Do I talk (write) too much?

There are a lot of words that flood past my brain on any given day. I can filter out most of them without thinking. Others can be sorted with a moment or two of direct attention and then there are others that stick with me. I carry these ideas around in my brain, considering them, testing them, and turning them around to examine them from every angle.

Last week, it was these words that kept me thinking:

“Don’t get me wrong. Discussing craft is important. I just don’t think you should talk about it much until you have done it – a lot.”

Chris Schwarz wrote these words as part of a very important extended argument about the importance of words, how we use them, how we sometimes use them against each other (intentionally or not), and what it might mean to eschew the metanarrative of “buy-use-repeat,” by picking up some tools and learning to craft our own stories.

If I were to try to describe the conversation between tools and words that the aforementioned article puts forth, it is a process that I might describe as a practical dialectic, if I were to use words at all.*

Whistle while you work, but work before you write.

For me, putting words to paper (or pixels) is really just how I comprehend what happens when I put blade to wood. It’s a reflective process. A thinking-out-loud.  Perhaps that is why, at least for the moment, I write less about the “how” of woodworking and spend so much time considering the “why.” I write mostly out of enthusiasm and inquiry, but I seek to temper that with experience all along the way.

The dialectic is between what is written and what is swept up off of my workshop floor each evening, but I’m not sure I’ve practiced the craft enough to talk or write about it as much as I do. I need to give some thought to that while I’m making shavings on my workbench this week.

In any event, I can certainly get on board with this sentiment:

“The solution to ‘fix’ everything – for lack of a better word – is not in words. It’s in your fingers. Pick up the tools, and the answers to these questions will become apparent.” -C. Schwarz


*(Socrates gave us the word for this kind of thinking “διαλεκτική” and Hegel ran it into the ground, but the grossly oversimplified idea is that when different or opposing perspectives are held in tension with one another, it can bring you closer to a true understanding of the relationship between them. In this case, it’s not so much opposing viewpoints but the interplay between practice and reflection,or to use a musical analogy, the melody is found in both the notes and the spaces between them.)



12 Comments Add yours

  1. Writing about doing is awesome. I wish everyone – beginner to expert – had a blog that shared their efforts at this craft.

    Writing about thinking about doing – with zero doing – is what doesn’t do much for me.

    So please carry on.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I enjoy your posts and do NOT include your style of writing among “the circle-jerk clique of writers who obsess on discussing Craft, its Demise and How to Fix Things.” Your posts are more personal, about your journey into woodworking and being on that same path myself, I enjoy reading others viewpoints of that journey.


    1. Thanks Bill, that’s really exactly what I’ve been working toward so it’s good to hear the work being received that way.


  3. Greg Flora says:

    Your thought process seems to be much like mine. I’ll pick a sentence like the one you quoted above and weigh out all the possible meanings for better, or worse.

    While I’m not a writer, I have considered what my contribution to woodworking will be because I’m so damn excited about it. Honestly, I considered deleting my newly started blog a hundred times in the last few weeks due to this conflict.

    But I agree with Chris’ comment above. I really believe that anyone, regardless of experience should be a part of the conversation and document their point of view – but I have very little excitement over ‘armchair’ woodworkers and philosophers. I want to see the real deal success and failures. And I thank you for provide both here on your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s the reason I no longer visit Internet forums. Too many experts on things they have never done. I do, however, get a great deal of encouragement and insight from the conversations we have on this blog.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. erikhinkston says:

    I was profoundly touched by Chris’s post the other day, I even printed it so I can keep it on my work shop wall to read regularly. I will add this post to the wall. I wish I could explain with the eloquence you are able to write with how and why these words reach so deeply into my soul but I’m not sure yet myself. Thank you for the inspiration, thank you for the effort and discipline it takes to share. Both of you have achieved this aim Chris speaks about below.
    “Every word I write is aimed at one thing: To make you crazy to pick up the tools. They are the answer to everything that’s wrong with our lives and with our world. With tools you can fix things. You can make things. You can escape from a job that is slowly killing you.”


  5. Paul Knapp says:

    James, back in the 70s, when I had started my millwork shop, it was located in an old complex with 4 other woodworking shops. We were all young and each of us did a different type of work. We supported each other by sharing machinery, expertise and often sub-contracts. Every day after work, we and many of our employees stayed after hours for a couple of beers. We talked woodworking for hours on end, discussing in great detail the whys and wherefores of what we did. We constantly challenged each other to do better work…and we did do better work. It was a magical time that sadly lasted only a few years before our businesses grew and the money side of the game changed everything. I see some of that old magic happening on the Internet and it warms my heart to see again the energy and excitement we felt so many years ago. Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s working very well.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Brian Clites says:

    Writing about a craft and reflecting on the human significance of the crafts are two very different things. Teaching someone how to make a workbench is intrinsically separate from teaching someone about the meaning of life. Most people who are gifted at one of these skills are rather atrocious at the other.

    Philosophers think because they cannot do. Laborers work because they cannot earn a more respectable income with their intellect. Or so the conventional stereotypes would have us believe.

    The “rub,” if you will allow me to say so, is that you and Chris are both exceptionally skilled at each of these distinct endeavors. That is why I so frequently ask Chris to write more philosophy. And why all of us want you to continue writing about woodworking.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate the kind words. When I wrote the post I was mainly just thinking out loud. I certainly didn’t write the post to fish for compliments, but it is affirming to know that I may be doing something useful here.

      I for one certainly enjoy the conversation.


  7. Norm Jennings says:

    Your words and insight are refreshing and honest. I look forward to your posts and hope to follow for a long time. Carry on and enjoy.


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