I LEARNED TO PLAY BASS on an old, semi-hollow body—devoid even of a maker’s name. With her short-scale neck (and the constellation of diamond-esque rhinestones I glued to her chunky black self), she was perfect for me. Sure, she fed back, but I just stuffed her full of newspaper and thrummed away.
Once I joined a band, I needed (I thought) a cool, grown-up bass—a Fender Precision bass, to be exact, like the one Aimee Mann played. So I bought a too-big, too-heavy bass that I never enjoyed. And gave the little black bass away.
Sometimes, an imperfect tool is actually just perfect.
The 2009 rockumentary IT MIGHT GET LOUD is a paean to the perfect tool: In it, Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack (Oh-My-God) White spend ninety-seven on-screen minutes playing dueling guitars and reminiscing about Axes of Christmas Past.
But more to this point: As the film opens, a black-and-white Holstein moos at Jack White as he hammers nails into a plank, secures a length of wire down the plank, shoves a juice glass under the wire, and attaches an electronic pick-up to the contraption.
Plugging in to a handy front-porch amp, Jack whacks at the newly-created thing. As the resulting fine, big, garage-worthy noise sends his bovine onlooker galloping, JW glances at the camera and gruffs out, “Who says you need a guitar?”
When writer/designer/bookstore co-owner/technophile/nano-shaman Writing Wench found herself stranded at work, tarot-less and needing answers, she, too, improvised. Imagining the objects scattered across her desk as symbols, signs, omens to be read, Wench invited a response. What called out was a tiny, broken-handled, toy-sized pair of pliers she’d found in the office parking lot.
Giving this awkward little tool her attention, WW heard: Use the tools that are given to you—even if they seem too small, even if they appear broken—because the tools that come naturally have been designed especially for you and your work.
Start by making a list of tools in your life that don’t quite fit the bill: Car window stuck in the down position? Monitor too small? Still using a not-very-Smart phone? Let your annoyance to rise as you create your list—then pick the most irritating not-quite-right tool in your life and give it a voice. Allow it to tell you why it’s exactly what you (or your character) need at this moment.