Rules For Tools - Wendell Berry

I'm thinking again about tools as I read of Apple and Samsung releasing new products. I spent an hour this afternoon typing on a 1938 Corona Sterling which is still the most beautiful and wondrous machine I've ever seen. All this has me thinking of Wendell Berry's rules for new tools which, rather than summarizing, I quote here in full:

  1. The new tool should be cheaper than the one it replaces.
  2. It should be at least as small in scale as the one it replaces.
  3. It should do work that is clearly and demonstrably better than the one it replaces.
  4. It should use less energy than the one it replaces.
  5. If possible, it should use some form of solar energy, such as that of the body.
  6. It should be repairable by a person of ordinary intelligence, provided that he or she has the necessary tools.
  7. It should be purchasable and repairable as near to home as possible.
  8. It should come from a small, privately-owned shop or store that will take it back for maintenance or repair.
  9. It should not replace or disrupt anything good that already exists, and this includes family and community relationships.

If I live my life by those rules, I'm living well.

Let's Not Forget The Fun

I wrote 500 words kind of about the Astrohaus Freewrite Traveler, a device that emulates the best of a typewriter (distraction-free writing, no real editing, no online connections). The piece was a continuation of some discussion I had with the guy who makes Writer: The Internet Typewriter which is the best distraction free writing tool online. I like the Traveler but it's expensive and needs a better editor, one like Writer. These aren't the only reasons I'm not buying one, but they are up there.

Here's the thing: the 500 words I wrote were done on my 1938 Corona Sterling manual typewriter that I had restored at Mohawk Typewriter. Typing with a great manual typewriter with a blue ribbon onto blue copy paper is simple and wondrous joy.

The piece I wrote would have to be retyped on the computer or scanned and fed into an OCR program in order to be shared online. Instead, it's a sheet of single-spaced typing sitting next to me here as I type this. It is mine and mine alone. It will likely stay that way. What an odd and lovely concept.

I wrote those 500 words for no other reason than I wanted to think through some ideas on the page. I think best in written word and I'm happiest when words are appearing on the page at the touch of my fingers. These words on the screen are good (especially because I'm typing them in Writer), but it's nothing like the pleasure of the typewriter or the smooth movement of a fountain pen over the page. That's the good stuff.

My work now is to find ways to move forward as a writer, maybe to make some money doing this work. Still, there's nothing better than enjoying the work, savoring the process, and loving the mechanics of making words on the page. When I'm forgetting those basics, I return to the typewriter and produce an artifact that is clear evidence of joy and reminds me what this is all about. And I write on.