I'm always interested in what tools highly successful people use to do their work. While the tool itself can't magically do the work (as Seth Godin reminds us), top performers have usually thought more about tool selection than the rest of us, and we can often learn something from them.

Exhibit A is George R.R. Martin, author of A Song of Ice and Fire (on which Game of Thrones is based) and one of the most successful living authors. George R.R. Martin does all of his writing in a program called WordStar.

Not familiar with WordStar? Neither was I. It turns out that WordStar is (was?) an MS-DOS-based word processor popular in the mid-1980s. WordStar has no point-and-click interface---no mouse, in other words---so you have to do everything with the keyboard. You can't mess with the margins or adjust the font, either.

But you can write. In fact, that's about all you can do.

I don't know why George R.R. Martin uses 30-year-old software (and hardware) to write some of the most popular books in the world. Inertia, perhaps. But I see Martin's use of such an ancient tool as yet another example of choice restriction as a creative strategy.

Elite producers know that doing the work is the point, and they're willing to look weird or use outdated tools if it benefits the work. A writer may spend a lot of time sipping espresso and staring at his late-model MacBook Pro with furrowed brow, but it's words produced per day that makes one a writer. A musician may have a garage full of nifty gear, but if she's not hitting the woodshed consistently, what good is all the gear?

The tool, and the artist, serve the work.