When Nick and I first got married, we received two knives. Two—a regular chopping-type knife and a pairing knife. That's it. They were decent knives, new and sharp, but still it was just two knives besides our butter knives.
I only had two knives for...almost five years. I made do, you know? We aren't rich by any means, and the knives were knives, even if they had gotten dull from lots of use and didn't really get the job done. But then one day I saw this beautiful knife set for a STEAL, and I was like, "You know, we've been married for five years and maybe it would be okay to splurge and get some real knives. Complete with a knife block! And scissors! And a sharpener!"
Guys, I love these knives.
They are sharp. They make my job so much easier. In fact, I hadn't noticed just how dangerous a dull knife was until I had good ones. Dull knives slip, plus they encourage you to press down harder than necessary—not a good combo for keeping your fingers. With my new knives, I get things done faster.
This goes for the amazing Calphalon cookware my parents bought me for Christmas, too. Oh man, those things cook so evenly and heat up quickly. I have a cruddy old stove with two broken burners, and sometimes it would be a battle just to get it hot enough to boil water. With the pots? Don't have to worry.
So yeah, TOOLS. They are important.
But they aren't everything, right? I mean, is someone a photographer just because they have a nice camera? Is someone an artist just because they have nice paint brushes? No, of course not. Good tools don't make an artist, but they facilitate the creation of art. The relationship between an artist and their tools, how they treat them, says a lot.
Since I've gotten into cooking, I've noticed one easy way to tell if someone isn't—their knives suck. No offense to my dear friends and family with dull knives, cooking isn't for everyone and that's fine. But I've found it an interesting sign. I'd never thought of it before. The tools of the trade go neglected or are only used if necessary. And then when they are used they aren't efficient at all.
Of course I'm going to compare this to writing. You all better have seen that coming. It seems to be true in every art form. As an artist, I treasure my Prismacolor pencils, I care for my tablet, I clean my brushes and make sure they don't get frayed. I get the best tools I can afford, because I know good tools will help me make better art. Just like good knives help me make better food. Etc. and so forth.
But what are our tools in writing? I guess you could say pens and pencils, notebooks, computer, printers, which do help. I'm thinking more of mental tools, though, things that we use to craft stories: grammar, punctuation, plot, character, setting, theme, etc.
When I first started writing seriously, oh, five years ago, I must admit I was a writer in spirit, but I essentially had a spoon and one pot when it came to writing tools. Could I make a meal with those tools? Sure. Was it a good meal? Eh. My novels lacked finesse because I didn't have what I needed—I had to learn and work and practice. A lot. I had to sharpen my tools and get new ones to help me do my job better.
I'm still learning. I'm still adding tools to my drawer. But there's one thing I do know: Take your tools seriously. Sure, you may not think you need it. You might think you can make do with those two knives. Trust me, you will be so much happier when you have a full set. Not only will you be able to write more easily, but it will also be better writing. Which we all want, right?