Friedrich Nietzche bought a typewriter in 1882 because his vision has been failing him and he feared he would have to give up writing entirely if he had to write by hand. The typewriter saved him. Once he had mastered typing, he was able to write while his eyes were closed, sparing himself from the headaches he experienced while focusing his eyes on the page during hand writing.
If our date is correct, we owe to this typewriter most of Nietzsche’s later works including Also Sprach Zarathustra and Zur Genealogies Der Moral. Interestingly though, the typewriter may have had some unintended effects on his writing.
From Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows:
But the machine had a subtler effect on his work. One of Nietzsche’s friends, a composer, noticed a change in the style of his writing. His already terse prose had become even tighter, more telegraphic. “Perhaps you will through this instrument even take to a new idiom,” the friend wrote in a letter, noting that, in his own work, his “‘thoughts’ in music and language often depend on the quality of pen and paper.”
“You are right,” Nietzsche replied, “our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.” Under the sway of the machine, writes the German media scholar Friedrich A. Kittler, Nietzsche’s prose “changed from arguments to aphorisms, from thoughts to puns, from rhetoric to telegram style.”
Though I certainly don’t think we can entirely draw conclusions from this alone, personal experience suggests to me that I write quite differently, and that I enjoy writing more, by hand instead of computer. Like Nietzsche, and I don’t mean that in the sense that we’re on the same level, I’ve found that the medium affects my message.
Writing an outline or part of an essay by hand first produces much better writing for me than does writing in a WordPress text editor. I focus better with a pen and paper, I take bigger risks with my writing, and the style and content flow more naturally.
And more and more I’ve found myself carrying a Moleskine and a Pilot G2 everywhere and using them to draft by hand all the essays I publish later online.