Why Do Writers Throw Their Typewriters Out of the Window in Movies?

The first time I saw a blocked writer throw a typewriter out a window I was shocked—even if it was only in a movie. Lillian Hellman in “Julia,” I think. I loved every typewriter I ever had—usually inexpensive portable ones with clackety keys. Not being given very much to blocks myself, I was unsympathetic to such portrayals. In a movie of me at the time—if I was a blocked writer—I’d have been shopping for some of those soft old fashioned old lady cloth shoes at Woolworth’s on the Plaza, or maybe just lying around. I’d no sooner throw a typewriter out the window than a baby.
Portrayals of writers in films seem to have to add drama. After all, writers while writing are a pretty dull lot. Violette le Duc, the French author, was obsessive, brilliant, deranged, and stalked Simone de Beauvoir. All of which makes for a pretty good movie—“Violette.” I enjoyed that she seemed to write with her feet in water—either a flowing stream or a basin.
Elizabeth Bishop in “Reaching for the Moon” was a bit closer to home. After all, I saw her around Cambridge when I was an undergrad and we were introduced a few times. Her tumultuous love affair with both the charismatic Brazilian woman Lota de Macedo Soares and Brazil itself makes for drama—but even here poets working are portrayed as…well, poets staring into space and trying out syllabic counts. Realistic, yes. Exciting, no.
I’m not against movies about women writers I admire. I just think it is useless to try to show writing—or thinking for that matter—on the screen. Picture me now, writing. I’m sitting in bed with a pile of books, a cat, and a notebook. I am eating a bowl of wasabi peas and some cheese. I am staring at the middle distance. I am getting up and making a phone call. I am dead heading flowers in the yard. I am doodling. Heck, now I’m knitting. Looks like I’m blocked! But I am certainly not throwing this laptop out the window.

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About Miriam Sagan

I'm blogging about poetry, land art, haiku, women artists, road trips, and Baba Yaga at Miriam's Well (https://miriamswell.wordpress.com). The well is ALWAYS looking to publish poetry on our themes, sudden fiction, and guest bloggers and musers.

2 thoughts on “Why Do Writers Throw Their Typewriters Out of the Window in Movies?

  1. I saw an interview with Lillian Hellman soon after Julia was released and she said she was appalled by this portrayal of her, because, “I would never have done such a ridiculous thing”, she said in regards to the typewriter tossing.

  2. I always find it charming, and just plain awesome about typewriters. I remembered using them when I learned (still learning) to type. It definitely was an old fashion one, like something from the 90’s. It made noises when the keys are being compressed. Making a mistake involved using white out. Plus, I wasn’t the fasting typer in class, if remembered got to around 42 wpm. Maybe in the future, keep a nice old noisy old fashioned keyboard when the future(?) wife comes around. Great thought sharings!

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