What are you making?
Not sure yet.
Well, what are you going to do with those pieces of broken glass? And this cake pan? And those feathers? And that old copy of Lady Chatterly’s Lover?
I haven’t decided. Maybe nothing.
But you’re obviously making something. You’ve got a bunch of dry spaghetti in your hands now. And over here: this looks like it’s going to be a ship, a weird one.
I don’t know. Maybe something like that.
On second thought, it looks more like a giraffe with a waffle iron where its head should be. Or its butt, maybe.
Okay. If you say so.
I don’t get it. You’re messing with me. You get an idea, right, and then you try to create whatever’s in your mind. That’s how it works for the rest of us. At my business, we’re always creating, just like you. It’s no different. We generate an idea for a new product. Say, a t-shirt where the message changes depending on your body heat. Like, “Chill As I Wanna Be” changes to “Nasty As I Wanna Be.” So, we get a really good idea like that, and that becomes our goal, see. That’s what we’re working toward. But first we identify all the steps — objectives — that we’ll have to achieve before we reach our goal of putting this new product on the market. All the steps, who’s responsible for what, due dates — all that stuff. It’s Planning 101, you know. We have a planning culture at my business, and I’m really proud of that.
(Silence. Sound of scraping, tapping, clinking.)
You get that, right? We’re in the same business. Look, just tell me this. What’s the value proposition of your art?
Who’s going to buy this whatchamacallit? The ship or giraffe or whatever? And why should someone buy your product instead of somebody’s else’s? What makes yours better?
How ’bout I ask you something?
When you’re at your office, and you’ve got your work plan, your daily schedule, your reports to review, your team meetings …
Do you ever get the feeling that you’re about to open a door. A door into a room you’ve never seen before. You put your hand on an antique doorknob. And as soon as you do, you have a vision. It’s a vision of a room lined with books. Heavy furniture: a wooden desk, a leather chair, a hexagonal table, a couch covered in an oriental rug. Glass cabinets with shelves, on which sit countless figurines of mythical and fantastic creatures — sphinxes, griffins — and also vases, tiny kouroi, pharaohs, cycladic statuettes, classical torsos. On the walls hang reproductions of Roman frescos, one of a da Vinci, another of Ingres’s Oedipus and the Sphinx, an original Dali, a painting by Max Ernst, one by André Breton. In the middle of the room sits a dog, a chow. Silent and still. On the immense desk a pair of glasses. You open the door. The room is exactly as you imagined it. And it occurs to you to ask yourself this question: Did I foresee what this room would look like? Or in imagining this room, did I create it? Did you ever have that feeling at your business, when you are carrying out all the steps of your plan?
No. I never have.
Then I suggest you get back to your office. Because I am about to put my hand on that doorknob.
© 2014 Jim Abbot