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The fallacy of the “right tools”

Imaging the future and making it happen

The fallacy of the “right tools”

Conventional wisdom says that you have to have the right tools for the job, because if you don’t, your work will not have the “right” quality.

I love learning about the creative process of various creative people – from scientists, to filmmakers, to writers, to music creators. In every single interview about their work or any workshops they might create, there is one question that never fails to be asked: What are your preferred tools of the trade?

All answer the question with the preface that the tool doesn’t really matter (especially, in today’s world where tools are so ubiquitous and change so fast). What really matters is the creative idea.

The problem about the “right tools” is the false belief about the tools, especially nowadays when the tools are so much smarter than they used to be.

Most people assume that having the right tool will compensate for not knowing the basics. I was listening to Annie Leibovitz, the famous photographer, talk about this issue.  She was saying that what really matters to her is the composition of the picture and that comes from understanding her subjects. Learning as much as she can about her subjects and creating a setting that brings out the essence of the person she is photographing. The rest doesn’t matter. She shared a story about photographing one of her subjects and while her assistants were setting up the lights, she noticed the beautiful natural light framing her subject in on the spot they were talking about the shoot. She snapped few pictures and that was it. End of shoot. Just whatever camera she was holding at the time – no lights, no fancy lenses. Just a great setting and ad-hoc inspiration. Taking advantage of the moment.

Aaron Sorkin said that he switched to Final Draft as a writing tool from his old word processor, because his assistants tricked him into it. You see, his assistants got tired of having to transcribe the screenplays in the format used by studios so,  they made up some excuse that got him to change. And he hasn’t changed to anything else since.

JK Rowling famously wrote her first novel on yellow pads because she couldn’t afford a typewriter or a computer. That didn’t prohibit her from turning Harry Potter into over $1billion enterprise.

Martin Scorsese had the same advice – the tools don’t matter. Use your iPhone. Great videos and movies can be created on the iPhone. The French filmmaker, Michel Gondry, created a beautiful short film shot only on iPhones.

At the end, what really matters is the creative idea. How unique it is, how much you take advantage of an opportunity like having the right natural light in the right place at the right time. How you can push the envelope by using non-traditional elements.

Tools definitely help but they don’t create things for you. Sure AI (artificial intelligence) now creates content and has even written fiction and non-fiction. But, do you want to completely give up your creativity to tools – no matter how intelligent they are?

Tools only enhance your work. But you ARE the creator of your work.

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