The Purest Form of Writing

David W. Berner, The Writer Shed
The Writer Shed
Published in
4 min readApr 4, 2024

What happens when each morning you type on an old Smith-Corona

Most mornings I have a ritual.

I try to get to it just as the sun rises. I can’t say it’s become a daily habit, but I’d like it to be. I want it to be. And I’ll try. I will.

The dog always receives first attention. She’s let into the backyard in the early light to relieve herself and then she rushes back to the rear door, knowing what’s to come. Three scoops of her food in her white ceramic bowl. She does not hesitate. When she’s full, she gets a few pets, a look in her eyes, and a hug.

When I first awaken on these mornings, I turn on the space heater inside the small shed at the back end of the property where I work, doing it remotely in the modern way through Bluetooth and WIFI. By the time I drink some water, pull on my watch cap, if needed, the shed is warming. This morning there is snow. Pearl-like feathery flakes. April in the Midwest. I pull on a light sweater.

Inside my shed, I light a candle, some incense, and I try to mediate for as long as my busy mind allows. It’s always a journey for me. Some days are fuller than others. But every day I try. They say meditation is not about controlling your thoughts, it’s about not allowing your thoughts to control you. Time spent is beneficial. But doing it at all, for any length of time, I’ve been told, is still worthy and good. I’ve learned this is so.

What I do next has become increasingly important to me, and it is the reason I write this today. It is my personal lean-in, my return, if you will, to the old-school, the analog, the tactile. I find it a kind of meditation — the writing of a few words each morning on a 1950s-era Smith-Corona Skywriter.

There has been much written about the beauty, even the art-like appeal of the old manual typewriter. It’s become part of home decor for some, an old Royal resting on a shelf holds nostalgic and aesthetic appeal. But mine is not for show. It’s for work. It clacks and it dings, and it deposits clean sharp letters on white paper. It is the purest form of writing. Not editing. Not publishing. Writing.

When I first purchased the Skyriter, it needed some love. I found a shop nearby that repaired manuals. Not an easy task. The craftsman still physically tagged the units he worked on — a paper tag with your name and phone number attached to a string that tied to the carriage return. He did his work on a high oak table littered with precision hand tools and several magnifying glasses. There was an elegance to watching him hover over a typewriter, his reading glasses on the end of his nose, his attention singularly focused. He brought my manual back to life.

Sitting at my desk, I feel like Hemingway, like Kerouac, Henry Miller. There should be cigarette smoke. Not only is there some visceral connection to writers of a certain era, but I am also astonished, knowing that entire drafts of novels were written on these machines. Thousands and thousands of words. I’m certain I could never do that. But I can write a few lines. I can write a haiku, a poem, a few dozen words. And return to the magic of slowing down, to a simpler time, to look out through a window to the past.

On this morning, it’s a poem.

Snow. The power of nature how we have no control over it. How life happens no matter how much we try to shape and mold it. It snows in April, because, well, because it snows in April. And what occurs in our world. what happens to us, is just that, a happening. It is what is. Embrace it or reject it. It will be there either way. Snow on a Midwest April day.

I tap and tap. The carriage returns. I x-out a mistake. I tap again. Clack, clack, clack.

The candle burns. The snow falls. The carriage bell rings.

A few minutes pass and I lean back in the chair. I read my words. My fingers ache. This action is not what I am used to. The manual requires a supple wrist and lubricated knuckles. There’s a strange effort needed here. But good effort it is, like the brief workout that ignites endorphins.

A few words in type. Each day. A meditative act. A reminder of something more instinctive, more human. It’s writing. The purest way.

I pull the paper from the roller. Place it on my desk on top of the others from mornings before.

I’ll see you tomorrow, old friend.

David W. Berner is the author of several award-winning books of fiction and memoir. He teaches at Gotham Writers and writes regularly at The Abundance.



David W. Berner, The Writer Shed
The Writer Shed

Award-winning writer of memoir and fiction. Creator of Medium publication: THE WRITER SHED and author of THE ABUNDANCE on Substack..