The Struggles of the Modern Writer

On how, in modernity, simple aspirations to write can be hindered by one's own tools.

When I was younger, ideas of being a middle-school author floating about in my head between worries about my terrible grades and just how I was to build a fort in a backyard so small and close to other houses, I thought about how lucky I was.

I had a computer, with Microsoft Word on it, that could type and backspace with ease, and I had music, on a cheap Chinese iPod clone, which I could listen to with a borrowed pair of earbuds.

I thought about how, only 20 or 30 years ago, I would have had to have used a typewriter with its lack of backspacing and my lack of whiteout, or even a pen or pencil, without music to inspire me.

My misunderstanding of the situation was lost on me, even as, every time I opened up Word, I also opened up Runescape.

I didn't write a book—or even a short story or a poem or even an article, for that matter—in middle school.  Neither did I in high school, or even a a year or two after that.

It was only after I had graduated, failed again and again to find a job, and after the internet was shut off—not to be turned on again for several months—that the magnitude of how distracted I had been really hit me.  And along with that, that immensity of the task of writing a genuinely good story.

Failure to find any sort of employment, along with girl problems and isolation brought about by a computer with no internet, a phone that didn't work, and a car without an alternator, came together to make me more inclined to sleep for fifteen hours, take walks between the early morning—between two and four in the morning—and remark on how strangely empty I had become, rather than do anything else at all, let alone put in the immense emotional effort required to write.

But it happened, one day in 2013 at two thirty-four in the morning; that is, I wrote a book.

It was terrible, of course, very short and contrived. I hated it so much, in fact, that I haven't touched it since.  It still rests, deep on the hard drive of a computer sent to the thrift store years ago.

But even as I came away from the keyboard so disgusted with my own ability—I had, after all, wanted to be a writer for seven some-odd years, and this was what all that desire had lead up to?—there was something else.

Yes, despite my immense failure to write anything even a little interesting or structured, I did feel something else amid the hatred and disappointment: there was hope, somewhere in there.  And there was pride.

It was terrible, sure, but it was still there.  I had written something.  And it had a beginning and end, and characters, and a plot.  It was all there.

I had written a book, and that meant that I could write a book.  It just needed more work.

And so work I did.  

I moved away, got a car and a job, resolved my girl issues, and now I have a typewriter.

Its keys get stuck and one of them is even broken, but that's okay.

It carries age with it, that typewriter does, and raw ability to write, and only to write.

And now, as I sit, looking at my drawer full of several complete, properly formatted novels and short stories, all written in those tell-tale typewriter letters, I wonder why I ever felt so lucky to have a computer at all.  

D.C. Perry
D.C. Perry

Collector, cataloger and curator of elusive emotions, collapser of quantum wave functions, explorer of perception, and student of the human condition.

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The Struggles of the Modern Writer