If you are an older person reading this, say born in the decade of the 1960s, you may remember living in a moment in history when you had to write with a pen or type with a typewriter. These things slowed you down somewhat and I should know as I practiced with both.
Don’t get me wrong, handwriting, when beautifully done, was (and is) something to be proud of. And, there is something magical about hearing the click-clack of a typewriter and pulling the sheet from its teeth when you’d finished the page. Both methods were (and are) laborious if you want to be an author.
I’ve always marvelled at people like Jane Austen (the cover photograph is her desk). She must have thrown away hundreds of pages before she posted her manuscript to the printer. Either that or she was very particular about what and how she wrote, so as not to waste time, effort, paper, ink and candles (or oil for the lamps).
In 2012, the year when the world was supposed to have ended, I visited Jane Austen’s house in Hampshire. To capture the memory, I took a photograph. The desk, where she wrote all those intelligent and funny tales of a time gone by, was laid out so vividly. I could imagine her sitting there writing by candlelight, in the cold of winter.
Sounds romantic, doesn’t it. But, to go through the process she had to in order to create her stories, must have taken a lot of dedication and enthusiasm.
While at school, in the 70s, I often had my head buried in any one of Jane Austen’s stories. At that time, we still wrote with fountain pens and our desks still had ink wells embedded into them. We were taught to write in italic script, slowly, carefully, thoughtfully. By the time I reached Secondary school biros, typewriters and speed were the key.
If I made a mistake with a typewriter, Tippex corrected it – or my teacher’s ruler over my fingers encouraged me to be careful and cautious! It was either that or do the most arduous task of all, start all over again. Photocopiers weren’t in abundance either. A piece of carbon paper between the sheets duplicated the work I produced. If I made an error, Tippex wasn’t much cop with the carbon.
The lady who taught me to type is embedded in my memory. Mrs. Horrocks, ah, the delightful Mrs. Horrocks. She was a stout old woman (probably the age I am now) with a thick mop of curly hair she dyed jet black. When she got angry, which was often, her head wobbled upon her neck. A line of 30 girls would quickly stand, obedient like soldiers, when we heard her court shoes clack along the corridor. She lived up to her name in that she was horrifically strict and would make us type and type and type the same phrase:
The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs
…over and over again until the layout of the keyboard was embedded in our brains.
At first, I kept getting it wrong. I was so darned slow and irritated with the whole process. I couldn’t see the point in training my fingers to remember the keyboard without looking at it and I almost gave up. Until one day, surprise, surprise, I got it right! All of it.
Mrs. Horrocks was all of a dither, so much that she clucked like a hen who had just laid a prized egg. So excited was she, that she grabbed my tiny hand (yes, I was a skinny little thing at the time) and dragged my reluctant form to the front of the class. Once there, I was made to stand on a stool before a pack of howling she-wolves while she praised the living daylights out of me.
She perched me on that pedestal as an example to them all.
Trust me; the experience wasn’t a good one. To say I was, well, horrified would be an understatement. Needless to say, my fears were founded upon solid reality as The Bullies soon pulled me off of it again.
Yes. Unfortunately. They seemed to have had a hand in my defiance to get to my goal.
The thing was, years later, I learned what any person skilled at a task knows. The act of repetition, the determination, and persistent diligent actions take you towards your goal. The more you try, the more you keep at your dream, the closer it will come and more of a reality it will be.
All the best,
EXTRACT from: How to be an Author – Vol.1: Writing Your Writing