Years ago when I was editor at Popular Woodworking, I was interviewed for a job at one of our competitors.
During the interview, I experienced one of those fork-in-the-road moments where a single decision will change everything you do for the rest of your life. To set the stage a bit, this happened about 2008. My first book, “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use,” had just come out. Lost Art Press, my current company, was a 1-year-old baby.
The guy interviewing me for the job said something that was insightful and worrisome. Holding my “Workbenches” book he said the following, which I’ll paraphrase:
Most of us get only one really good idea. Mike Dunbar has Windsor chairs. Michael Fortune has his band saw. Christian Becksvoort has Shaker furniture. Bob Flexner has finishing. This book is your one good idea, and you’ll spend the rest of your life as a writer trying to top it.
So the better course is to become an editor – a real editor – and help others develop their good ideas.
It was a compelling argument, and I returned to my hotel room with a lot to think about. Ultimately I concluded the guy was 100 percent correct and decided to sign on with the competitor. My wife, however, talked me out of it a few nights later while we were doing the dishes.
And I am forever grateful that she did.
I have a lot of shortcomings. But if I have one strength, it’s coming up with ideas for books, articles, blog entries, whatever. I have enough book ideas for two lifetimes. That’s not an exaggeration, it’s a conservative estimate. Not all of my ideas are home runs; far from it. But they are ideas that are compelling enough that I will gladly devote myself to them for a couple years to explore them to the fullest.
And that, my friends, is where I am headed tomorrow. This is the last entry in this blog, but it is not the conclusion. Far from it. I’ll be blogging every day at Lost Art Press, just like I have for the last 11 years. I’ll be writing books, exploring old techniques, helping other authors get their work published, teaching classes and trying to keep my face off the internet and your television set.
I am extremely grateful to Popular Woodworking Magazine for giving me the best job I ever had. It’s the job I held for the longest (16 years full time, and six more years as a contributing editor). And in the process I met hundreds of people who are talented, passionate, hilarious, musical, poetic, lazy, pitiful and enigmatic. I’ve loved them all, and I will miss working with them.
In closing, I’ll say this. This is not real life. This – this succession of lighted letters and images on a screen – is only a sign that points to something else more important. And that’s doing something with your hands besides typing or clicking or just observing.
Close your laptop. Turn off your phone. Walk to your shop and take a deep breath. Think of all the things you could build in that small room. Your work there could change the lives of people who haven’t even been born yet and use materials that started growing 100 years before you were born. That’s a real network, a real continuity.
So, what are you waiting for? Fight progress.
— Christopher Schwarz
Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.