Types of writer

Wednesday 30th May 2012

‘HATH by his great study and paines & expence invented and brought to perfection an artificial machine or method for impressing or transcribing of letters, one after another, as in writing, whereby all writing whatsoever may be engrossed in paper or parchment…’

In 1714, an English waterworks engineer, Henry Mill, was granted a patent after constructing what was probably the first ever typewriter. Unfortunately, no record survives of what it looked like or how it worked.

My first was a portable Smith Corona Corsair:

I was about fourteen; thought I’d start with an autobiography: My Truth – abandoned after showing the first two pages to my father, who regarded as ‘inaccurate’ my description of the motionless pendulum inside the grandfather clock in the hallway, which I’d audaciously decided ‘dangled like a forlorn penis’.

Fortunately, no record of that manuscript survives.

Had I perhaps had piano lessons, I might have been more proficient. To this day, I look at the keys and use only one digit on each hand. This piece goes back three decades or more:


tried to teach myself
to touch type

after a week i’d reached
asl;   sl;a   l;as

after a fortnight… words
add salad tall lads all

a whole month before i did f and r
at last a last sad fart

gave up comma went back to
what i knew i could do colon

two fingers
to the keyboard

that’s the type of writer
i am full stop

My pal, Jack Russell, the eccentric cricketer, once turned up at my door with a script he’d bashed out, letter by laborious letter, on an antique Olivetti or Remington, purchased specifically for the task.

“I want to write a movie, Marcus. Where do I start?”

Reading didn’t appeal to him, so I suggested he watch the video of Shakespeare in Love and take notes. Typical of Jack, he went further, attempting to write out the whole thing word for word.

“It’s taken forever, hitting the rewind button over and over. Had almost finished when…”

He handed me a published copy of the filmscript.

“…I came across this in a bookshop!”






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