on having a setup

My daughter's friend broke my favorite pocket pen. We were in a diner. The two of them wanted to draw together on the table settings. They needed an extra pen.

Yes, I shouldn't have done it. Even in the moment, I knew I shouldn't do it. Trust a kid with my pen? But I did it. I handed it over. And in about two seconds the girl had broken my whole portable writing setup. That was it. She didn't even apologize.

No, I didn't lose an amazing, breakthrough idea while I was at the table. But maybe I would have had one...if I'd had something to write it down. Without a pen, I'm just not tapped in.

According to this 1995 profile in The New Yorker, Stevie Wonder has always prioritized his creative setup. His is a bit more elaborate than a pen and pocket briefcase. To capture new song ideas the instant they occur to him, Wonder uses "a synthesizer that hooks up to a computerized sequencer capable of making and playing back detailed multitrack recordings." (At least, he did in 1995.) Wherever Stevie goes, so does this gear:

On tour, for instance, an assistant will rig up this hardware in Wonder’s hotel room (the job takes about ten minutes); then, at the appropriate time, the assistant will pack it up, transport it to Wonder’s dressing room, and set it up there; and at the end of the evening he will take it down again and put it back up in the hotel room.

Maybe you don't have that many ideas during the day, but if you don't have a trusted system for capturing every idea the moment it arrives, part of you knows not to bother. Wonder prioritizes his setup "so that inspiration, which cannot be relied upon to call during office hours alone, can be seized ... 'when the heavens send.'"

Set it up.

p.s. Jay Clouse had me on his podcast, Creator Science. We had a fun chat about who should write a book, when they should write it, and why. Take a listen.

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