In which an era ends

She was decent and hard-working. She seldom complained, even when she got herself into a jam.

She witnessed my awakening as a writer, from tentative, cliché-prone beginner to confident, stripped-down wordsmith capable of earning money and book deals.

She saw me through three novels – so long ago now that it seems like a dream, the sort you have when you’re delirious. All of that creativity and frenetic energy, not quite possible to rekindle these past ten years amidst the splinters of reality continually interposed: work, home, child, the weight of too many other passions and obligations. Energy I still hope I might one day be able to reclaim, glassy fragments gathered back into a glowing core.


I bought her in Amsterdam, lugged her home to my airy flat in de Pijp and installed her in the spare room along with the patriotic orange iMac. I was still employed then, and just starting out as a novelist on the evenings and weekends. Back then, I found it easier to proof drafts in printed form, so each day I’d run off a chapter or two to read on the daily train commute to Leiden, clean crisp sheets gradually defaced with tough-love marker pen. Later, my agent needed me to post numerous double-spaced copies of the manuscript back to London, and during those sessions, the printer would grow hot and bothered with the effort, the pages curling and spilling off the tray in disorderly piles.

I used to stagger home with reams of paper from Vroom & Dreesman or HEMA. How many thousands did she burn through? I know that I replaced the drum once, and the toner innumerable times. She finally gasped her last a few weeks ago, almost eighteen years after I first bought her.

Eighteen years.

A moment of silence them, for a loyal workhorse, before I drag her dusty carcass away. Her replacement, a sleek, networked model with superfluous functionalities, won’t get the same treatment even if I do ever get back into my novelist stride. These days, I’ve learned to prefer editing on screen – at one time, as unlikely as learning to prefer the keyboard instead of the pen.

If the new printer lasts as long as the old one did, it will see me into retirement – a compelling but strange notion. Whether I will have more time to write then, or less, is anyone’s guess.

About Jennifer Rohn

Scientist, novelist, rock chick
This entry was posted in LabLit, Nostalgia, Work/life balance, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to In which an era ends

  1. Grant Jacobs says:

    I find writing easier to proof in print – still do I think, even though I don’t use paper as much now (partly as carting a printer around isn’t much of an option while on the road, neither is toting manuscripts – it always amazes me how much even a little paper weighs!)

    Hope you find your way back to writing sometime, even if it is after retiring from academia. Not a bad retirement option, IMHO.

  2. Thanks, Grant. I think it will come again, once my son allows ‘me time’. I’m not really anxious about it – I feel that all things have a time and a place, and right now, I’m raising a kid, gardening, doing lots of chutneys. Writing long-form will always be waiting for me one day. For now, I’d settle for more frequent blogging (where frequent = > 1 post/month).

  3. 18 years? I doubt any printer made today will last that long… unfortunately.

    I’m looking forward to this third novel, Jenny. 🙂

  4. Grant Jacobs says:

    For some reason your reply reminds me of Fred Sanger retiring, heading off to sailing and gardening! Not saying anything about retiring or not coming back to something, but rather being comfortable with heading off to something else.

    I’m trying the slightly (totally?) mad idea of working on a couple of book ideas while on the road. I would do more blogging, but to be honest I would much prefer if short-piece writing returned me at least some income!

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