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Old Manuscript: a window in time

eatonI’ve been looking through a manuscript that I packed away in an Eaton’s Corrasable Bond typewriter paper box 30 years ago. It’s a window into the past.

Eaton’s Corrasable Bond was a popular ease-erase typewriter paper that was popular back in the 1950s through the 1970s because mistakes could be erased easily without smudging. The fact that this old manuscript was created on a typewriter on a kind of paper that’s no longer made reminds me just how old the story on these pages is.

It also reminds me how frustrating it was to create on a typewriter. Unless one was a flawless typist, it was nearly impossible to create a perfect manuscript for submission to a publisher in the days when (a) everything was submitted by mail, and (b) Xerox copies of manuscripts were frowned upon.

eaton2As great as this paper was, it couldn’t be used for the final version. Why? Ease-erase also meant easy-smudge. It didn’t take long for the words to smear and suggest to the publisher that a lot of people had already looked at it. For the submittable version, we shifted over to Berkshire bond. It was hard to erase, but it didn’t smudge.

While we did have correction fluid and correction tape, it had to be used sparingly because it made the manuscript look less than pristine.

Who I Used to Be

My father was fond of the phrase, “Who I am to be, I am now becoming.” I didn’t like the phrase, because the only time I heard it was after being lazy or doing something overly wrong. Yet, it’s got some truth to it because I see hints of my current writing style in the old manuscript.

Things that were funny then, seem lame or pathetic now. But some of the words still sing. I look at this old manuscript and remember the high hopes I had for it at the time. I know when  “the time” was because my return address is typed in the upper left-hand corner of the first page of the MS. That address is five houses old.

From today’s perspective, I’m glad nobody bought the story five houses ago. Chances are, it would be long forgotten by now what with the short shelf life of books that aren’t in the bestseller category. In many ways, finding this old MS is a gift: it’s a chance to see the writer I was and a chance to see if the story still has enough punch to it that would make it worth revising.

It’s too soon to tell. Stepping into the past is a journey of it’s own, something a lot of people do with old photo albums and journals. The old MS is a window on my reality of those years because, like many authors, I insert bits and pieces of “real life” into my stories in a camouflaged fashion.

If you’re a writer–or a non-writer who keeps a personal journal or diary–how do you feel when you find old words packed away in a dusty box in the garage or the attic? Is it bittersweet, pure nostalgia, or”I can’t believe I wrote this”?


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of satire, paranormal short stories and contemporary fantasy novels including the recently released novel of fate and magic called “The Seeker.”

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  1. melindaclayton #

    For me it’s almost always, “I can’t believe I wrote this, and I hope no one else ever sees it.” 😀

    July 30, 2013
    • There’s a lot of that going around, Melinda. 🙂


      July 30, 2013
  2. I found my notes from a Creative Writing course I took in the 70’s tucked away in some “hard” files. By typewriter. Since this was just for my own use, I ignored typos and other errors. And now, I’m using those scanned files as the basis for a novel, about my mentor and me. We formed a friendship after the classes were over, and I see now where I got some names of my characters in my latest novel. Her name was Grace Nies Fletcher: I used the last name for a secondary character. She had gone to visit the Dali-Lama; the Himalayas was the setting. I wrote the novel BEFORE I found the typewritten notes. Then I realized how much of her life I had absorbed.
    And, while this isn’t exactly a result of a typewritten manuscript, when I heard the narrator of Forces of Nature read the last of the snippet about the family closing the door to the tornado cellar, I thought with some surprise: Did i actually write that? That’s pretty darn good!” Modesty is not one of my traits.

    July 30, 2013
    • It’s fun to find old stuff about subjects we’ve subsequently written about and find the same flavor there. Plus, it’s fun thinking: hey, pretty darn good.


      July 30, 2013
  3. I think that old story is a real treasure! Personal history like no other.

    July 30, 2013
    • One never knows what to expect when going through old writing files.


      August 1, 2013

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