Typewriters and conjunctions

When I get home from work at night, I have to hide the wireless card from myself so that I’ll start on my required two novel pages before 3 a.m. (The later it gets, the more liberal my interpretation of the output requirement: seven sentences scrawled in all-caps on two pages of a composition notebook? Perfect!)

Last week, after reading Carrie’s typewriter rhapsody, I decided I was tired of battling carpal tunnel and the temptations of the Internet, and I followed her lead (but without doing research, naturally). Turns out you can pick up a typewriter on Ebay for next to nothing. It just takes it a while to arrive. The waiting period is dangerous, because I keep sitting around, thinking: you know, that typewriter-keyboard conversion seems pretty straighforward.

One of the worst things about writing for four or five hours at a stretch, as I was every day this weekend, is the creeping awareness of my limited vocabulary.

Shouldn’t there be another word for “and,” for instance? Something more conversational than “additionally,” but more multipurpose than “also” and less cutesy than “plus”? With the right synonym, surely my segues would be less transparent. But there is, alas, only one “and,” one “but,” and one “so.”

At 2 a.m., I can nearly convince myself that “and” and “but” are interchangeable. This fallacy is similar to the trick your eyes play on you when a familiar word like “weird” or “radio” looks misspelled and you have to haul out the dictionary. Or when, in your dreams, one place you’ve lived blurs with another. (Last night I dreamed that I was riding in a cab and had only $5 in my pocket. The cabbie was going to drop me off at the next subway station, but the fare on the meter kept rising. I realized when it hit $4 that we were driving on S.W. 117th Avenue in Miami and the A/C/E was not, after all, “just a couple more blocks down.”)

This conjunction confusion is related to my tendency to return, time and again, to the same two sentence structures. I just used “and” after a comma in that last sentence, I’ll think. Maybe I can replace it in this one with a different conjunction — maybe “but.”

Never mind that the words have opposing meanings.

Aside from character and the other aspects of the form, the main problem with novels, I’ve decided, is that they’re made up not just of pages, but of sentences, and finally of individual words. Every single word choice offers the literary equivalent of an opportunity, if you’re not watching where you’re walking, to step in a pile of dogshit.

But I’m sure that typewriter is going to solve everything.


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