What does an author use to write? Some writers use a pencil and notebook while other writers may prefer to use a computer. In the case of James Michener, he had his trusty typewriter that he used throughout his life. On view in the permanent exhibit, James A. Michener: A Living Legacy, you will find his Olympia De Luxe typewriter from the 1960s. On a good day, Michener wrote 2,000 words on this typewriter, reaching 500,000 for a full-length novel. To the right of his typewriter you can find part of the original manuscript for The Novel.
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine the sound of Michener working away. What do you hear? If his head was full of ideas you might hear a rapid sound, like clicketyclackclickclicketyclickclick. What if he had “writer’s block” and the ideas were not flowing as smoothly? Perhaps you would hear a slower pattern clicketyclick….clickclick…clicketyclick.
This typewriter may seem antiquated by today’s standards, but it is important to remember that this typewriter is over 50 years old. At one point the Olympia typewriters were regarded as the “Mercedes Benz of typewriters”. They were solid, well-constructed machines. According to Olympia’s brochure, the Olympia SM series is “…the finest writing machine money can buy, with all the advantages of portability…It’s built better-for life.”
Here is a fun fact: look closely at the keyboard and pay special attention to the numbers. Do you notice anything? The number 1 is missing! The user was to use a lowercase L instead.
Now it is your turn to be a writer! Visit our special exhibition, 30 Years: Art at the Michener, 1988-2018, to see the section focused on James A. Michener. In this area, you can find a series of gallery activities that you can use during your visit with lots of ideas and prompts for you to develop your writing. With the activities, you can write different kinds of poetry, including the sonnet. This was James Michener’s favorite kind of poetry. There is also an Olympia De Luxe SM7 Typewriter for you to try out! Do you think you could use this kind of machine to write on today?