Type Club

“Type Club”:

Albeit’s Most Common Secret Society

9/14/2008

Kenneth Burchfiel

 

 

 

In the summer of 1987, a group of five college students got together with a primitive computer and a beat-up keyboard. Behind closed doors, they gave themselves a name—”Type Club—” and a goal: to type more than they could ever have imagined possible.

Decades later, with hundreds of similar groups operating in Albeit and increasingly complex membership structures, their original goal has stayed intact.

Of all the secret societies operating in albeit, Type Club is both one of the simplest (at its roots) and the most abundant. Almost every group has between 5 and 26 members, most of whom knew each other from college workshops or other seminars. Skill levels are usually higher than in regular workshop settings, with many groups’ members published by large presses. Other groups comprise members who have just begun to write seriously.

It may seem that such clubs are nothing more than more intimate writing classes. What sets the concept of “Type Club” apart are the traditions and customs that go into every meeting, along with the emphasis on secrecy.

There is no visible leader of meetings. What members of Type Club use instead is “The Board,” an old keyboard that serves as a tangible centerpiece and identifier. When a meeting is created, its new members scrounge around and find the oldest keyboard among them. All of its letters keys are then popped out and put in a bag. One by one, the members pull out the letter keys to gain their “character.” This key serves as their identifier and proof of membership.

At the start of a meeting, each person pulls out his key and sticks it on the board. Once all the keys are in place, someone hooks the board up to a computer, types up the club’s name—a word composed entirely of the said letters—and prints out the page, along with the date. (These print-outs could be considered the minutes.)

    Following the “Opening Ceremonies,” as some Typers like to call it, all members sit down with their keyboards and begin to type. What about? There is no prompt, no advance instruction, not even a requested category. The purpose of coming together is not to learn from the same person, but to experience the feeling of “Mitschreiben,” or writing in the company of one another. Rarely does any form of conversation take place during this period; in more advanced groups, one must wonder if those typing are even breathing. Though nobody would attempt to make Type Club a religion, it could be said that this period of silent, mutual typing has spiritual elements to it.

    Depending on the group, this initial typing phase can go anywhere from thirty minutes to three hours. It almost always concludes with each person printing out three copies of what they produced. The group then comes together, still in silence, and take turns reading spontaneously. One person might start at their first paragraph, then give up the floor to someone speaking from the very end of their own tale. Though this part of Type Club varies in style between group to group, and even within a group’s meetings, a few things usually stay the same: readings cannot just be of a few sentences, but of two paragraphs or more; nobody should ever be afraid to speak; everyone in the Type Club is expected to share; and, perhaps the most divergent from a regular workshop course, no edits, suggestions, compliments or criticisms are to be given a piece during the sharing session; all of that comes after, when everyone switches stories with their neighbor and does edits at home. The meeting, thus, is silent—except for the aforementioned sharing.

    Type Clubs end for the day when each person goes up to the keyboard, drops a copy of their story in an adjacent bin (so that a packet of the day’s work can be compiled and stapled to the Board printout) and exchanges a copy of their story for editing. Once everyone picks up their keys and the main computer is shut down, the group disperses.

    It would be nice to find better concluding words than that, but Type Club offers few. Everything about the system is so to-the-point that it only seems right to give a brash chronology and stop there.

 

    But Albeitians did not stop there. The first college group eventually passed on their idea to professors, who suggested to students that they give the idea a try. Within a half-decade of word-to-ear advertising, Type Clubs had shot up on the Albeit You lawn faster than grass. Within a decade, college grads and perceptive adults had taken the idea beyond the college environment and into everyday living.

    Technology made its own impact on the basic meeting format. Instead of printouts, users read from their computer and e-mailed each other their stories. Some even proposed type club meetings over a video internet connection, though that was ruled down by most groups as not upholding the concept of Mitschreiben.

    One place where technology has made a large impact is in the realm of key counting. Type Clubs are about typing, after all, and many groups enjoy keeping track of how many characters they’ve pounded out over the years. In some of the better established clubs, it is customary to rate groups by their total accumulated keystrokes (TAK), with 1 billion TAK considered the mark of a respectable club and 3 billion a prestigious one. 10 billion TAK will put a club, no matter the quality of its writing, in the league of legends.

    It seems like the most barebones of writing workshops. All editing takes place privately. Most of the class is done in silence. There is no experienced teacher to instruct the class. Why, then, have so many people bought into the “Type Club” system?

    The answer may lie in that very simplicity. Here, writers need not put up with didactic instructors, piles of “more concise than thou” editing instructions and squeezed-in typing sessions. The entire time consists only of writing and sharing, the two core elements of the creative experience. And Type Clubbers, for that matter, write and share like no other seminar or peer group in Albeit.

    There’s always the element of secrecy, of course. Writers can be considered a mysterious bunch, and to have the chance to enroll in a confidential society makes the creative process all the more intriguing.

 

    Needles to say, the simple idea of a “Type Club” geared around silent writing and sharing has gone some distance in its last twenty years. The bearded group of college students that started the idea have logged hundreds of millions of keystrokes, as have thousands of their contemporaries. Not that the fame has affected their original goals. Every Thursday, they can be found in the basement of a Graupel warehouse with keyboards on their laps. Still typing.

 

    

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