When I finish writing a book, I send the manuscript to about a dozen people for comment, criticism and a typo hunt (and yet mistakes are like weeds).
With “The Anarchist’s Design Book,” about half the reviewers made a similar comment: Why don’t you expand the book’s seven brief sections on design philosophy and workshop ethics?
My answer is difficult to put into words, but here goes: My eyes glaze over when I read books, articles or blog posts that are entirely about the philosophy of the craft. I’ve read a good number of books on craft philosophy during the last 30 years. My dad had a bunch of them on our family’s bookshelves in the 1970s, and this type of literature is now experiencing a renaissance.
Here’s what goes through my head when I read this stuff: Hmmm. Good idea, but you already said this in a slightly different way 20 pages ago. Why do you have to use PhD-level language to describe this simple thing? OK, I think you’re writing in circles. Wait, maybe I’m just dumb.
Perhaps it’s my newspaper training, but I attempt to write for an 8th-grade audience and to be as laconic brief as possible.
Plus, I don’t think ideas about craft are particularly suited for words. My feelings about the craft are evident when I’m at the bench, not sitting on the couch with a book or a laptop. So I try to make my books work like a road sign that tells you what’s ahead. The road sign isn’t the thing – a construction zone, grooves in the pavement or a mountain switchback. It’s only a brief idea, a symbol, representing the experience ahead.
Reading the road sign or the book isn’t enough to know what’s really ahead. You have to pick up the tools or put your foot down on the accelerator to really get it.
Alfred Korzybski put it best: “The map is not the territory.”
The best I can do is this: Give you a peek at the rich tapestry of illiterate ideas and convince you that you can build seemingly complex things that you thought were out of your reach. If you read it and then do it, then you’ll get it.
The first line of 2011’s “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” was “disobey me,” a Russian paradox that challenges the ideas of authority and submission. How can you follow the advice without disobeying the text or obeying the speaker?
“The Anarchist’s Design Book” begins with a quote that no publisher should use in a book. It’s a segment of a sermon by a 13th-century Parisian preacher that I encountered years ago in an essay about early European printing.
“What knowledge is this which thieves may steal, mice or moths eat up, fire or water destroy?”
Your fingers don’t speak English, French or Dutch for that matter.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. While editing and photography of “The Anarchist’s Design Book” is complete, we still have a few plates to make. So we are aiming for a late February release.