There’s an old adage that says, “It’s a poor craftsman who blames his tools.”
For the most part, this is true. On the other hand, a good craftsman doesn’t use lousy tools for their work, at least not for very long, because they know the difference.
So which matters to doing good work? Is it the artist’s talent or the tool which matters?
What I know matters is the tools which allow me to do a better job of the things I’m passionate about can make a difference in the outcome. I believe talent and tools both matter, but my experience is that only those with the talent to use them can really appreciate great tools.
A great tool won’t make a mediocre artist or craftsman do great work. In fact, a mediocre user probably can’t tell a substantial difference between great tools and mediocre ones. And a talented artist or craftsman can produce good work with mediocre tools when they have to. What is important to consider is that a person with the talent to really make use of great tools is changed when he or she has great tools in their hands. Something about those tools changes how they feel about themselves. And if that makes a difference in the outcome of the work then that matters. Because it reflects those feelings in the quality and enthusiasm in which they produce. It helps their confidence and that makes them stretch their goals to increase their ability. If a stone mason or wood carver have poor quality tools, they are spending time sharpening those tools rather than putting time into their work. They have to stop often and that takes away from both production and drive in the project. It can become tedious which saps enthusiasm. Can they still produce the same level of work? Absolutely. Because it’s their skill, talent, and the techniques they developed to make the end product. Not the tool. We’ve become enamored with slick marketing and have forgotten that we need to develop and practice skills that develop our creativity and not some tool that will presumably do it for us.
Aristotle propounded the principle of the golden mean which counsels against extremism in general.
In 1726 Montesquieu, in his Pensées wrote “Le mieux est le mortel ennemi du bien” (The better is the mortal enemy of the good).
In 1770 Voltaire paraphrased an Italian proverb in his Dictionnaire Philosophique when he wrote, “Dans ses écrits, un sage Italien. Dit que le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.”(In his writings, a wise Italian says that the best is the enemy of the good)
Today, we say “Perfect is the enemy of good”
Achieving absolute perfection may be impossible and so, as increasing effort results in diminishing returns, any further activity then becomes increasingly inefficient. We are embroiled in a Nirvana fallacy, creating a false dichotomy that presents one option which is obviously advantageous, while at the same time being completely implausible. A person using the nirvana fallacy can attack any opposing idea because it is imperfect. Even their own. Under this fallacy, the choice is not between real world solutions, it is, rather, a choice between one realistic achievable possibility and another unrealistic solution that could in some way be “better”. This leads us to get trapped in a sort of analysis paralysis and can sap our energy and creativity. We become bogged down looking for a better way that we may not know the techniques to achieve or does not exist and cannot move forward and our production stops as we become entangled in unrealistic expectations and goals. There is nothing wrong with becoming better at something. It’s what we want and strive for. There needs to be a self understanding and realization though that there is a path to get there. We must settle for lesser results than what we expected and learn from those efforts, be it a failure or a success even if it is not what we sat down to achieve in our mind’s eye when we started. We expect more than our abilities allow us to achieve. The solution is of course to keep it interesting and to keep trying.
In 2018 Stephen McCranie wrote in his comic Space Boy “A master has failed more often than the beginner has even tried.”
We achieve our goals through practice.
Art is a journey.
16Richard Lobinske, Jay Hoffman and 14 others8 CommentsLikeCommentShare
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