0484 – use good tools (but don’t obssess endlessly about them)

Back for number 4 at 0633hrs. There’s something very calming about writing in this Byword screen, which is all minimalist and black, with a counter at the bottom. It’s interesting to think about how my writing medium has changed over the years. I started out doing the word vomits directly into wordpress, I think. And then I started using this app called Write or Die, which had a timer and a word counter. Eventually I switched to writing in Evernote for mobile, and I would write in wordcounter.com for the counter. Finally I bought an app (after over 400,000 words!) that’s pleasurable to write in.

I’m not sure if there’s a lesson here. The first thought I had is, “The lesson here is that I ought to treat myself to good tools whenever I’m working on anything”, but I know that’s not necessarily true. Your first guitar shouldn’t be amazing. It should be cheap and hardy, and you should play it to pieces until you develop a sense of what you like and dislike on guitars. And of course you should play around with other guitars too, when you can. But only after a year or so of playing with your first guitar will you really develop a sense, I think, of what you like in a guitar. And then you can / should get a better one.

This advice of course assumes that you’re broke. If you’re rich, just get a guitarist you trust to help you choose a good one. But even then… there’s a chance you’ll waste your money because she bought something that’s better for her than for you. If she’s smart, she’ll ask you questions about what your favorite songs are, what sort of music you like, and infer from that what’s closest to your favorite sound, but even that’s kinda rubbishy because you don’t know anything about your optimal string height, string thickness, and if you’re not playing a lot of music yet, you don’t actually know what your “true preferences” are. At least, in terms of direction. Nobody ever really absolutely knows what their true preferences are, and maybe true preferences aren’t even a real thing. But you develop an idea with time and experience, at least of where you want to be searching.

So… maybe buying a writing app early on would have guilt-tripped me into writing more. But I’m not so sure about that. Maybe I bought it at precisely the right time I was supposed to buy it. I’m not sure if I can generalize anything out of this. I guess if there are things that are affordable but I’m not buying because I don’t feel ready for them, I should just buy them anyway (and reduce spending on more frivolous things if possible). Air conditioning was a great idea, I wish I got it earlier. A foldable dinner table was a great idea, wish I got that earlier. Macbook was a great idea, same. Monitor was a good idea, took me a while to find a good placement for it. Jury’s still out, but I like having access to it. Razr keyboard was a bad idea– I should’ve tested it before buying it. I fell in love with the idea of it and had never tried it before. Turns out that it’s a little too clunky for my taste, and all the additional key mapping stuff just complicates things for me. I’m not a pro-gamer. The Mac keyboard turned out to be all I needed, which I should’ve gotten earlier.

I maybe should’ve gotten a guitar amp earlier, I waited quite a while for that. But I have one now and I’m happy. Maybe I’ll get a better one after a year or so of playing around. I might get a better guitar or simply get my current one set up better, there’s something not quite right about the knobs and the pickups. I have all these books that I want to read.

What do I mean when I say that I want to read? “I want to read” is not a very useful statement. I want to do a lot of things. Everything. Wants are infinite. What are my priorities? Writing these word vomits are a priority for me, which is why I’m writing them at 640am in the morning. Where does reading come in? What do I really want to read? My kindle is full of books that I thought I wanted to read but I don’t really feel like reading, and I should get rid of those.

I guess I explored this a little with the ideascapes vomit earlier– I want to read things that expand my mind, and lately it feels like the best way to expand my mind is to reconfigure my mental models. Also the “Poor Little Me” idea alone is quite revolutionary and I still haven’t properly internalized it. I should probably spend some time meditating on that fact. Also there’s a bunch of work I want to do that I keep saying I want to do that I haven’t done. I started a vomit saying “The Athlete Must Play Hurt”, I guess I’ll finish that one after I finish this one.

Where am I going with all of this, where was I going? It started with a thought about my writing tool (this Byword app), and went on to me thinking about all the other tools in my life. Tools aren’t just tools, they’re ways of thinking and ways of expressing ourselves, and so it’s important to have good tools. But good tools aren’t entirely an objective thing. A tool’s utility is a function of what you’re using it to do, and you need to know what you want to do, and you learn what you want to do by doing things badly.

So what do I want to do? I want to read, I have books and a kindle. Are there other reading technologies I should consider? Does my online reading matter enough that I should design the experience better? I guess I’ll add that to my todo list and get to it if I feel like it. Does my todo list system matter enough that I should design my experience better? YES, definitely. So I’ll add that too.

It’s interesting how, in a “state of cognition”, it’s clear that all of the tools are ultimately… manifestations? Of patterns of action and behavior. I realize this from time to time. At the heart of everything is the story we tell ourselves about ourselves, what we believe we’re worth, what we believe we want, deserve. And tinkering with a todo list can be a sort of distraction if you’re not sure what it’s all for. The kicker is you’ll NEVER be sure what it’s all for, and you got to sort of pick something and run with it, and refine things along the way.

I understand this when it comes to writing, and I think I understand it when it comes to music, so I just need to extrapolate this and understand it when it comes to life.

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