Monday, May 14, 2007

The Allure of Tools

Why is it that writers who seem most obsessed with the tools of the writing trade — word processors, flowcharts, computer technology, special pens, etc. — never seem to write anything?

I've met quite a few "writers" like that. One guy, who was part of a writer's group that I attend until he finally admitted that he never actually wrote anything, seemed particularly fascinated by computer programs that supposedly help novelists do their thing.

How on earth can a piece of software help a novelist do his thing? I'll never know. The best help that I ever got was from a clean, sharp rule on a white piece of paper. It was just begging me to put something on it, and I was helpless to resist.

That's why my current best friend is my moleskine, which is a small notebook of thinly ruled, off-white paper. My second-best friend is a gel pen, because it doesn't make my fingers tired. And my third best friend is a little 12-inch notebook computer that I got for about $75, although it would have cost only $50 if I hadn't asked for a special battery and a case. It also came with a bunch of Atari stickers on top, but my friend didn't charge me for those. I love it because it has a very clear screen, it weighs almost nothing, and I doubt that anyone will steal it.

But these three gadgets combined comprise only about 3% of my tool set. The other 97% involve my senses of seeing, tasting, touching, hearing, and smelling (say, 25%), and my gray matter (say, 70%). The remaining 2% remains unaccounted for at this time.