We all do bad work. If you're a creative and you think everything you do is great, you're probably a jerk and your work isn't as good as you think it is. Yes that's harsh. It's also accurate.
I have made some things that I was proud of and then hated minutes later, but I'm proud of one thing: I've never held onto something just because I made it, and today we're going to talk about my headphone stand which is literally the worst project I've ever made.
Every good trainwreck has an origin story and this project is no different. In a woodworking group I am in we have a monthly challenge and on this particular month the challenge was to make a headphone stand which is basically the "Hello World" of woodworking. Everyone makes one because they're simple projects that are not only approachable, but infinitely customizable to the tastes of the person who makes them. People deck theirs out using nice wood or LED's and they do crazy designs that blow minds.
Full of this healthy dose of piss and vinegar and I went into this with an idea of what mine was going to be like. I was going to put remote-controlled RGB LED's in between the wood and have a clear bead for the light to come through and I would make it really dark so the light popped on it. Sounds great, but if you look at the picture you can see that it's utter garbage. Why? Well numerous reasons, but mainly because I bit off a project I just didn't have the right tools for. The wood was too thick. The stain was too dark. The clear bead for the lights didn't work as well as I hoped because my design was crap. It's not sanded nicely. The wiring wasn't concealed the way I wanted. I thought angular would be cool because Chris Salomone does it, but it wasn't. It's heavy, bulky, and just looks like a 12 year old shop class project. In every respect it's utterly awful, and it didn't get a single vote from the entire group in the judging at the end of the month and if I'm being honest, there's no reason in hell it should have especially considering that the one who won was absolutely gorgeous.
I kept that headphone stand on my desk, though, and even used it. My nephew came over to my house and was at my desk and knocked it over and it broke. I got upset, and I actually had to stop and think: what the hell was I upset about? Sure the kid made a mistake, but was I honestly mad that he knocked over the literal worst thing my workshop ever turned out?
Yeah. I was. Because I was so married to this piece of crap that the idea that he would affront it by breaking it, even accidentally, angered and hurt me. Does that even sound sane and rational? Of course it doesn't. And it's not. On Making It, Episode 203, the boys talked about not being married to bad work and it's something that has to resonate for us as makers. As Bob points out, the person you show the work to doesn't see the effort, love, and time that went into making something. They only see the finished product. While they may be able to appreciate the work, they don't know the work, they just know that the finished product may not show a level of finish they can relate to or respect. When you show your work, you always want to show your best, and it's important to recognize when something isn't your best work and either scrap it and move on or scrap it and try again, but don't let your judgment on the quality of your work be tainted by the amount of effort you put into it because if you do, you run the risk of your reputation being demolished and that's something that's a lot harder to re-create than a poorly done project.