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  • Writer's pictureMark Gatehouse

A Duffer's Guide t Procrastination...

Or why I can’t finish any ‘its’, yet I am one of the most prepared woodworkers?

Francis Bacon is quoted as saying, “ Always do your work in the morning because you never know who is going to take you for lunch.” This is statement encapsulates our creativity on at least two levels. Firstly if you have achieved some degree of achievement from the get go. You will be open to

whatever happens later in the day.

On another level he is saying just get on with it. The only way to develop your skills, understanding and abilities is by getting on with it every day or as often as you can. Overthinking and procrastination will get you nowhere. This much I know. I am guilty of both.

Sets constructed for clients were my middle name.

Having spent the last 40 years working in education and creative industries. Designing and building innumerable sets, fitted out several studios, darkrooms and even a shop on Piccadilly in London. Successfully taught hundreds of students in art, design and craft skills. However, in my personal space I have made loads of benches and jigs , etc., but in terms of creating an ‘It’ , I have made a pair of carved salad servers, a computer centre, mended a small table and designer chair. Well, that’s about it for personally driven wood craft so far. Why?

My Giacometti salad servers

My inability to complete a ‘thing’ that represents me and my abilities, is beyond my understanding. I accept that I’m gifted with a level of practical incompetence inherited from my father. He consistently swerved anything practical after electrocuting an electrician due to a drill, wall and fusebox moment. Oddly, my daughter, Phoebe, has escaped this affliction, consistently demonstrating an innate creativity and accuracy, possessing the ability to cut good, accurate joints , etc., from the get go. All this drives me nuts. I can teach people to successful completion and I can undertake commercial work that people pay for, but left alone. I am mortified.

My strategy for overcoming this disability is two fold. Firstly, buy more tooling. Toolmakers promise that with this plane or that lathe etc. I will be able to realise my vision of perfection (or at least get close) . I now possess an obscene array of fixed, portable and hand tools. Have they helped? Of course not.

To make this even more troubling, I totally understand that external fixes in whatever form, do not work. The result is consistently feeling ever more useless and poorer. Not a good spiral to jump on.

That said I can’t help loving my new 4 amp hours impact driver, fantastic!

The second strategy is rooted in having a serious issue with buying and ruining lovely wood. So my personal work is centred on using material gained from skips. This not only constrains others high expectations of the finished product, but also can be replaced at no cost. I find this somewhat liberating, finally making ‘things’. Good job too, my stock of free wood is overflowing and if not used will overwhelm the house.

The overflowing chaos of timber and tools that present more of a challenge to productivity than helping. That was not my intention.

The true answer, I would suggest, lies in the 10,000 hours principle, this being the time required to develop any competence. I have ADHD, so this is a personal non starter. I seem incapable of practicing enough or completing a course. I have however a secret weapon, at 61 I have developed a great body of knowledge and experience, albeit in patches, The downside is getting totally bored within hours or at best weeks of formal education or training. I learn more from the shared wisdom of the folk at Southbourne Mens Shed and other collaborators. In practice, my impatience inevitably draws me to seeking short cuts even when plainly none are available. You may be able to predict the results.

As a halfway step, I am currently working on a set of tool stores. My inner optimist believes they will go some way towards taming the tsunami of tools and timber. This is halfway, because, like my benches, function rules over form. I d

o however strive for beauty. Fortunately, the use of second hand wood automatically affords my products an element of Wabi-Sabi. The Japanese concept of beauty found within the faulty and worn. We would probably call it character. This offers me a conceptual route forward, helping to resolve the chaos that makes productivity unnecessarily difficult, enhancing my tendency for procrastination. Hurrah!

I recently made a monitor stand. After many hours drawing the design and trying to get a square framework etc. (Three months from start to finish.) Before finally going with my gut and made it from a pile of door jambs I had found the week before. Less than two hours consideration and labour, It functions with a certain charm. Should I decide it is nasty at some time, it can be rebuilt with no loss and my skills advanced.

Functional IT centre with nooks and crannies for small items to collect.

After the tool stores, my next project is building two stands/shelf units tor extremely small spaces. From experience, I predict they may be realised and installed sometime in 2023. I feel reasonably balanced about this lengthy production period because, I recognise that my thoughts and ideas will torture the project’s concepts and parameters via innumerable drawings before committing timber to build each twice. One to get wrong and one to be functional. Before you judge me, I will also be working on at least ten other projects that I have yet to discover. My work always leans towards progress rather than perfection and we learn more from our failures that successes. I am learning to accept and live with this. Finally, however wonky, I take great pleasure from making and working with my hands. I continue to love the journey of discovery, seeking beauty through my work. Otherwise, why would we bother?

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