Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tools of the Trade

So I borrowed a new guitar today, a Les Paul Studio.  The manufacturer--Gibson Guitars--would have you believe that a Les Paul is the single greatest guitar money can buy.  Marketing and PR fanfare aside--I think it is.  What I'm used to playing on is a Fender Squire; an entry-level guitar that looks like a Stratocaster.  It's about as inspiring as it is infuriating. 

The difference in quality, playability and my own ability to shred: the confidence the physical instrument bestowed upon me, the player, between the two is beyond my words to describe.  It got me thinking about tools of the trade and how hard it is to succeed at anything when you working with the worst possible materials.  I had gotten pretty good playing on the Squire.  I always knew it wasn't the best thing out there, but I also knew it wasn't the worst. I can make that guitar sound as good as it is able to sound.  That said, give me the Les Paul and I'm Jimmy Page.  Well, not really, but greatly improved nonetheless. Being an accomplished pianist, I was already aware of this fact, but it wasn't until I had to start over and learn guitar that I really gave it thought, the better instrument you have the easier to play. Earth-shattering I know...

This got me thinking about writing and curious as to what the 'tools of the trade' are in the culture of literacy.  Reading surely has to be one such tool, and the 'quality' of materials read I feel correlate to one's own writing.  But outside of reading, I was drawing a blank on other tools of the writing profession.  The quality of one's computer, pen and paper sure don't have anything to do with the finished product. I'm left with yet another musical comparison. It's the same reason I'm not as fluid a guitarist as I am a pianist, because I've been playing the former for about twenty years less time. In all things, it seems practice is key.

There are always exceptions: one-hit-wonder composers and breakout first time novelist. Artist that can never seem to repeat their initial success. While the layman may know said artist name and appreciate their work the more astute practitioners and erudite students of a particular art can tell the difference between those who have been remembered in their field for years and those whom fortune smiled upon for fifteen minutes.

Practice makes perfect and for that there is no fast-track.

If writers are carpenters, what's in their tool bag?

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