Yesterday I received a nice email from a person whom I’ve never met or spoken with. The person just wanted to let me know that he enjoyed my blog and thought that I was a talented and entertaining writer, and that maybe one day I should consider writing a book on woodworking. I was flattered, and though I’m really not sure if I am a talented writer or not, I did thank him for the compliment and his time.
I’ll give you the plain truth, I don’t know if I’m a good writer, or a bad writer, or even a writer at all. I know a few of the basics tenets of writing. Though I may be just a half Italian, half-Irish thug from North Philly I did take some writing courses in my time; I even once took a basic journalism course. I’ve read a lot of books in my life, and I like to think that I can distinguish good writing from bad writing. I’m not ultra-perceptive; I can read between the lines, but I don’t always see the deep meaning in books and films that those more savvy than I perceive and understand without straining a brain cell. But I do have an opinion, and I know how to express my opinion, and I certainly know how to convey my emotions “on paper” in such a way that leaves no misunderstandings. But whether or not that makes my writing “good” is a question I cannot answer.
Here is what I do know: I don’t have anywhere near the amount of experience needed to write a woodworking book; not even close. Even if I did have that experience, I have no idea what I would write about. But I also know that the writing in the woodworking books I’ve read leaves something to be desired. Some of that writing is nothing more than semi-coherent instructions on how to build a specific piece of furniture. A book with good photos definitely counts for something, in particular when those photos detail a construction procedure such as joinery, but generally they are dull to read. There have been some exceptions. I’ve only read two of Roy Underhill’s books, but I enjoyed them both for the writing. The books by Eric Sloane are usually enjoyable to read as well if you can get past some of Sloane’s preaching, though they technically aren’t woodworking books. This all still leaves me searching for a book that is not only a great woodworking book, but a great read as well.
When all is said and done, I don’t think that magical book exists. I hate to say or admit this, but here goes: Woodworking media is boring. I’ve never “laughed out loud” or “snorted coffee through my nose” when reading a woodworking book, magazine article, or blog, though I have seen many commenters that have claimed to do those things. I can’t say that my writing is any better; I think I’m funny at times; maybe I am, maybe I’m not. But it’s not my goal to make people double over from laughter while reading my blog. Many woodworking writers for some reason think they have to be funny, and there’s nothing worse than an unfunny person who believes that he’s the funniest guy walking.
If I do have a goal when it comes to writing a blog post, it is to present my opinion in my own voice. I write how I speak, and if this blog is entertaining then that is the reason why, because whatever I may be, I am a colorful guy. It’s my belief that most woodworkers that write about woodworking don’t write in their own voice. I think they try to write like “writers”. But I don’t want to read about woodworking from a writer, I want to read about woodworking from a woodworker, in his or her own voice. Does that mean bad grammar and foul language? Not necessarily. But maybe it does mean some honesty, and at that I mean being true to yourself.
But the real question is: Will I or would I ever write a great woodworking book? I can say in all honesty that it will never happen; I don’t have the talent. It doesn’t bother me, though, because I have a lot of company; nobody else has ever written a great woodworking book, either.