My nephew, Beau, keeps me on my toes.
Keeping on my toes is a good way to develop balance and agility. It is also a good way to fall on my face and embarrass myself. But since I don’t spend a lot of time with teenagers—and not nearly enough with Beau—I am trying.
Right now, he’s trying to convince me that I need a mechanical keyboard for my computer. I am old enough to remember typing class in high school. The “thunk, thunk, thunk!” sound of hitting keys is not a pleasant memory. My parents gave me a state-of-the-art typewriter when I left for college, and it had (wonder of wonders!) a self-correcting function, which was a huge improvement over the machines from high school, but it was still messy and time-consuming.
Then I didn’t write anything for years and, by the time I wrote again, I was using a wireless keyboard and wireless mouse with a great big monitor. Now, when I see typewriters, rather than experiencing a pleasant nostalgia, I feel something closer to dread. But Beau is trying to tell me that a mechanical keyboard is the way to go, and I am trying to keep an open mind.
“It’s really easy to use,” he assures me. “And it will last much longer than a membrane keyboard.”
“And you can adjust it to any touch you want.”
In addition to his interest in computer peripherals, Beau is also a voracious reader. I gave him a book over Christmas, and he texted me a few days later saying he wanted to discuss it with me. The problem was, I hadn’t read it. (I had no idea I was expected to actually read the books I gave to him at Christmas.) So I went back to my local bookstore to buy a copy. As I approached the front desk, I saw a collection of books and a sign that read “Signed Copies.” I then realized one of the books on the table was the meditations of Marcus Aurelius, who died in A.D. 180.
“I guess you wouldn’t have a signed copy of Marcus Aurelius,” I said to Patrick, who works the front desk.
“Well, we wouldn’t have three for sure!” Patrick replied. Patrick is a smart aleck.
Also displayed in front was an old typewriter, much older than any I was forced to use. “I feel lucky to be writing now,” I told Patrick. “I bet we would have three more novels by Charles Dickens if he’d had word processing.”
“A lot of writers back then had their wives transcribe their manuscripts!” Patrick noted, disapprovingly.
“I’ve heard he read his books to his daughter,” I told him.
“You can tell,” Patrick said. “His writing sounds like a story you would tell aloud.”
I left the bookstore with the book I gave Beau and a copy of Marcus Aurelius. I thought how fortunate I was to be able to buy a book so easily and to have all these tools that make writing so effortless.
But as different as it all seems, I know that reading and writing have not really changed all that much. Whether the story was written with a quill pen or on a fancy computer, whether it was read off a stone tablet or an electronic one, it is still just someone sharing a story.
I’m going to give Beau’s mechanical keyboard a try. It will keep me on my toes. And it will remind me—once again—that there is no one right way to tell a story.
Till next time,