Recently I’ve caught myself making the same mistake I seem to make from time-to-time (and no, that’s not leaving the house without pants on…).
The mistake I’m referring to is an overemphasis on the tools I’m using, rather than the content I’m creating with them.
Before I know it, I’ve spent so much time mucking around with tools, that I’ve forgotten why I was looking at them in the first place!
A constant distraction
This is probably something many people can relate to. The web, and things like the various smartphone “App Stores” that have sprung up recently, make this so much more likely to happen now.
Let’s say you’re a writer. Well, a few decades ago perhaps your only tool choice was deciding which brand of typewriter to use, or whether to just hand write.
But now, you’ve got a huge range of word processors and text editors to choose from. Some are paid, others are open source and free. Some exist on your computer, others exist online and require a constant internet connection to use.
And then you’ve got all the various tools and applications that might help you with other phases of your writing – mind mapping, outlining, and researching.
If you’re writing a blog, like me, then your other tool dilemma is selecting a blogging platform.
Do you use WordPress, TypePad, Tumblr, Blogger, etc? Do you host them on your own website, or do you host it on theirs? What about all the plug-ins you’ll need to use on your blog? You know, the ones that help speed up your blog, secure it, control spam, help search engines find you, and give you visitor statistics.
Oh, and then let’s not forget to choose applications that are available on your smartphone too!
And the cycle continues…
Before you know it, you’re an expert on tools, but a failure in terms of creating anything with them.
What kind of tool are you?
Ask any successful writer, screenwriter, blogger, photographer, filmmaker, musician, or other type of artist, and chances are that they have often faced the following question:
“So, what type of _______ do you use?”
Substitute the blank above with “software”, “camera”, “paintbrush”, or – for all you musicians reading – “mind-altering substance” …
But seriously, this type of question, when you think about it, is absolutely irrelevant.
What difference does the tool make?
If you’re useless at creating something (or you’re not creating because you’re constantly worrying about tools), then any tool you select won’t make a difference.
The sooner you can eliminate the obsession with tools, the quicker you can beat procrastination and start actually creating something.
Having said all of the above, I agree that it can be important to do some initial tool research, but ONLY if you’ve identified a genuine problem that needs to be solved.
For example, if your text editor or word processor is already fine for your needs, then don’t go researching another one.
However, if it starts becoming important to edit your documents on the go with your smartphone or tablet (without wasting time manually shuffling files between devices), then obviously you need to find a tool that will do this for you automatically.
But once that problem is solved, get back to creating and stop worrying about the next popular tool that comes along. Otherwise it’s a never-ending journey, and your creative work will never see the light of day.
And that would be a shame.