Scribbler’s Saga #54 – The Ultimate Creative Tool

Posted: January 8, 2018 in Uncategorized

© 2018 G.N. Jacobs

Perhaps you’ve noticed the trend towards the one tool that does everything. The Defense Department wants a jet that mixes up in and wins furballs, employs stealth, fires the missiles intended to avoid furballs in the first place, drops a few bombs and depending on delivery options lands normally on runways, catches the Three Wire on carriers or launches and lands vertically to work with a different sort of carrier. An actual Journalist of War (at best I’m a Novelist of War cheating off their notes) might have more to say.

A more successful class of multi-tool is, of course, the Swiss Army Knife followed by my personal preference, the Leatherman (see picture). It’s reassuring to have a screwdriver and other basic tools in my pocket for emergencies (that never come because the thing for which you prepare never happens). Still when you can plan ahead, use a real screwdriver for more rotational leverage (aka torque).

Pretty much, our tools must balance the job completion efficiency of the single tool with the convenience of having many ready at hand. For shits and giggles, let’s cast about for literary examples of the multi-tool. Things that I just discovered, now that I need to fill up my creative blog.

The One Ring/Power Ring. Both Sauron and Green Lantern wield rings that seem identical in function. They focus energy according to the whims of the Bearer.

I suppose Green Lantern making green space fist to bash Sinestro or Sauron doing whatever the Ring was supposed to do for him (the point was to play Keep Away) gets a pass on believability. These tools/rings work by focusing energy and/or matter, so worrying about whether you have a long enough stick on the screwdriver is pointless. Total control of energy and matter means you shape your tools perfectly.

Similarly, the Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver seems to work in the mode deemed narratively convenient by his/her writers. Screwdriver, lock pick, sonic weapon, hammer for walls, the list of functions has not exhausted. Personally, I’d like to see the Doctor use the Screwdriver as a scalpel to do brain surgery; he/she says in every regeneration that he/she chose Doctor for the healing metaphor (not counting that one time between the 8th and 9th Doctors when he went to war and dropped the name).

And at this point I don’t need to beat the metaphor further bringing up Squire Trelane’s mirror. But, I will bring up Derek Flint and his cigarette lighter – “Sir, my lighter has 94 functions, well 95 if you include lighting cigarettes.” Yeah, we got the James Bond joke there.

In the real world, the success of a multi-tool depends on the intended user for whom all design consideration flow. Swiss soldiers and Angus MacGyver need a small fold up tool intended to save lives and so functions are grouped together towards that goal. So, yes, sometimes the user would like a bigger stick on the screwdriver, but is okay with what he has, because the magnifying glass makes fire.

And now we finally dive in on the why of this post brought forth now, instead of some other slow news day when I need to write anything on the subject of creativity. I saw an interesting pen cross my Facebook feed. It has seven functions, few of which hold much interest for me as a creative person. Pen. Philips screwdriver. Flathead screwdriver. Spirit level. English ruler. Metric ruler. iPhone stylus. I knew instantly I didn’t need this Contractor’s Multi-pen and said so on Facebook. Though I will say that the design requirement for fitting screwdrivers into a pen barrel probably makes for a better screwdriver than in other multi-tools.

Regardless, my reply also laid out the design requirements for a Creative Multi-pen, that I thought weren’t addressed. I want a pen with ink cartridges that last (I do first drafts in pen). I want a red pen (can’t avoid The Red Pen of Editorial Doom). I want a mechanical pencil with robust workings and sensible lead replacement procedures in either .5mm or .7mm (I do music, but others need to draw). And, yes, the iPhone stylus is a good idea anywhere.

Now, we get creative with our product requirements. I do like having both kinds of rulers, but I suggested it should detach from the body of the pen so that someone trying to draw straight lines for comic book panels or vanishing points within the panel so that the artist doesn’t get stuck searching for a second pencil (multi-tools are supposed to be the One Thing). And then I also suggested that they should attach a flexible thingamabob to the end of the detachable ruler that would either inflate/stiffen to rigidly hold shape in a variety of curves, circles and ovals to replace a host of French curves and other templates.

The pen that gave me the idea for this post clearly doesn’t fit these criteria being for contractors. It is, however, a shiny object that might help for those two or three times a year when I need to feed the Myth of the American Man and his Workbench. But, get real; otherwise useless shiny objects must be resisted as a rule. Well, now the design requirements are out there; we’ll see if the right industrial designer sees this post.

Few product ideas are completely revolutionary (in the above I’m betting on the detachable ruler and curve thing). Others sell similar products with fewer features. Cross sells a Tech Pen (see picture) which does the pen, red pen, mechanical pencil and iPhone stylus. I bought one a while ago and it was okay, but I have regular pens, red pens and mechanical pens hanging on against the day of a truly great product. A worthy intermediate step.

It works by twisting the neck to reveal the various attachments in the barrel. The pen cartridges are tiny compared to Cross’ regular ballpoint pens and I thought the weakest feature was the mechanical pencil without a whole lot of mechanical to it. Changing lead takes enough extra time that I’ll stick with the plastic disposables for now. Interestingly enough, the Tech Pen’s ink cartridges exactly fit the Livescribe note capture pen (see post), so it wasn’t a total waste.

There you have it, I’ve defined my Ultimate Creative Tool with nary a Ring of Power nor Sonic Screwdriver in sight. I freely admit that in coming up with a multi-tool for creative people I might have pressed forth an incomplete list of features and will slap my head like a tomato juice commercial after I hear your worthy additions when you write your post. Our perfect tools can be as individual as the artistic mayhem we create, so get back to it.

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