Visitation rites

I just got the galleys for an upcoming book and couldn’t be more excited, because I get to revisit projects I haven’t thought about in a long time.

An important part of the publishing process is reviewing and approving book galleys. The last step before sending things off to the printer, galleys are printouts of the book’s pages showing the final layout. This lets me proofread it, find errors that were missed earlier or that have crept in during layout, tweak wording that was fine before but may look odd once laid out, double-check cut lists and measurements, etc. It’s an important task requiring a lot of work to go over each page line-by-line and photo-by-photo to make sure everything’s perfect – it takes me at least a full week to do properly.

But it’s also one of the most enjoyable tasks I can do as a writer because I get to “watch” myself create a woodworking project from beginning to end. Often, I’ve completely forgotten about the project and the details of making it. Sometimes I’ll look at a project and wonder what the heck I was thinking, and make a mental note to improve that process in future work. Other times I’ll look at something I completed maybe a year or more ago, and literally marvel that I came up with such a great idea – and again, make a mental note to use it more often.

I find all of this extremely useful in the sense that it all helps improve what I do in the shop. You should do it, too. No, I don’t mean write a book, but do you photograph your work and document each project? I’m surprised when I talk to other woodworkers at how many don’t.

Next time you do a project, for yourself or for a customer, document a few steps with some quick snapshots. Then when it’s done take shots of the finished piece. Jot down a few notes about the project on a note card. Then slip the note and snapshots into an envelope and file it away, or maybe do a simple scrapbook – one project per page.

Then, a year or two from now when you have a bit of down time or you’re looking for ideas, pull out a couple of those envelopes or that scrapbook and revisit earlier work. You might be surprised how a quick trip into the past can make for a more productive future.

A.J.

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