Welcome to Typewriter Tuesday, a series from the American Writers Museum that aims to shed light on the typewriters and other tools behind some of your favorite works of literature. Check back every Tuesday to learn more about these trusty machines and the writers who used them. Our next special exhibit Tools of the Trade, opening June 2019, features more than a dozen typewriters on loan from Steve Soboroff’s impressive collection, as well as other writing implements and instruments used by American writers. Today, we take a look at Ray Bradbury’s 1947 Royal KMM.
“You must never think at the typewriter—you must feel.”
In a 1974 interview with James Day, Ray Bradbury said he had a sign over his typewriter which read, “Don’t think!” This reminded him to feel his stories and let them happen, as he felt “the intellect is a great danger to creativity.” Well, Bradbury spent a lot of time not-thinking at typewriters, as he is credited with writing more than 27 novels and story collections and more than 600 short stories, not to mention his forays into screenwriting and playwriting. This 1947 Royal KMM, part of Steve Soboroff’s collection, may have been used to write Something Wicked This Way Comes, though, as is the case with most of these machines, only the writer knows for sure what was written on it.
We do know for sure that Bradbury had a long love affair with typewriters. He was inspired to become a writer at the age of 12 when he got his first typewriter, and wrote all of his material on various typewriters throughout his life. He famously wrote Fahrenheit 451 on a rental typewriter in the basement of UCLA’s Powell Library. His daughters kept interrupting him at home and he couldn’t afford an office. The timed machine cost him 10 cents for every thirty minutes he typed, leading to a total cost of $9.80. Not too bad for a classic work of American fiction!
In addition to typewriters, libraries were also crucial to Bradbury’s success. Growing up, he spent most of his time in libraries, which he credits with his development as a writer. In 2010 interview with Rachel Goldstein for TIME, he says:
“The secret of writing was, to go and live in the library two or four days a week for ten years. I graduated from the library having read every single book in it. And along the way I wrote every day of every week of every month, for every year. And in ten years, I became a writer.”
This Royal KMM was in Bradbury’s home during a documentary film shoot about Bradbury. The producers needed a vintage typewriter to recreate a scene depicting Bradbury’s early life, so he gave them this very machine. Years later, it resides in the collection of Steve Soboroff and will be on display in our Tools of the Trade exhibit, opening June 22, 2019. Until then, you can connect with this typewriter in a roundabout way by picking up one of Bradbury’s many books at your local library. As he says in the keynote address of the Sixth Annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea,
“Live in the library! Live in the library, for Christ’s sake. Don’t live on your goddamn computer and the internet and all that crap. Go to the library.”
Well, you heard the man.
Tools of the Trade will feature more than a dozen of Soboroff’s typewriters and more, and is sponsored in part by the Hugh M. Hefner Foundation. Additional sponsorship opportunities are also available for this exhibit. If you would like to support Tools of the Trade, and receive recognition and benefits in association with this exhibit, please contact Linda Dunlavy, Development Director at 312-374-8762 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.