The Right Tool for the Right Job

My curriculum in engineering school included a linear circuits course. In the interest of full disclosure, I got a D in the course, not one of my finer moments. But I did learn a valuable lesson in the class. The professor described his lectures, and the principles we learned in the class, as a means of giving us a toolbox, and that our goal over time should be to master which tool to use in any given situation.

A photographer I know constantly amazes me because he has such a grasp of the myriad tricks and techniques available to him in any photography situation. He’s watching the variety of camera settings (focus, f-stop, iso, etc.), but also the strength and position of available light sources relative to the subject, different angles from which to photograph that subject, interesting foreground or background elements that might add to the composition, and where he needs to position himself to best capture it all. His mind is always going and always analyzing the many tools available to him.

This gentleman always reminds beginners that he wasn’t born with this knowledge. It came with years of practice and study. Many photos were rejected but he learned from his mistakes and added those lessons to the toolbox. (Much as I tried to learn from that D in linear circuits and went on to study business after engineering school!)

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A more diverse set of tools can be applied to more diverse situations

There are a lot of different techniques we can use to develop and enhance our creativity. The challenge sometimes is to figure out which of those tools is right at any given time. Brainstorming, journaling, or meditation are quieter, more thoughtful approaches. Physical exercise or group activities are more action-oriented. I sometimes like to reflect on a particular challenge for a while, then essentially try to forget it and see what my subconscious mind comes up with. Sometimes I wake up at 3AM with just the idea I was looking for.

In our light-speed world, it can be easy to expect instant results. Patience and a long view will pay off, so it’s all right to take time and experiment with different creativity techniques to understand which of them suit our own unique personalities and pursuits. Understanding of the toolbox, and how to apply all the tools within it, come with study and practice.

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