November 11, 2022

Accept that tools aren’t crutches


My fashion designer friend jokingly admits how suspicious of organization she is.

She believes these creativity tools are going to kill her artistic edge, and feels guilty every time she uses some kind of process or system to do her work faster and more efficiently.

Amy even told me at lunch one day, we think they’re crutches, but they’re just tools. Apparently we hate ourselves.

Wow, there are many layers of truth in that sentiment. Perhaps creative professionals with high authenticity needs are likely to believe that certain tools are a form of cheating. That they are a violation of some moral imperative they have about their work as artists.

In fact, this assumption resonates with me deeply, as someone who likes to think of himself as a musical purist. I’ve always thought my songwriting would feel inauthentic if it was composed with anything other than a guitar or a piano.

Using digital audio workstations like software sequencers is super fun and creative, but it’s just not how my songs come into being.

But then again, maybe it should be. Maybe my outdated assumptions about the technology and the type of people who use it is making my creative process harder than it needs to be.

Maybe there are labor intensity reduction techniques that, while they might feel like cheating initially, are actually freeing me to do my best work.

That’s the line each artist needs to draw for themselves:

At what point are you no longer making things, and just making gods out of your tools?

If you’re willing to accept that tools aren’t crutches but rather swords and bridges, there’s no telling how prolific you can be.

Hell, why not use every efficiency technique that you can find?
Why not set up systems that reduce your number of daily decisions?
Why not delegate everything that doesn’t need your personal touch?
Why not cut corners that nobody would notice anyway.
Why not establish standard operating procedures for every major creative activity?

Look, just because we build up our template inventory to streamline and expedite our strategic thinking process, doesn’t mean we’re selling out.

It’s smart and compassionate. Unlike my fashion designer friend said, it’s not because we hate ourselves, but because we love our art.

Considering how difficult it is as a modern creative professional to make a living from your wits, you may as well give your little economic engine every advantage in the current landscape.

Nobody is going to congratulate or reward you for making things hard on yourself.

What assumptions are you making about the threats to your creative edge?