In 2006 a reader sent me a little spiral-bound black book that was filled with handwritten notecards. Graphs. Equations. Photos.
It was a carefully assembled list of all my mistakes and misdeeds during the previous decade. It called me out as a fake – someone who doesn’t understand woodworking or handwork or editing a magazine.
While I don’t agree with everything in the black book, I admire the guy’s attention to detail and his passion for the craft. So I have kept the book here in my office since the day it arrived and I refer back to it at times.
It’s humbling to read a handmade book that rips you apart. But the book has always pushed me to be a better writer and editor. Some days I wonder if the author is squatting in a hut in rural Nevada making notes for a new book for 2016. I hope so.
That’s because the book also reminds me of another thing: The readers of Popular Woodworking Magazine are a passionate bunch. The guy cared so much about the stories we published that he spent hours trying to do something to fix the magazine.
After spending my life in newspapers and magazines, I can tell you that this level of devotion is rare. And it’s why I’m going to leave this book behind for whomever takes this job.
Yeah, the guy who wrote the book hates my guts. But it sure beats the alternative: Not bothering to write at all.
— Christopher Schwarz