Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The perfect tools

Tonight, Josh and I noticed our tax refund had cleared. We've needed a printer for a while, so we were off to the office supply store to pick one up. We'd done our research ahead of time, went straight to the laser printers, looked at what models they had, and picked one out within the first two minutes.

We didn't leave for another forty minutes. We had to pick up paper, and then he wanted to look at something, and, while he looked for a new mouse, well, I might as well look at pens, right?

We don't need pens. We have a ton of pens we don't use. A pen in our house is more likely to dry up from disuse than it is to be used up. And yet, every time I'm in an office supply store, I'm staring hungrily at the writing utensils aisle, wondering if one of the implements before me will be the instrument from which my genius will pour.

I have a similar problem with journals, but I've managed to keep myself from buying more. I have five that haven't been used, and four with just the first few pages filled in. The trouble there is a lot easier to put my finger on: when I'm blogging regularly and writing up my thoughts in my livejournal or on Twitter or randomly texting my friends, there isn't much left that I'd want marring the pristine pages of my pretty journals. If I outlined or plotted anything out in advance, I'd at least have that to put down on paper.

I sometimes wonder if I don't have a hoarding problem that I turned into writing ambition for lack of anything better to do with all the books, office supplies, and weird observations I collect in my brain. It comforts me to know my writer friends, and some social media-savvy authors, also admit to a strange fascination with office supplies. Josh collects notebooks like a squirrel burying acorns, and pointing out the stack of looseleaf in our office supply box rarely deters him from buying more. At our write-ins, the writing group frequently talks about our latest acquisitions in tools, and we trade merits or make recommendations.

I won't get into the time my office put me in charge of buying the supplies. Suffice it to say that we never ran out of anything with me in charge.

The thing is, the tools don't matter. Some great works have been penned with a leaky quill on cheap parchment, and others were scribbled on the back of bar napkins. The writers I know are too resourceful to let a lack of just the right pen stop them from getting the story down. I don't even have a burning need for pens, because I do most of my writing on my laptop. Its 8-hour battery life is all the tool I need.

So, why the obsession? I don't know, but I chalk mine up to superstition. So long as I'm searching for the perfect conduit for my ideas, I'm still striving to improve, never settling for what I have.

I don't think I'll ever be the perfect writer. I think I'll always have room to improve. And so, the hunt shall go on.


  1. I'll go with that answer--at the end of this post.
    Because seriously 9/10 times I can't leave a stationary story without a new pen or a notebook. It's a sickness! But I love it.

    There are worse vices, imho.

    1. There are, indeed. It doesn't help one bit that pens are cheap. You can buy a box of a dozen for less than five bucks.