I’ve always had a thing for typewriters.They look, at first glance, like something that shouldn’t really work. Their insides are ludicrously complicated, and they bristle with levers and switches and buttons, the functions of which can only be discovered through experimentation. But they make satisfying noises, and when you write on one your words are printed instantly on the page; you can’t easily take back any mistakes. There’s also something wonderfully textured about a typewritten page – letters jump or smudge, or show up faint or dark depending on how hard you press the keys.
After being typewriter-less for years I acquired one off the internet back in April. It took me two months to then locate a working ribbon for it, but once it was in order again I decided I should actually try and use it. So I started busking. I sit on the street. People provide me with some words and I write something using them as a starting point. Most of the time they’re pleased, and some of the time they give me money.
There’s a few interesting things about writing this way. One is that it forces me to be a lot less precious about my words. A typewriter produces only one unique copy of a story – which I then give away. There’s no chance to edit, develop, redraft or change a piece. The first draft is the final draft. Sometimes the end result is something I’m proud of, and sometimes it’s not – but I have to accept what I come up with, since there’s no opportunity to alter it.
It’s also a strange experience to write things in front of an audience. People often watch me type, and react to a story as it appears on the paper line by line. It’s a level of feedback that I’ve never had before, and one that I would never have thought I’d enjoy. It’s fun though – normally I don’t get to see how people react to things I’ve written.
I talked briefly about my busking on a local radio station, where they also had me write a couple of stories for them live on air. It was a fun experience, and you can find the stories – complete with many typos and smudges – on their Twitter feed. Some other stories originally produced on the street have also made their way onto Archipelago; my story-a-day project for 2015.
Also in the last few months I’ve had a poem published in Vine Leaves, a flash fiction published in Cake Magazine, and my short story “The Life Of Dogbreath” was a notable contender in the Bristol Short Story Prize 2015. Although it didn’t make the longlist, I’m pleased to have been mentioned, and can definitely recommend the anthology if you fancy some excellent short stories.