The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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Advice column

I’ve always toyed with the idea of one day writing a post which basically tells everybody “what I really think of them..”, maybe say some things that only a person on his deathbed, or a really drunk guy, would say without hesitation. I was going to save that for my last post; “go out with a bang” as it were, but I’ve decided against that approach for the time being. It’s not that I’m above telling people what I really think of them, it’s just that I believe that is something that should be done face-to-face and not over the semi-anonymous internet, where the repercussions are few for the most part. And I also don’t plan on this being my last post, though it very well could be; who can say?

But like many people (it seems), I’ve really had it with social media, and I consider this blog no exception. Social media is for twits in my opinion. Okay, that is harsh. Let’s say that social media attracts twits, in all forms. What are twits? Twits are the special breed of sycophants, wannabees, kiss-asses, pseudo-intellectuals, and star-f*ckers that are desperately seeking approval from a small group of people that they feel “get them”. This, to me, is what the world of woodworking media has become, a giant toilet where you can swirl around the edges for a while, if you’re smart enough to hold on, but that will inevitably suck you in if you hang around too long.

That all being said, I’m feeling pretty good. And if this is going to be my last post (I’m not saying that it is, mind you), I feel the need to provide a nickel’s worth of free advice to anybody who will listen.

Firstly, for all of you professional woodworkers out there, you don’t need to be a great writer to be a great woodworker, so don’t bother trying. Of course that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to improve upon your writing. But you still shouldn’t try to be something you are not. Social media has somehow made “great writing” a prerequisite to “great woodworking”. It’s not. The great woodworkers of “yesteryear” were very likely not great writers, and the handful of old texts I’ve seen confirm my belief. Most of those books were dull and contained some questionable grammar. I’m not knocking them in the least; just because an instructional book is dull that doesn’t mean it cannot contain very valuable information. In fact, it is my belief that a great instructional book has to be somewhat dull in order for it to work. I’ve read through dozens, if not hundreds of books on electricity and not one of them was a “great read”. But all of them were invaluable when it came to learning the properties of electrical generation.

And for all of you amateurs who dream of one day becoming professionals, I will first say ‘Good Luck’, and secondly, I will say to read the above paragraph. After you reread that paragraph, I will add that it is perfectly fine to emulate a writer that you admire, but please don’t be an imitator. It’s easy to spot an imitator because imitators are generally repeaters. Writing a lesser version of another person’s thoughts is really not a good idea; it’s lazy and almost always dull.

So what gives me the “right” to criticize?

Nothing. I’m just offering an opinion. I’ve said many times before that I’m no expert when it comes to the subject of writing, or the subject woodworking for that matter. I’m not great at either vocation. Then again, I was never a great baseball player myself, but I can easily tell the difference between a good player and a bad one.

A few bullet points:

-if you think you’re funny, you’re probably not.

-If you don’t write in your own voice, you’ll never write anything worth reading.

-If you’re afraid to speak your mind, you’ll never write anything worth reading.

-If you’re afraid to be critical, you’ll really never write anything worth reading.

-If you’re writing to please anybody but yourself first, you will never, ever write anything worth reading.

I’ve seen some writers come up with rules of woodworking blogging that I’ve found funny, and disturbing.  Don’t be offensive? What?!? If something is bothering you (pertaining to your blog topic) then you should write about it. If you’re truly afraid to write about it because you fear what others might think or say, you should be writing a diary, not publishing a blog.  Woodworking media is full of snobs who love to tell people what to do and what to think. Why should you be any different? I’m not saying you should be just like them, but if you want to speak your mind, don’t allow anyone to stop you from doing it.

Writing means putting yourself out there. Sometimes you need to do that without fear or hesitation. As has been said before: It is easier to offer an apology than to ask permission. But in actuality it is even simpler than that, because it’s your blog. That doesn’t give you the right to slander, tell lies, or wantonly insult people, but it does give you a personal forum to offer your full opinion. And if you are not speaking your mind, in your own voice, and doing it without fear, then you will always struggle.

Lastly, I dislike the concept of blogs that are  strictly “how to” blogs. Blogs should be personal; blogs should offer insight into you, the writer. A nice project is certainly a good backdrop, but there are thousands upon thousands of woodworking books with furniture plans in them that will generally always be a lot more clear and concise than anything you will find on a WordPress blog. At the risk of repeating myself, if you are only writing about your projects, consider a little something more. Consider a little critical thinking. The world of woodworking media is now dominated by a short list of people that are followed blindly for the most part. It is so commonplace that many blog writers are virtually plagiarizing their idols to the point that they are using the same “catchphrases”. Don’t be that guy/gal. Criticize your idols even if you agree with them the most of the time. There are few people alive on this planet who are above reproach, and not one of them is a woodworking writer.

So you can take my advice, or not; it really doesn’t make much of a difference because I will very likely never know one way or the other. Still, I feel better for putting my opinion of the subject out in the open, and in the end, isn’t that all that really matters?

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