More thoughts on "How To Be Creative":
13. Never compare your inside with somebody else's outside.When I was 16 or 17 in Edinburgh I vaguely knew this guy who owned a shop called "Cinders", on St. Stephen's Street. It specialized in restoring antique fireplaces.
The more you practice your craft, the less you confuse worldly rewards with spiritual rewards, and vice versa. Even if your path never makes any money or furthers your career, that's still worth a TON.
Cinders' modus operandi was very simple. Buy original Georgian and Victorian chimneypieces from old, dilapidated houses for 10 cents on the dollar, give them a loving but expedient makeover in the workshop, sell them at vast profit to yuppies.
Back then I was insatiably curious about how people made a living (I still am). So one-day, while sitting on his stoop I chatted with the fireplace guy about it.
He told me about the finer points of his trade- the hunting through old houses, the craftsmanship, the customer relations, and of course the profit.
The fellow seemed quite proud of his job. From how he described it he seemed to like his trade and be making a decent living. Scotland was going through a bit of a recession at the time; unemployment was high, money was tight; I guess for an ageing hippie things could've been a lot worse.
Very few kids ever said, "Gosh, when I grow up I'm going to be a fireplace guy!" It's not the most obvious trade in the world. I asked him about how he fell into it.
"I used to be an antiques dealer," he said. "People who spend a lot of money on antiques also seem to spend a lot of money restoring their houses. So I sort of got the whiff of opportunity just by talking to people in my antiques shop. Also, there are too many antique dealers in Edinburgh crowding the market, so I was looking for an easier way to make a living."
Like the best jobs in the world, it just kindasorta happened.
"Well, some of the fireplaces are real beauties," I said. "It must be hard parting with them."
"No it isn't," he said (and this is the part I remember most). "I mean, I like them, but because they take up so much room- they're so big and bulky- I'm relieved to be rid of them once they're sold. I just want them out of the shop ASAP and the cash in my pocket. Selling them is easy for me. Unlike antiques. I always loved antiques, so I was always falling in love with the inventory, I always wanted to hang on to my best stuff. I'd always subconsciously price them too high in order to keep them from leaving the shop."
Being young and idealistic, I told him I thought that was quite sad. Why choose to sell a "mere product" (i.e. chimneypieces) when instead you could make your living selling something you really care about (i.e. anitques)? Surely the latter would be a preferable way to work?
"The first rule of business," he said, chuckling at my na´vetÚ, "is never sell something you love. Otherwise, you may as well be selling your children."
15 years later I'm at a bar in New York. Some friend-of-a-friend is looking at my cartoons. He asks me if I publish. I tell him I don't. Tell him it's just a hobby. Tell him about my advertising job.
"Man, why the hell are you in advertising?" he says, pointing to my portfolio. "You should be doing this. Galleries and shit."
"Advertising's just chimneypieces," I say, speaking into my glass.
"What the fuck?"