Tools of the Trade

While “tools” often connotes hammer and saw, every career and calling has its own tools. And while being a writer may technically require less extensive tools than other callings – especially at the most basic – are you loyal to yours?

I remember when I first started writing, I loved the feel of paper beneath my hand and wrote everything longhand. I was particular about the kind of pen only so long as it had a smooth, even flow and didn’t interrupt the train of my thoughts. I swore up and down that using something like a word processor or computer put a “cramp” in my writing, restricted the flow of thought.

Now, however, I can hardly imagine going back to that pen and paper, especially when typing allows me to more easily keep up with the speed of my thoughts, to get the words down before they escape: I can type far faster than I could ever write by hand. And while I hear other writers use dictation tools, I swear that I certainly won’t: typing is good enough for me. Hmm, does that sound familiar?

What tools can’t you do without? Are you particular about the place you write? The computer? Or perhaps you’re old school with pen and paper? What is your relationship to these tools? Moreover, do these tools help or hinder your progress and writing?

I still have somewhat of a love-hate relationship with my computer, since I don’t particularly trust it and am partially convinced it’s planning to eat my latest manuscript (words scribbled into a notebook won’t suddenly vanish … unless the notebook does). However, I balance this out with backing up my work frequently, and recognizing that the speed of typing and getting down ideas on the computer balances out the occasional irritation and fear when the computer becomes less a tool and more a nemesis.

What about you? Are your tools a help or a hindrance? Or perhaps, is it less the tools themselves than your ritual and attachment to them? If you don’t have your favorite pen, does that mean you can’t write?

So far as I am concerned, a tool is only effective so long as it continues to aid progress and performs to assist in whatever task we set before it. If the tool itself (like an unreliable computer) or our potential obsessive adherence to it (like not being able to write without a favorite pen / spot / etc) becomes a hindrance to progress, can it any longer be considered a tool?

To me, a tool is something that helps me perform a task, or complete necessary work. I use a hammer to set a nail because a rock is less efficient, and my bare hand less so. But if the hammer keeps falling apart, it no longer serves the purpose and will slow down and frustrate me – such a hindrance should be discarded, should it not?

So, what are your tools? If one of them fails you tomorrow, will your work continue despite it, or fail because of it? Just a thought …

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.