Last year I was wrapped up in the idea of buying myself a Microsoft Surface Pro 4. I was really obsessed with it: I think I spent about two months researching and looking for deals, and I actually almost bought one twice – one turned out to be an eBay small ads scam, while payment for the other never went through.
All this was based on the promise that if I were to get my own portable touch screen computer with a flat keyboard, I could finally be as creative as I want to be. I’m one of those annoying people who likes to think of themselves as generally creative, but too busy to actually create anything. I wanted to make more music, and also write more, and maybe even dabble in a little art.
So – and I think you know where this is going – that was the promise.
Here we are about six months later, and that music hasn’t happened at all. It turns out (and this is where those two months of research really let me down!) there is no decent freeware music production software on Windows. I had assumed that something like Garageband would be available, but after a few very frustrating days trying to record from my keyboard via USB, I rather reluctantly loaded up the MacBook and Garageband. Surface 0, Mac 1.
On the writing front, well there I’ve actually been a tiny bit more successful with the Surface. I’ve written/polished a few more blog posts this year than I have in the past few years, so while I’m not exactly going to break any land speed typing records, I’m doing better and that’s a good thing. 1-1.
On the art front, I’ve also been a doodler who can only draw one thing, so I suppose the Surface wasn’t ever going to radically improve that. But I did draw the below sketch while on a plane, and as I never made anything artistic on the Mac, I suppose this one goes in the Surface’s favour.
But what of promises? That’s really what I wanted to write about today.
I think I’m smart enough to know that when I promise myself that a new product or activity will change my life, I’m willingly misleading myself because I love the idea that I’m only one purchase away from who I’d love to be. Of course, I knew that the Surface would basically just be a web browsing tool. I even reasoned with myself that if I really wanted to write more or draw more or be more musical, I already had plenty of tools to do that, and didn’t have to buy a new thing that would somehow make these pursuits possible. But that didn’t scratch that itch a new prospective purchase brings.
I remember a phrase from my brother’s old work wall: “The best place to succeed is where you are with what you have.” It’s something I should keep in mind. Products are not magical keys to unlocking who you are and what you want to do – and I’m not just talking about big purchases here: hands up if you also own far too many new notebooks that are 95% blank – but at their best they can give you new options and dimensions that might just edge you a little closer to that goal.
This happens with nostalgic items too. I’ve been looking at Neo Geo Pocket Colour consoles recently, for some reason thinking of buying my third machine (one at launch, and one back in February 2012 when they were much cheaper). But this is a promise that it’ll bring back some of that happiness I used to feel when I played those games almost 20 years ago. It won’t, though. I feel a bit sad about that.
So the end result? I promise myself that next time, I won’t buy into buying so easily.