noticed that most of the other fine blogs, which of course are much better than this one, in the Typosphere all seem to have all their posts - none seem to have been removed. Of course I don't really know because if they'd been removed I wouldn't really be able to tell, would I?
So I think I'll leave all my posts where they are. There are a few that I would like to just send into the bin, but most of the interested parties will have read them by now, so what, really, is the point of removing them? Is it self satisfaction? Is it destroying the evidence, even though there are witnesses to the crime?
Luckily, at least for me - possibly not for you - I haven't been scared right off of a blog, and will continue, as my profile says I do, to produce "a lot of really poorly written blog posts".

A Humble Style Manual from the end of the Typewriter Era

I've given myself a quite undeserved break from writing this little blog. I'd barely started and then I took off into the never-never and didn't touch the thing for more than a week. Throughout that time I was looking out for something to write about. There was the option of the post on the excitement (at first I didn't think it was that sarcastic, but later on I did) of opening a brand new typewriter ribbon (I'm lucky enough to be able to get them locally), there was the idea of discussing carriage return levers, there was the idea of discussing the fact that the desk really is a shrine to the self - this post is still in the works - but finally I came to this, today.
Today I was walking past the high school library. A little room, five computers in the middle and lined from floor to ceiling with books. It's the sort of library where talking is quite acceptable, and shouting is quite normal. As I was heading past, I wasn't even going to go in, the librarian, who also doubles as our English teacher, poked her head out of the door and asked a question it is impossible to say no to.
"Would you like an old, free book?"
Of course I would, so in I go. It turns out to be a 1988 copy of the Australian Style Manual.
Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers: Fourth Edition, as its full title reads, is something that I've been coveting for some time. No, I tell a lie. I've been coveting the current edition, but I wasn't going to turn down a slightly antiquated copy, was I?

It's the sort of book that not many 14 year old high school students would want; they wouldn't be interested in Chapter Four: an entire chapter dedicated to the use of italics. They wouldn't dabble in the appendixes. In short they would find the whole thing really, quite truly, boring. But not I. I think it is one of the most interesting little books I own.
I already have a copy of Fowler's Modern English Usage from 1965, but this isn't really a style guide. It's a collection of Fowler's own musings on the finer points of English. There are entries titled "Wardour Street" and "Polysyllabic Humour" - despite being very good it is a bit all over the place. This is why I was excited to receive a copy of a the Style Manual. Something a bit easier to use. But what excited me more, the more I went through it and discovered more about commas than I will ever need to know, is that it was published just at the end of the age of the typewriter.
Anything to do with typewriters automatically gets me interested, that's a fact. So when I saw that there were mentions of the typewriter, however brief, I was even more interested.
It's always interesting to see how the typewriter was used in its glory days. It's all good and well finding out how we are using them now, but to see how they were used then? That's what I like to read about. It's the way that you used them, too. How to set out a letter, how to prepare a manuscript (article 13.5 if you're interested). The culture around them, a culture that, I suppose, we're, here in the Typosphere, evolving and continuing.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

A Reason behind Key-Chopping?


Image (8)

POST SCRIPT: I’ve been reading your comments and a few have mentioned that my scanning isn’t very good. Is the typecast above any better? I’ve been experimenting and while I haven’t reached what would be considered good, I’d like to know if the one above is any improvement. Of course there’s no improvement in the content: it’s still a poorly researched, poorly written post.

Monday, 1 October 2012

The Beauty of the Manuscript



There is a simply, rugged beauty in the heavily crossed-out typescript. The lines interweaving all over the place; the different coloured pen ink; the non-descript arrows running down the margins and across lines of text; the constant mark of “stet” in a little circle above a crossed out word; the crossing out of crossings out with a wonky line; and the notes in pencil to see page so-and-so.

In about every mass-media article about the typewriter being ‘rediscovered’ they mention the “distraction free” writing, and the way it makes you “think” as a writer. It isn’t only that. You can actually see what is being written. There it is. Oh, look at that: what a poor choice of word. You can see the whole sheet of paper at the same time. None of this scrolling business to find a passage. You can spread the pages out across a desk top (the kind that doesn’t have a taskbar). But its the editing, the revision, that I really find joy in.

Crossing stuff out. The destruction of words. It’s enjoyable. My father calls it “cutting the crap”, it’s discovering what should have been written in the first place. Any word processor doesn’t handle red ink like it’s red ink. The closest thing is tracked changes. An inferior copy, a cheap imitation.

Writing cannot be done in my mind without the feel of a fountain pen traversing typed copy.

It’s why I struggle with a word processor. I can’t see the layers of revision. I can’t go back to something I’d written earlier with the simple mark of “stet” enclosed in a bubble. The typewritten manuscript allows every stage of improvement to be seen, and where it came from. That’s why it’s fascinating looking at manuscripts. Typewritten, handwritten, it doesn’t really matter. As long as they’re messy.

The typewritten manuscript allows a little window into how the writer writes. Whether they like it or not. The reader can see so much: where do they put they’re page numbers – the centre or the edge? Do they even use page numbers?  What colour pen do they revise in? Do they have small margins or big ones? Do they indent their paragraphs?

The sheet of manuscript presented at the beginning of this post is the first page of the second draft of my anti-homework essay. It’s a long awaited project. It’s supposed to prove that homework is in fact no good, but I think what it will prove is that I’m good at whingeing. This single sheet shows that I keep having different ideas, not really show where I’m taking the essay – even in the second draft. References are still sought, and it shows that I don’t really know what I’m talking about. It’s fantastic to see all of this at once.

In one-hundred year’s time I sincerely wonder whether anyone will be interested in looking at the neatly laser printed, word processed manuscript of Fifty Shades of Grey. I don’t think so.