March 26, 2023


Digital Art Community

Making Book Part 10: Death to Good Ideas

One of the best things about working for myself (aside from the boss touching me in the shower every morning) is the fact that I can kill good ideas instantly and move on.

In many big organizations, good ideas hang around for years. They rarely make any real money. They make a lot of busywork for people. And nobody is willing to say: Look this is a good idea. But it’s not a great idea. So let’s kill it.

I adore bad ideas. An editor once proposed a cookbook where you used your woodworking tools to prepare the recipes (rig a router to mix cake batter; a band saw to crosscut salami; a block plane to slice cheese). Another time our magazine’s owner demanded we put “Miss Makita” on the next cover because woodworkers love T&A. Then there was the idea to publish a woodworking calendar where all the models were naked except for their shop aprons (I proposed calling it “Fur & Flubber”). 

Bad ideas are (usually) easy to spot. But sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between a good idea and a great idea. Especially when it comes to writing a book.

For me, the best strategy is to put my book ideas on probation. I’ll work on the book for a while and see if I become obsessed with it, or if it becomes boring. The minute I get bored, I kill the idea.

I know when a book is working when I’m barefoot in my underwear and shaping spindles at my workbench, trying a new idea to get them smooth, straight and perfectly tapered with the minimum number of strokes with a block plane.

And that’s when I wave to my neighbor Doris and her dog, Duke, as they pass by the storefront’s window. 

I still haven’t quite adjusted to moving my workshop out of a windowless basement.

— Christopher Schwarz

Read other posts from the “Making Book” series here.