Craig is one of those drop-everything-and-read-his-new-piece kind of essayists.
He’s talking about tools this time, and describing a way of looking at the relationship between creatives and the tools they use:
I’ve come to think of tools as granters of permission. Things from which an artist can divine permission — the permission flowing either from the formal attributes of the tool to artist, or from the artist’s perception of the tool back into themselves. Either direction gets you to the same place. Many of us, to varying degrees, fetishize certain objects as having magical powers that enable, most often, creative processes.
It’s no surprise that he uses cameras as an example, and this ties back to what I’ve been struggling to internalize myself. Gear isn’t irrelevant in the discussion of creative work, but its importance is often misattributed to technical excellence. That’s not right though. The gear is important insofar as it inspires us to create with it. That’s all. That’s why tools with limitations can be superior to infinitely capable ones.
It’s why companies like Leica can continue to exist. They aren’t selling technical excellence, they’re selling tools to inspire artistry (and doing so for a whole lot of money).
This is not to say that the right notebook or camera or sewing machine produces brilliance — of course not. But the right tool in the right hand might be the very thing that whispers to that artist. “Hey, what about this?” A dollop of permission.