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.

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…Read MoreMaking BookLost Art PressRead More

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