Tools (and talent)

I love a good tools talk. You listen to the great ones talk about the tools and techniques they use to get through the day, and by the end of it you’re inspired to go out and buy some software or some special Sakura pens and a Moleskine notebook or something like that. At its most delusional, this kind of thinking will convince you that you can play like Michael if you can just get a pair of those shoes. At the shallow end of the pool your thinking runs more like this: if I own that guitar, at least it won’t be the tool that stops me from being another Clapton.

I have a strong memory from years ago of cleaning up after a raucous party. A really talented pianist had played my piano, and the sounds it made for him astonished me. Long after the guests had left, I remember staring at that piano and thinking, that can’t be the same machine I play. It was surprised and hurt by my long accusing glare. It knew what I was thinking: why don’t you make those sounds for me?

I started down this line of thinking after reading a column David Pogue wrote on his productivity secrets. It was refreshing because he tells it like it is. Oh sure, you can buy iData and Dragon Naturally Speaking and maybe you too will soon have your own column in the New York Times. But near the end, Pogue drops the bomb.

I’m just the sort of person who kind of knows what he wants to say; I can’t remember ever staring at the blank screen, trying to think of what to write.

Oh, right… I can see how that would be useful.

Armed only with borrowed pen and paper, the impoverished James Joyce wrote Ulysses in a series of squalid noisy flats. Hmmm… what did he have that I don’t have? Maybe it was the shoes. To recap: to write your great novel, use a Mead Spiral Bound College Ruled Notebook, a Sanford Papermate #2 Pencil, and be ambitious, hard working, and fantastically talented.

‘Kay thanks bye.