How Books are Like Swedish Furniture (with GIFs)
I have a piece of pre-assembled furniture in my office. Well, several of them, to be honest… but specifically, I have one desk that is the bane of my existence.
When I was first putting together this desk, I was new to the world of pre-assembled furniture, so I did my best to follow the directions, but something went wrong. I still had a desk with four legs, so I decided to use it. And if all I’m doing is sitting at the desk, working on my computer, it’s fine. Really.
But as soon as I open the drawer, my whole life falls apart. Somehow, I missed putting the drawer on the right track, and it neither opens nor closes with any usefulness. In fact, most of the time, I sit and think about whether I really want to try to open that drawer. Hard. I think hard. And sometimes, I’d rather go to the kitchen for scissors or tape than try to mess with this drawer.
The desk is poorly constructed.
So, one day, I was complaining about the desk to yet another person, and he said to me, why don’t you just fix it? I about gave him a freaking medal. Genius. Fix it. Perfect.
Only, when I tried to fix my swedish furniture, I couldn’t figure out how to fix the problem without completely disassembling my preassembled furniture, and then reassembling it. Because the flaw in my construction was in one of the very first steps. The drawer was surrounded by other pieces of poorly constructed reassembled furniture that had been incorrectly reassembled around it, and there was no way to just slip that baby back into place.
Nope. I would have to take apart the entire desk and start again.
By that time, I could have just bought and assembled a new desk, which would also likely have been both better for my sanity, and safer. There’s no guarantee that I didn’t majorly damage one of the pieces by putting it together wrong in the first place, and I really can’t trust anything I did after that second step.
At some point, I expect the whole thing to collapse on me. It might just be better to destroy it and start again. I still want a desk roughly this size, and this color and shape and height, with one big drawer. But because of the nature of assembling swedish furniture, it’s hard to go back and change something so core to the construction, especially after taking it apart, without risking that the whole thing won’t fall apart when you try to reassemble it, just because you unscrewed the screws.
Books are like swedish furniture. More specifically, editing a book is like having a poorly assembled piece of swedish furniture.
When you read one that needs fixing, sometimes the fix is easy, like reattaching a handle. But sometimes, the fix requires you to take apart the entire thing and reassemble it, because the mistake was made at such an early point, the rest of the book has been constructed around that mistake. And sometimes you can’t fix the mistake by just slipping the drawer back into the track, because the rest of the desk has been built around it, and relies on that bad drawer to remain stable.
It always looks easy, on first glance, to just re-track a drawer. But it’s not. It’s all about leverage and physics and crap. And sometimes it really is better to just set the whole thing on fire and start from scratch, older and wiser.
Now, I have this bookcase…