I’m not sure if it’s "a lot," the number of times in the last few years I’ve changed writing tools. Of course, you do MS Word in high school and early college because you don’t know any better and it works really well for a certain kind of thing, but then you read the thing about Hemingway writing only 500 words a day on a typewriter, so you find a $20 typewriter at a flea market and try to work on that, but the world is digital, so you try to find an app that is like a typewriter, so you settle on a "minimalist writing app," which in my case was iA Writer (and later Pretext on the iPad) and learn Markdown, which is good not great, but then you have to start doing something like web development again, whether for work or a personal site (or a resume site with which to try and get work), and all of a sudden you’re back in a code editor, but this time it’s not a c. 2004 pirated copy of Dreamweaver but a "lightweight IDE," in my case Brackets, but all the devs you work with either use Eclipse or Atom, so you try one and the other and settle on Atom, which you proceed to use alongside your minimalist writing apps, because you’re still storing your backups on iCloud or in Google Drive, but then you try to write a project-in-pieces, not even a novel, and so you take up Scrivener on the strong recommendation of a friend and maybe how many laptops you’d seen it running on that year at AWP, and this works very well for your "100 sections of 100 words" story and the first draft and a half of your MFA thesis, but then the sync breaks one day at a CafĂ© Nero in Arlington and you lose a couple of paragraphs that you were sure were really good, so you say "fuck it" and go all-in on the IDE thing because now you can use Git, because you’re about to take a job working on asciidoc and HTML files and asciidoc sure is a lot better — or at least more consistent — than markdown, so you’re now writing asciidoc in an IDE and keeping all your work on a private GitHub repository and writing wrappers around things like pandoc and asciidoctor to make the Word docs and PDFs you output look closer to something you might actually send to a literary journal, but these tools don’t work out well enough laying out your literary journal side project and you’ve been writing a lot of Python anyway at work so you write a wrapper for WeasyPrint and a bunch of CSS and boy, now you’re really cooking, but it’s a pandemic and your old laptop is now shared with your partner and its battery’s dying anyway so you buy a pre-rush Raspberry Pi 4, thinking it could be a desktop, but your current favorite lightweight IDE doesn’t have an ARM-processor build, so now you’re looking for something else, and you see that VS Code is fucking everywhere, so you get onto that, write an extension to make your life easier at work, but though it works very well there’s still something kind of unsatisfying about it, and you get free books anyway from your job at a publisher of books, and since you read an article recently touting that vim was still relevant, still faster, you request the new edition of the book on vim and you start reading it, and all of a sudden you’re now running tmux and writing in neovim and learning just enough Lua to do a few things you want to do, and you’re not yet really faster than you were but you do like that you don’t have to take your fingers off the keyboard to go and use the mouse, you like that it’s kind of arcane, and so you’re using that now, spending some of your free time reading about plugins and thinking up projects that might be good excuses to actually learn a bit more of Lua for.

I mean, you know how it goes, right?

But I was thinking about it a little more this morning, doing some reading trying to understand why people are using terminal emulators other than the built-in Terminal [application], and I realized, I think, that I kind of just like tools. They’re a welcome distraction from the work at hand, learning a new tool. And it’s like bike tools: it’s good to have familiarity with a lot of them so you can do a lot of things. Like how I can more or less disassemble a bicycle with a multitool, but it’s a lot nicer to use the full-sized things because they’re faster and you’re less likely to strip a bolt. And though I’m using neovim now and I really like it I still do jump back over to VS Code when I’m too lazy to figure out some advanced text manipulation thing in the moment, and I use MS Word and Google Docs when looking at my friends' work, and so on and so on. I come from a family in which tools are sometimes ends in themselves, and while I think maybe a better — or that’s not the right word, but a something — attitude is more along the lines of thinking about tools as merely objects with which to get a job done, the tools themselves are fun and shiny and nice to play with, and they do give you new ways of approaching problems and I think that’s a good thing, e.g., when I want to keep the model of a sentence around to come back to later:

1  I can write
2  the sentence
3  out like this.

I can use my fancy markup languages to keep that in the file but have it render as a normal-ass sentence when I jam it through the processing toolchain and that helps me, hopefully, write better sentences, and is that not the goal?

Maybe I’ll write more about my current setup later, you know, share dotfiles and that sort of thing, but probably I won’t. I guess I just think that the tooling thing is interesting, especially now that we’re well beyond the time-honored question asked at author readings, "Do you write with a pencil or a pen?"