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New Computer, Starting Fresh

The tools we use to write do affect our writing.

When I moved from legal pad to typewriter, I found I wrote more. I might not have written better, but I wrote more. Then, a PC clone (a Tandy 1000) entered my life and I found I typed even more. With a basic word processor and a good keyboard, typing was almost as fast as I could think.

Oh, and how I loved my Ambra PC. It shipped with an IBM/Lexmark keyboard. Computers contain less metal today than went into that keyboard. It was a metal case, with metal springs and levers inside. That keyboard was a thing of beauty. Only the Apple "tactile" matches the great IBM keyboard designs.

Maybe speed isn't the best way to compose documents, but I tell my students to get the words on paper and then worry about revising.

(Tangent: I do like dictation software, too, because it can type even faster than I can manually strike the keys. However, I can type on a keyboard anywhere, while dictation requires sitting in my home office with a headset.)

When I write on paper, it can be slow and tedious. Sometimes, writing is painful. Maybe it's because I hold my pencil incorrectly, or maybe the pain is the result of an injury to my arm. No matter what, typing beats writing on paper when I want to set ideas free as quickly as possible.

Paper is great for slow, careful thinking about what I am writing. I do write on paper when I want that special feel of going slowly and carefully. Interestingly, I write poetry, short stories, and scripts on paper and then type the pages. When I transcribe from paper to digital, I also revise the writing. Write, edit, type, edit, and then revise, seems to be a good process for me.

This week I will be receiving my new MacBook Pro. There is a mix of anticipation and apprehension. I know the computer will be significantly faster and more reliable than my 2006 MBP, which I love. But, it also has a different keyboard design, different port layout, and won't seem familiar. When I moved from a 12-inch PowerBook (best computer ever!) to the MacBook Pro, at least the keyboard was identical.

I love keyboards that feel like a typewriter. I like a long travel, a bit of resistance, and a noticeable click. It is a touch typist's dream. You know exactly when you've typed a letter. You can feel the keys as you see the letters appear. I want to save up for a Matias Tactile Pro 3 keyboard for my home office. The Tactile Pro is a recreation of the best Apple keyboard ever: the one that shipped with the lampshade iMac. (

When I use a different keyboard, I feel like I lose productivity. I find myself typing slowly, struggling to find the "home row" keys and the special keys we use for shortcuts. Moving from a Mac to PC keyboard, I hate the positioning of some keys. As a writer and teacher, I don't want to feel lost because of a keyboard change.

The keyboard is my greatest concern about the new computer. I don't mind reinstalling software; a fresh start is a good thing. I don't mind the changes to the operating system as much as some people might. I went with the 15-inch "classic" MacBook Pro because I like the anti-glare screen more than the glossy new Retina display. But, the keyboard… you're stuck with the new "Chicklet" keys. I'm told this helps keep the computer thin, but I'd sacrifice a bit of thickness for a better keyboard.

Do keyboards affect your writing? Do they slow you down when they are poorly designed? Can a keyboard interfere with your thoughts?

Of course, maybe within a few months the new keyboard will be familiar and all will be okay with my universe.


  1. As technology advances, a writer’s tool changes –from simple paper and pen, to typewriter, down to computers and laptop. For writers, it’s important to have a writing tool that can deliver portability and can be useful for their multitasking tasks. But above everything else, they should prefer a laptop that suits both their budget and needs.

    Lance Vartanian

  2. I love the “crunchy” feel of my desktop keyboard when I press a key, and the sound it makes. That’s why I’m not a fan of laptops, since I don’t get that feeling when I press the buttons; I think of them as mostly quiet and dull. I always give my keyboards a good cleaning every few months, which I also suggest, so as to properly maintain them. Turn off the PC’s power, unplug the keyboard, and turn it over to shake out the dust and dirt.

    Benita Bolland


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