Writing: Equipment Matters

In addition to writing great poetry, mediocre prose, and clever essays, I play tennis. Skill is the most important need when playing the sport, of course, and this is built through a combination of natural talent and practice, but equipment is also important. Different playing styles benefit from different types of racquets and different types of and tensions of strings. I’m an all court player, which means I use a mix of groundstrokes from the baseline and serving and volleying. I was formerly more of a serve and volleyer, but more or less shredding the cartilage in my knees has made that style more difficult. I digress. My playing style requires a racquet that has good touch and doesn’t necessarily produce a lot of power (I do well enough at knocking the hell out of the ball), so I prefer the Prince Precision series of racquets, and I use synthetic gut strings (real cat gut strings don’t fit my vegetarian ethics very well) to enhance my feel of the ball further.

As vain as it sounds, the right equipment is important for writing, too. I cannot convince my mind to write a decent first draft on a computer (with the exceptions of academic essays and blog posts). When I write poetry, I have to write it out by hand, then I type it into my computer for editing and storage. For prose, I prefer a typewriter. Imagine your clichĂ© image of an author with long beard, cigarettes, small desk, manual typewriter, and so on; that’s me, though my beard isn’t too long, yet and only contains a few grey hairs.

I carry a (vinyl-covered) Moleskin notebook with me everywhere I go for writing poetry and jotting down notes for other writing projects. It’s a perfect fit for me. It slides right into my coat pocket or rear jeans pocket. I also carry a black Pilot G2 ink pen because I like both the feel of writing with it and the look of the words on the page. Portability is essential. If I get an idea or have a moment of inspiration, I can take out my notebook and immediately write down my thoughts.

My four typewriters usually stay at home. I have a manual black Royal typewriter (1920s?), a faded lime green Olympia portable manual typewriter (1950s?), an Underwood early electric typewriter (1960s?) that’s enormous and doesn’t fully functions, and a 1980s electric typewriter (can’t remember the brand right now). There’s something wonderful, mystical even, about writing on these typewriters. And there’s the music of writing–tickity tickity tick ding schwoop tickity tickity tick ding…

I have nothing against computers. They definitely make the editing process and storage easier, but they just don’t have the same feel when writing.

What is your preferred writing equipment?