A bad workman…

Today’s proverb is, “A bad workman blames his tools.”

I don’t fully agree with this. There is merit to it as some people just look for excuses to avoid doing something. There are valid reasons to having the right tool though.

Take process mapping, for example. Yes, one can process map by hand or use paper-based methods involving sticky notes (I’ve seen it), but at some point it becomes rather cumbersome to maintain and a realization that the paper could become damaged and a lot of work could be lost, occurs. Sticky notes fall off. Plus, it’s hard to share a very large paper copy with others without them having to come to a specific site to see it. Putting it into a computer-based tool like Visio becomes a necessity. Not all versions of Visio are created equal. Some versions one may spend inordinate amounts of time trying to get something to work, where a newer version lets you document the process in seconds because they constantly improve the tool.

Yes, you can write a novel on paper, in notepad, in Word, or in something like Scrivener. There are benefits to each method. I often start my first scribblings in paper as I have with a recent piece that may or may not become a romance novel. With paper, I often feel like I don’t want too much of it on paper as I’m scared it will be spilled upon or have some other catastrophe occur and I will have to rewrite. Rewriting isn’t terrible as I usually write it better the second time, but there is the odd time I’ve felt that I lost an amazing piece of work (perhaps only amazing in my own mind haha). Notepad is as simple as it gets with a few font options and word wrap being it’s features. I often used to do random notes in Notepad as little pieces of my series that I wasn’t sure where to use. I used Notepad in conjunction with Word because those little notes in Notepad took up less space than they would as Word documents. I was writing in Word for a long time using the outline view option to allow me to navigate through my story without having to scroll through pieces of it. Now I’m finishing it in Scrivener because it’s amazing. I get the benefits of Word’s outline view, combined with the benefits of separate little notes, and a whole host of new features like the ability to take a snapshot of a webpage for citing and referencing. This means that I don’t have to be online to work with my novel if I’ve grabbed the research material beforehand. This also means that I don’t have to take up so much room on my hard drive with pictures of things. I can split the view so I can be writing while having the webpage open in the application. That all being said, I could have finished writing it in Word likely, but it was getting cumbersome to work with and Word is rather prone to crashing.

My point is that there always comes a time where it is necessary to upgrade if getting the job done efficiently is a concern.

The only reasons to stick with old tools are artistic ones or short-term monetary ones. The Woodwright’s Shop on PBS is an example of an artistic or artisan use of old tools. It’s neat watching the way things were made years ago and it’s probably rather enjoyable to be able to take such time and care with each piece he produces. Were he in high demand, he likely wouldn’t be able to keep up using his current toolset. He would need power tools. Still, there is this enchanting element to putting so much care into each piece. He’s not in a rush. He’s truly enjoying his work. How many can say that today? How many times are workers today rushed to complete something and unhappy with their own finished product? Software gets released with bugs and products with extra holes or missing pieces. The world of today is a hurried one. I refuse to take that approach with my novel. Sure, I’ve been at it for a few years, but I’m doing it to my own level of quality. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the first Harry Potter book took 5 years to write, in part because she was planning parts of the rest of the series. Life was likely crazy raising children alone and working whenever she could. I’ve had my own challenges along the way and I’m not worried about it because the time it takes to write it doesn’t diminish the words on the page.

Anyway, I may be getting off topic. I think everyone has tools they prefer for certain jobs. I find it uncomfortable to rollerskate if I don’t have the right socks. Some derby girls can’t imagine playing the sport while wearing underwear. Labeling someone as a bad worker simply because they have a preference for one tool over the other doesn’t make sense to me. They may be exemplary in actuality and know something you don’t about the different tools. Drummers often prefer specific makes of drumsticks and drums. Yes, they can jam with different ones if they had to, but why would you make them? Artists may be at the extreme level of pickiness with their water preferences, brands of paint, guitars, etc, but that doesn’t make them bad at what they do. I don’t believe this proverb is anything more than a blanket statement issued after observing only a small sample. Yes, I can manage to perform my martial art with a longer bokuto than I am used to, but the quality isn’t the same until I’ve had time to get used to the change. I also don’t believe that only rockstars, famous authors, Gotham all stars, or CEOs should be allowed to be choosy with what tools work best for them.

Yes, it may be true that a bad worker will blame their tools, but they’ll also blame everyone else around them and anything they can remotely associate with their poor performance. They’re easy to root out and the rest of us shouldn’t be lumped with them.

I guess this proverb got to me. Sorry if I ranted too much 😉



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