There once was a writer of Romance /
Who had a stance on love at first glance. /
It was hard for him to believe /
Or even try to conceive /
That it could be done while still wearing your pants.
Illustration by Jason Adam Katzenstein
If you use a red pen, you are either grading undergraduate papers or you are a sociopath.
Cormac McCarthy purchased a powder blue Olivetti Lettera 32 mechanical typewriter in a Tennessee pawnshop, in 1963, for fifty dollars, and used it for the next five decades, producing an estimated five million words tickling its ivories. An author’s instrument is more than a tool; it is an extension of his very soul. With that in mind, choose your weapon carefully. (I use the Olivetti Lettera 22—an earlier model—myself.)
Ballpoint pen: Let me guess—you probably have a great idea for a book that you’ve been meaning to write but haven’t actually got around to starting?
Fountain pen: You don’t use contractions because you think that they degrade the language, and your epigraphs are all in Latin. You include epigraphs in everything you write.
Electric typewriter: All of your protagonists are thinly veiled versions of yourself. You order rye at bars and secretly think that you should have been alive in the sixties.
Manual typewriter: You spent six hundred dollars on a typewriter that you’ve used twice.
No. 2 pencil: You keep one behind your ear because you think it looks writerly, but exclusively use it to jot down to-do lists.
Pencil you can only sharpen with a pocket knife: You have gone camping two or three times in your life and bring it up at least once per conversation.
Mechanical pencil: You’re taking notes in an Algebra 2 class.
MacBook: You like the idea of hiking more than you actually like hiking and are impressed with yourself for liking the Beatles.
Desktop computer: You are either a Serious Writer who needs to be cut off from distraction in order to focus completely on your art, or you are sixty-five years old.
Red pen: You are either grading undergraduate papers or you are a sociopath.
Micron: Your notebook is the type with the grid dots because you think that lines constrain your creativity but you still need to write straight.
Quill: You have gone to a Renaissance Faire unironically. Please, for all of our sakes, stop calling women “m’lady.”
Tablet: You type with a single finger.
From “The White Man’s Guide to White Male Writers of the Western Canon,” by Dana Schwartz, illustrated by Jason Adam Katzenstein, to be published by Harper Collins.