Get Off to a Bad Start

A common refrain has been jumping out at me lately while reading woodworking articles and blogs. Concerns about getting a project “right,” and how that concern has prevented people from working on things.

There are good, rich-creative moments for all of us when we realize we need to pause, think about something a little longer, wait for some ideas to really come together before putting the tools to the wood.

Developing our sense of when to wait, and when to get to work is a life skill that applies to so much of our lives – not just woodworking.

What has been jumping out at me are cases when we’re better at knowing when to wait than we are at knowing when to just get started. What especially jumps out at me are cases when people want to take up woodworking but are waiting until they discover some mysterious, unknown skill or fact, which will allow them to proceed without fear of screwing up.

I get that.

When I decide I want to try something, I want to do it right. I definitely don’t want to start down the wrong road, only to learn later that I should’ve followed a different path. Because I’m not a novice at everything – there are some things in life that I am fairly skilled at – I know that it’s easy to make a wrong turn when you don’t have any real knowledge to guide your decisions.

So here’s my very simple test I’d like to give to the folks out there, hesitant to get started:

Are you pursuing this interest as a hobby? Something you want to do for the enjoyment it will bring you?

If your answer is “No,” then my advice doesn’t apply to you. I don’t know anything about your situation, so go find a mentor, ask them what you should do.

If your answer is “Yes,” then my advice is this:

Go screw something up. Just pick up your tool, bring it to the wood, and fail miserably at it. Do the job the wrong way, because you don’t know any better.

Now that you, Beginner, have read my advice I have a follow up question. Does my advice on what to do sound daunting? Unappealing? If so, why?

If the answer has to do with money, don’t spend much. Get some basic, simple tools you need to have around the house anyway. Definitely start small. Build a simple box – something that doesn’t cost too much in materials.

If the answer is some flavor of how you won’t enjoy yourself if you do it wrong and make mistakes, well, that’s more complicated.

This may not be a good hobby for you.

Making mistakes – screwing things up – is how we get better. Even those that are masters have to deal with a material – wood – that is too complex for our plans and designs. It’s strengths and flaws are often hidden under layers, and we don’t discover flaws until it’s too late.

I think it is entirely unavoidable, regardless of how much study is done beforehand, what plans are made, that at some point each of us will put many long hours into a project, all for naught. A month’s worth of weekends and evenings can easily result in a pile of scrap.

Enjoying the work done regardless is the key – in my opinion – to enjoying this hobby.

I think enjoying any hobby, for that matter. I enjoy fishing even when I don’t catch any fish. I enjoy woodworking even when what I’m building fails to come together, and my work gets tossed on the scrap pile.

So stop waiting to discover how to do it “right.” The way to do it right is to discover what it is you like about doing it. You can’t learn that waiting. Assume before you pick up your tool, that you will screw this project up. Enjoy.

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One Response to Get Off to a Bad Start

  1. Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time. G.B. Shaw

    Liked by 1 person

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