I bought a Leatherman tool a few months back, thinking that having one multi tool in my bag or fishing tackle box would solve all the problems of finding that perfect screwdriver or pry or opener that always seems to hide itself from you when you need it the most. I have already used it to cut down cardboard boxes for recycling, to put together a pair of Adirondack chairs for the porch upstairs and to fetch an embedded hook from the throat of a largemouth bass. It is built well, it’s rugged and it’s complete. What more could you need, right?

I have also used other multi tools, including a laptop and desktop computer, an iPad, a multi pen, and others that claim to make life easier by having everything you could possibly need in hand at any time. They deliver on their promises,but are they as satisfying to use as single tools made for a single job?

Back when I was in medical school and residency, pens and paper were the lifeblood of medical charts and orders and notes. Cross pens (remember those?) were easily recognized in pockets and hands. They were given as gifts, singly or in little blue felted lined boxes with equally silvery shiny mechanical pencils. Mont Blancs were a step up, and of course I had a maroon one that I loved. Perfectly weighted, felt good in the hand, wrote smoothly. What more could you ask for, right?

Reading used to be accomplished by holding things called books, (You remember those too, right?), a single target use device that was made to entertain, impart knowledge or provide in hand research after rifling throughout wonderfully musty card catalogues at your local library. More recently, we have iPads, Kindles and a host of other electronic reading devices that may or may not do fifteen other things that distract you from that primary goal of reading. (Check Twitter! Check email! Order from!) Better, or not?

I often had a good natured argument with several friends and coworkers about the actual existence of multitasking and whether or not it could actually be accomplished in any meaningful and productive way. Our brains are made to focus on one thing at a time, and we do not do multiple tasks well all at one time. Is it better to be a jack of all trades and a master of none, or…

So, now that I have had access to laptops, iPads, multi use audio devices, multipens, and multi tools, I have come to the realization that I love the thought, feel and process of using one tool at a time for one job at a time most of the time.

Give me my book, my superbly weighted pocketknife, a throwaway Uniball Signo DX pen, and a good notebook anytime. I will be satisfied, productive, and happy.




I love to write.

I have written in journals, in diaries, in Field Notes paper notebooks, in Moleskines, in sumptuous orange French Rhodia notebooks and on sketchpads. I have written two line diary entries and I have written three novels. I have written formal reports, essays and clinic notes. I am writing this blog post. I have done mind-mapping for a project on the large whiteboard in my home office, and I have written lecture outlines on old fashioned blackboards. 

The way I write changes constantly, though the content and themes of my writing, when you get right down to it, don’t vary that much. The fact that I look for the best text editor for me or the paper notebook that fits the hand just so or lies completely flat on the table or the pen that has just the right heft and balance are all parts of the writing process for me that are in constant flux. I may love the flow of a gel ink pen for a few months and then go back to the rough scratchiness of a needle-pointed Hi Tec C that, if not careful, cuts actual grooves in the paper under it. One month, a white-capped Mont Blanc may do it for me, and the next month a green Uniball Signo fits the bill. One year, I may take all my patient notes in a Rhodia web notebook, but come January first the Year of the Clipboard is ushered back in. A Mirado Black Warrior soft lead may find its way out of the cup on my desk and into my hand during those times that I want the maximum connecton between my brain and my hand and the paper under it. 

Why all this muss and fussiness? Why the constant change of paper and pen and pencil and room and board? Why not just pick out a box of clear plastic Bic pens at Staples, grab a yellow legal pad (I have been known to do just that on the front porch at the beach, many years ago) and be done with it?

For me, it’s about the process. It’s about the feel and the flow of the thoughts and the ideas that sometimes come so rapidly that I can’t keep up with them. It’s about having the least amount of friction between brain and publish. It’s about the pursuit of perfection on the page while at the same time arguing with oneself about whether that concept is even valid. 

It’s the fact that even though I try different media and inks and papers and keyboards and fonts and styles, the ideas almost write themselves. 

I show up every morning at the same time, in the same place. I set my coffee cup down after that first satisfying, life-giving, brain-jolting swig. I wait. My muse is always there. Sometimes she is loud and boisterous and excited and won’t stop talking until my fingers start flying, and not even then. Sometimes, she whispers so sweetly to me, so softly and earnestly and so physically close to my ear that I can feel the kiss of her warm breath on my skin. She rarely takes no for an answer. Oh, I’ve tried to ignore her. She is having none of that. She does not care if the hand is on the keyboard or the Mirado or the silver Tornado. 

She will allow me my fun, my change-up. 

Then, she will demand that I get down to business.

What will we do together? What ideas will float to the top?

Out of mental health, and sometimes out of madness, comes creativity. 

What will you create today?