Listening TrainMasters TV episode2 of their TOMA project prompted me to understand with I always had a problem with that "Givens and Druthers" thing. While often referenced as a great way to build a layout, I always thought it was in fact the best way to paint yourself in the corner of the room. No offense to John Armstrong how was probably a leading mind in the hobby back then, but I think most folk will overlook an important ingredient to make that "recipe" work.
...and that's the problem. People think the G&D approach is a recipe. Throw you favorite ingredients and you'll get you favorite cake, isn't it? Not really.
Any person with a minimal knowledge of meal preparation knows not only you need to have the right ingredients, but even more important is having the right quantities. While you quantity the elements in anything related to chemistry, you have to use hierarchization when tackling a very subjective artistic problem like a layout. Failing to understand that is the best way to get the most indigest cake you've ever ate and end up hating it for a very long time.
G&D is a good way to find out your interest and general parameters, but it's not the first step and far to be the last one. G&D rarely address your available hobby time, resources or skills... and it doesn't help to set some hierarchy among the elements that will become your building blocks.
Everybody knows any project is made of compromises. You have to choose among various options and that can't be done without comparative the value of each one. Depending on individuals, the value of each element will be different, that's a given! Thus, what works for others won't probably work flawlessly for you. Didn't I say previously there wasn't a recipe... but only a method. Once you know the relative value of your given and druthers, you can really start to see the project shaping up. Each time you'll face an issue, you'll be equipped to make an educated choice and focus your effort on what really matters, bringing a sense of coherence and purpose to your work.
And before people start to bash my critic of John Armstrong, let me say that it is clear he had in mind the G&D could only work within hierarchization. In fact, the G&D can be a good preliminary tool to identify your building blocks and start to put them in order. Unfortunately, it seems this is often overlooked by most people using John's interesting way to organize layout building. In that regard, many sins by confusing what was a method as a recipe. Let not fool yourself by the candy store, or you'll get a few extra cavities!
And never forget a tool doesn't decide for yourself as much sophisticated it is...