Today I was sitting at my desk and I needed to jot something down quickly so I grabbed the nearest pen. It happened to be a new fountain pen that I had purchased to replace a beloved pen that went missing a few weeks ago.
The pen billed itself as “fine point” but it feels unwieldy. It’s as if the pen dares me to write something brilliant with every stroke, and all of a sudden I find myself thinking about serifs more than I did a week ago.
I wished all day that the pen had a different nib. One that just took boring old respectable notes. And then, all of a sudden, I wrote what I was thinking: “I only wish this pen had a smaller nib.”
When I read what I had written, I couldn’t help but ask myself “why”?
Is it because I think I don’t have anything worth writing in beautiful script? Is it because I’m afraid someone will come into my office, glance at my notepad, and get the idea I’m pretentious?
This is not strictly about woodworking, but it translates pretty well. Why are we sometimes afraid to leave our mark? Why do we strive to erase every sign that we’ve worked, sweated and even bled to make something?
Well, the blood I get. No one wants blood spots on thier fancy new book shelf.
But the marks of creativity are the proof of life. Every plane track a reminder that the nature of the wood has been honored, considered, sometimes fought and ultimately rendered into something new. Each hand-made ogee a testament to the skill (or lack therof) of the craftsperson.
One of the things I have learned over this past year is that when I build something I don’t want it to be “perfect” I want it to be perfectly mine. I want it to be beautiful and functional, but I also want it to bear the signature of honest work. I want my children and grandchildren to look back at it someday and to remember seeing the shavings fall from my plane.
Maybe this is what confidence feels like. I know I will never stop learning, but maybe I’m starting to come into my own as a woodworker.
It’s certainly food for thought.