My whole life I’ve been told that a great musician can make great music with any instrument: that musical genius is not contained in a guitar or an amplifier or a microphone but in the mind of a musician. I think this is a beautiful ethic that I’ve carried with me my whole life and applied to everything I do. It’s easy as a musician, a photographer, or even a writer, to get caught up in and even define yourself by the tools you use. Guitarists collect, compare, and covet expensive guitars, photographers cameras, it doesn’t matter what you do. The world is trying to convince you that your value is determined by your possessions.
But it’s not. Play the blues without soul on a five-thousand dollar guitar and I’ll tune it out but if you play sweet soulful licks on a crappy old guitar you’ll have my attention all night long. A piece of sublime poetry is no less sublime if it’s written in red crayon on the back of an old receipt.
Sometimes a tool can inspire.This is my favourite camera. I’ve had newer and better cameras, cameras with more capabilities and features, but this one is my favourite. It was my mom’s camera from when she worked on her high school newspaper, right through my childhood. Now I use it and take care of it. But why on earth would I choose this one if I have better cameras that take better pictures? Simple: this one makes me excited to go out shooting. I have the most fun with it. I can’t even tell you quite why it is but It’s a strong impulse. What I see through the viewfinder of this camera seems closest to what I see in my imagination.
For me it’s the same with guitars. Some guitars just make you want to play. If the guitar that inspires you is out of your price range that’s too bad for you but if it’s dirt cheap then that guitar will make sweeter music than anything else out there.
It doesn’t matter what it is. For me it’s an old camera, a beautiful guitar, a moleskin notebook. For you it might be your favourite running shoes, the baseball glove that fits just right, an old hammer with a beautiful old wooden handle. Love your things. Care for them and use them until you’ve squeezed all the use out of them. Just do it because they inspire you and not because you want your stuff to bestow some kind of genius or status upon you. The genius comes from within; the tools just help you get it out.
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