The Art of Writing & the Mechanics Behind the Printed Word

Visual aids are very important to me in my writing. I like to see places that I’m writing about, experience things that I’m writing about. So throughout my career I’ve taken photographs of things, which I can then study. The whole business in Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads, when he talks about the spontaneous overflow of emotion recollected in tranquility—a photograph can help you do that.

W.T. Vollmann, Paris Review (“William T. Vollmann, The Art of Fiction” Fall, 2000)

I’ve been reading a lot of Vollmann these days and came across this quote. This was in reference to the first book he wrote in his early twenties, after his trip to Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan war. This quote perhaps explains my latest preoccupation with taking iPhone snapshots and playing them up with instagram filters. This visual archiving has been part of my writing process, not necessarily a new photography hobby. You can follow the photos I take on instagram (@zohrasaed not sure how to link it since it’s an iPhone app).

Until I find the time to upload the instagram photos up on my blog… I will, in it’s place, upload here my favorite purchase of the summer and something I have been remembering how to type — in Cunningham JHS, I learned to type on a typewriter very similar to this. Cunningham was supposed to be a computer savvy junior high school, so they taught us everything from typing on a 1930s typewriter to writing up simple programs, to learning how to use an old fashioned printing press.

An example of the metal movable type that we used to align to print a page at Cunningham JHS 234

Only in retrospect do I feel fortunate to have gone to such a school. It must be where the kernel of loving the texture and mechanical parts that produced the printed word began. Thank you Cunningham for that early lesson. Now, I have this beauty sharing desk space with my Mac.

My latest typewriter circa 1930s

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