This post was originally published on Medium on Tuesday, September 3rd. Recommend it here.
About a month ago, the topic of having the “right tools” making you better at what you do came up again, as it does regularly (specifically lettering in this case, but the idea is universal to most anything).
A bit facetiously, I posted an Instagram video of me lettering something with a Crayola Washable Marker, writing the word “Practice” in an attempt to drive home the fact that there’s only one thing that truly matters when you’re trying to get better at something—sheer dedication and good ‘ol fashioned repetition.
I say this stuff a lot, but don’t get me wrong; Trying out new tools and mediums is a ton of fun, and there are some that, without a doubt, are more suited for certain situations and results. Some also make executing various lettering styles a lot quicker or more convenient. All that said, a great set of ropes still isn’t going to make me any less worthless as a mountain climber.
There will always be something new, something better, something seemingly perfect that someone else is masterfully utilizing to create or do things you’ve only dreamed of doing. But no matter what comes along, or how competent you become, be careful not to dismiss even the simplest of tools or methods.
On a current project, I took countless passes at a hand-lettered logotype with over a dozen different “good” pens and brushes. Repeatedly convinced that the Tombow Dual Brush pen should be the right tool for the look I was after, I came back to it so many times, that I actually “spent” a brand new one on just this project over the span of a couple weeks. Tombows, while really great while they last, do have one of the shortest lifespans around, but we’re usually talking a couple months, not weeks.
Feeling utterly defeated this morning, I decided to clean up my desk a bit to clear my head and take a break from these three words for a while (a task that I knew would give me a substantial amount of time away, considering the desk’s state at the time). In doing so, I unearthed the 12-pack of Crayola Washable Markers that had been buried under a stack of sketch failures since last month, apparently.
With an almost patronizing chuckle, I thought to myself, “Why the hell not, I can’t do shit with anything else.”
The breadth of the nib was perfect for how heavy I’d been trying to get the weight of these letters. It was firm enough that I didn’t have to focus as hard to manage my pressure, and was instead able to lay down smoother, more fluid strokes. In just three passes, I landed on what I’d been seeing in my head and trying to reproduce for the better part of the last month.
These tools that I’ve spent a great deal of my money and time researching, finding, and buying were not only unnecessary, but in this case, they were downright wrong for the job, and the exact opposite of helpful.
Don’t let an obsession with doing things the way you think you should be—or even worse, the way you’ve seen others doing it—keep you from trying new or even old methods to get where you want to go.
Before you start dismissing, think about what you might be missing.