It begins with the best of intentions. You see something – say, a hand-turned wooden bowl, and think how amazing it would be to be able to do that. Or maybe you want to make a coffee table for your living room, a toy truck for your kid, or a ukulele.
Anytime you start a new endeavor, there is a period when you are acquiring the tools – the saws, the chisels, the workbench. This can be a rabbit hole.
As an aside, it’s best to just buy the tools you need for the specific project you want to make, and then buy the tools you don’t have for the next project, and so on. Partly because good tools are expensive, but also because when you just start, you don’t know what you don’t know.
It’s been almost 20 years and I still haven’t used that 3/8-inch mortise chisel.
But the other rabbit hole is infrastructure. The almost irresistible urge to work on projects to make your shop better, rather than to work on the projects you wanted to build in the first place.
You want to make bowls from firewood, so you need a lathe and turning tools and, depending on your skill, a faceplate or a chuck. But then you will be tempted to build a stand for the lathe, and a place to hang your face shield, and a spotlight mount so you can see better, and then a rack to hold the firewood as it dries, and a case for your turning tools, and before you know it you have a year’s worth of projects behind you, but you still haven’t turned a single bowl yet.
This is not just a thing that happens in the workshop. It happens with my writing, too. I want to write, which means I need a computer and a word processor. But then I can tinker with my routine, and of course, I need a good chair to sit in, and a quiet place, so I need an office. In the office, I need to hang up the right art to inspire me, and find a good playlist, and then do I have good enough speakers to make the music sound right?
It’s often hard to know where the balance is, especially for people with brains like mine. I want to do a good job, and I only have so much time, and oh yes, I’m a chaos muppet with ADHD, so things that make it easier for me to focus (like a good chair and art and music) are things worth spending time on. But eventually, you have to write. It’s easy to slip into hyperfocus as you research the “best” text editor to write on, so you have minimal distractions, and three hours later you have written nothing but downloaded 3 free trials of writing software and looked at pictures of meerkats for the last 20 minutes after following an errant link.
All of that to say that right now, I’m spending a lot of time on infrastructure to support my writing. Outfitting the office. Installing speakers and trying out playlists. Building routines. Trying out schedules. Designing workflows.
And then there is the infrastructure to promote and publish my writing. Social media. Email service providers. Website design and hosting and email templates. WordPress updates and figuring out block editing (a WordPress feature from hell) and so on. It’s fun, and it’s necessary. But none of it is writing. It’s easy to work at this gig all day and still not have written an original thought down.