There’s an old saying that a good writer can write about anything, whether he knows anything about it or not. A decade ago, that described Brian Caldwell.
When I was editor at Woodshop News and hired Brian back in 2000, his resume was impressive and his writing samples were strong. He also had a background in broadcasting, and as a former broadcaster myself I knew his journalistic skills weren’t limited to the written page. But other than the typical handyman skills common to any homeowner, he didn’t really know much about woodworking. But I’m a big believer in that old saying I noted above, and so Brian officially became our new writer.
Now, it wasn’t easy for him. In the beginning his lack of woodworking experience meant that he took longer, sighed a lot, and made more than a few mistakes in his early articles. But with each mistake, he learned. More importantly, the more he learned the more he became personally interested in woodworking beyond the scope of the job. On his own he took classes and starting building a home shop, and within a short span of time his improving woodworking skills – and experience from his own shop – became apparent in his writing.
By the time I left Woodshop News in 2004, there was little – if anything at all – that had to be explained to him about woodworking anymore. In fact, his knowledge of the wood markets, galleries, studio furniture and furniture makers, and the way professional shops worked had quickly surpassed mine.
That last deserves particular note. When I was at Woodshop News, there was no part of the job I liked better than visiting and profiling shops around the country. But where it was something I merely enjoyed, for Brian it became an absolute passion and something at which he excelled. I know I have plenty of company when I envy him not only for the time he’s spent in shops in nearly every state in the country, but the way he effortlessly got to know and understand the shop owners so well they kept in touch long after the ink had faded on their articles. And the more he learned about the intricacies of the small professional shop, the stronger his articles became.
Being able to write about anything, including the things you know nothing about, is the hallmark of a good writer. But when a writer uses that writing to learn something new, and then applies that knowledge back into his writing, he becomes something more.
Brian was something more.
Till next time,