Typing to the Beat of a New Drummer

Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Recently a friend of mine went out on an important business trip to New York. As he and his partner were at Kinkos copying a presentation for their big meeting, they happened to glance at the trash bin next to the copier. On top of a pile of crumpled documents was a pristine, unmarred business plan. My friend picked it up and couldn’t believe his eyes. The plan was similar to the one they were intending to write! He quickly snatched it and concealed it in his messenger bag.

A few days later he told me the story. The meeting went spectacular, everything was gangbusters, and finding that business plan was strange... it was serendipity. He wanted to do something similar and use the business plan as a template. And since he never took typing (I call him ‘Sam Peck-n-paw’), I agreed to retype the document for him. I couldn’t bear to see him peck away for days when I could do it in an hour.

As I sat at my keyboard typing, I was reminded of the late author Hunter S. Thompson. This visionary and founder of “Gonzo Journalism” spent his early years typing out the complete works of Faulkner, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald. He wanted to know what it was like to write a masterpiece. To feel the voice and rhythm of words from an author he admired. And typing out their novels was the closest thing to it.

I have to admit, it’s amazing. Even though I was simply typing out a random business plan from a complete stranger found in a stinky trash can, I discovered that typing someone else’s words gives you a whole new perspective and understanding. It’s not like reading. It’s completely different. While typing, you hear tone, voice, beat and clarity of thought. You pick up on much more than you would on a quick read-through. You use a multitude of senses.

After I typed the document for my friend, I took a little time and typed the first chapters of my favorite books. For a moment, you can feel exactly what that person is feeling, the pulse of their words, and the bu-dum, bu-dum, heartbeat of their word-song.

If you haven’t tried it before, here’s your challenge:

  • Pick out an author you admire and type their first chapter.
  • What do you feel?
  • Did you discover something different than when you read it?
  • How did the words feel at the tips of your fingers? Did you hear their voice?
It's a fun exercise and probably the closest you can get to an author's mind. Hunter S. would be proud.


Sue said...

What an innovative post, Angela! I love this idea. I'm definitely going to aim to complete this exercise. We often read our favorite authors' words, but I hadn't heard of Hunter S. or his "Gonzo Journalism." Plus, you're right; we can't get any closer to an author's mind than through the rhythm of his/her words. Thanks!!

Chynna said...

I LOVE this idea too. I've actually done this when I've had "writer's block". It helps to get you back on track when you've gotten lost.

Thanks for sharing, Angela! =oD


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