Our fascination with tools

As part of 30DWC, I’ve been sharing everything I’ve learnt about writing and there’s one obvious topic I’ve avoided: the tools I use to write.

Seth Godin tells a good story about Stephen King that illustrates why.

Stephen King is one of most prolific authors of our time. He often attends writers’ conferences and delivers speeches.

During the Q&A, someone will invariably raise their hand and ask: “Mr. King, you are one of the most famous and beloved writers of our time. What kind of pencil do you use?”

It’s a funny question, because it implies that the pencil is responsible for his talent and success. It’s easy to point at the pencil and blame it for our own failings.

Chase Jarvis is an award-winning photographer and has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world. I was recently listening to a podcast where he was asked about why he became a photographer. He talked about his fascination with capturing a moment in time. About how he could use the camera to tell a story and create a narrative. It’s this focus on the craft and not on the tools that lead to his success.

And that’s why I’m not as good at taking photos as I could be. I spend 80% of my time learning about the features on my camera and researching new equipment to buy, and only 20% of my time actually taking photos. The camera doesn’t make you a better photographer. But taking photos every day does.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t invest in tools. You should. But constantly seeking out new tools is a form of procrastination. It’s a way of hiding.

You don’t need a new pencil, a new camera, or a new computer. You just need to do the work.