Why Blame the Instrument?

I have been thinking a lot lately about the old adage:

It is a poor musician who blames his instrument

I find that our generation is plagued by this notion, and I certainly am not free of this burden.

It seems that all too regularly, something new and shiny comes along, and I have this strange urge to go out and buy it. I’m not sure whether it’s because of advertising, as I do not have cable TV, or if it is something deeper that is engraved into our psyches as we are growing up.

I have been thinking about this subject ever since I started writing for fun. I don’t have the delusion that I could be a great writer of our time, I just feel that the stories I have in my mind have a right to exist in the outside world for other people to enjoy.

That being said, I easily fall into the “poor musician” category. I don’t know what it is, but the thought of having that bigger, faster and better thing just seems right.

My stories started with dreams or hallucinatory visions which were scrawled quickly on a sheet of notebook paper. After living in that primordial phase for a long period of time, most of them were put into finer words through the use of a computer-based word processor.

I’ve found that I enjoy the act of writing with a pen and paper, but it sometimes limits the speed and ease of editing. Computers seem to be the right medium for what I put down in a physical form, but there are quite a few caveats to using a computer for such work:

  1. Distractions – It is so very easy to get distracted by any little thing when using the internet to cross-reference material for use in a story.
  2. Portability – I do have a laptop, but it’s rather slow, so it’s hard to justify taking it around when there is a delay in typing on it. I can take around the stories on a flash drive, but this gives us another problem.
  3. Tool Ubiquity – I use three different platforms on a regular basis: Ubuntu, Windows XP and Mac OS X. Often, when taking text from a tool on one platform, to a completely different one on another can come with some issues of its own. The difference between versions of Microsoft Office and Open Office can become an issue that isn’t needed. Most of the time, I use a simple word processor (Notepad++, BBEdit, gEdit), which eliminates the headache of compatibility at the price of style.
  4. Distractions Again – I can’t emphasize enough the concept of distractions while using a PC (all inclusive) to edit, collect and write stories. There is always a TV show to be watched, some CSS to be edited or some RSS feeds to be read. Why work when you can play?

So, what do I do in a situation like this? Blame the tool, of course. I have recently been on the lookout for a typewriter, which would pull me out of the realm of the internet and all of its distractions. With a typewriter, I wouldn’t be hampered by the speed and legibility of my handwriting at the cost of easy editing and cross referencing.

My father just recently dug out a closet at my childhood home and discovered an electric typewriter. Beyond the idea that I will need to hunt down ribbons for this thing, I am completely elated. I can take myself away from my desk, where all of the distractions live, and put myself wherever I want to get the thoughts from my head onto paper.

Now, this sounds a little extreme, but I really, REALLY get easily distracted when I’m sitting in front of a computer, and I have to go to this extreme if I want my stories to be read eventually.

This brings up another issue in my mind: digitization. How can I easily get the words that are typed on paper into a word processor for further editing/publication? I haven’t had the time to look into current OCR technologies, but perhaps with a decent typewriter, it won’t be too hard to convert the text.

I guess I am just as susceptible to this old adage as anyone else who lives in this modern society, but the first step in recovery is realizing that you have a problem.