What kind of Brick Layer are you?

Newer writers often want to “do it their way…” with total disregard to tradition, standards and long-standing conventions.

If you you’re one of these folks, I have the following story for you…


I needed to put up a brick wall on the farm, so I hit google and found a couple of local freelance masons to come give me a quote.

The first guy was a younger guy with a lot of enthusiasm and confidence.

He took out a tape measure, walked the area where I wanted to put up the brick wall, and wrote down some notes on a clipboard.

“Looks like a straight forward job.” He said with a smile.

I asked him, “So, what kind of mortar do you set the bricks with?”

“Mortar?” he repeated, with a look of confusion on his face.

What? The freelance mason didn’t know what mortar was? What the hell?

“You know, the stuff you put between the bricks to keep them together.”

“Ohhhhh,” his face lit up again with confidence. “You mean, sticky. I call that stuff sticky. What kind? Just the regular kind, I guess.”

A very strange feeling settled over me.

“Ok, what’s your price quote for the wall?” My voice cracked a bit as I asked.

The mason proceeded to pull a canvas and easel out of his truck. Without word, he broke out a bunch of paints, a paintbrush and started painting the landscape around us.

Dude? WTF?

“Ohhh,” he looked at me like I WAS THE CRAZY ONE, “I always do a painting rendition of the area where the wall is going to go. This lets me do the job proper and get an accurate idea of the cost.

30 minutes later, we stood before a painting of the lawn with a brick wall, that included a cat and a cow for good measure. (I have neither, I guess he likes animals.) The painting looked like the creation of an artist if Bob Ross and Ray Charles somehow had a kid.

“Ok, ma friend. How about the price quote?” At this point I was just being polite.

“Well, it really depends on the price of wood.”

“Wood? Dude, I need you to set a BRICK WALL.”

He laughed. No like literally laughed, like I just told the funniest joke in the world.

“Well, I like to erect a wooden awning over the entire work area. This way I can keep the birds off the wall as I work. You know, birds hate to go under awnings.”

When I pressed him for the price quote he gave me a song and dance. He was unsure what local stores had in supply and what the current prices were.

“I’ll get back to you soon with the price. It’ll be a good one, don’t worry!” He said shooting me a double-barrel finger gun.

As he stepped into his truck, he looked back to me with one final comment,

“Now, I want to be straight with you. I’ve got some other jobs to bid, so I don’t know what my schedule will be like this month. I don’t know when I can get this wall finished, but I’ll talk to my people and let you know.”

I don’t know about you, but to me, clearly, this guy had NO IDEA what he was doing.

Sure, he might have been able to pull it off.

But why would I take that risk?

Why would I enter a ZERO CONFIDENCE situation, if I didn’t have to?


Luckily for me, the second guy showed up… an older gentlemen, who struck up a sweet smelling pipe as soon as he exited his truck.

After a firm handshake, I asked the second mason if he wanted to walk the area.

He shook his head, “Nah. I can see from here the ground is level. Drainage is good. No power lines or obstacles. Already have the dimensions you told me over the phone…”

This fellow didn’t have the confidence and enthusiasm of the first guy, but something about him, put me right at ease. It was like, an instant bond of trust sprang up.

I felt obliged to ask him, “What kind of mortar do you set the bricks with for a wall like this?”

“Fine grit, 20-80 mix, mostly.” He puffed on his pipe. “If we run red brick, most folk like a lighter gray. But I can get just about any color you can think of. Custom colors cost about 20% more. Now, if you’re worried about water, this area here tends to get a lot of moisture, specially in the spring, I can use a special water seal mortar. That’s about double the cost of the standard mortar, but it’ll outlast the rest of your house. In my opinion you don’t need it, but if you want the best… that’s the way to go.”

This mason was solving problems before they happened.

He was informing me, giving me options. What a contrast to the first guy.

“Ok,” says I, “How about a quote for the job? I know it depends on local stock of the bricks and everything but–“

He interrupted me, “Brick prices don’t change much. And if I can’t get the price I want locally, I got a guy the next town over.” He did a few calculations in his head, while puffing on his pipe and spit out a price range within $300.

I stood amazed how fast and put together this guy was.

“So you don’t need to do any special prep to the area, frame anything out with wood, to give me an accurate quote?”

He looked at me with a raised eyebrow.

“Don’t know anything about wood framing for a small brick wall. I’ll bring all the tools I need, line and laser levels. Mixers. Hand tools. I’ll bring everything I need the day I start the job, if you want to go ahead.”

“And when would you know, how long it would take to finish?”

He emptied his pipe in the dirt, “2 days good weather. 3 tops. Right now, I can start anytime you give the go ahead… but if you wait a few weeks or more, my availability might change.”

Which mason would you choose, if you had to make a brick wall?

And more importantly, when it comes to writing or creating comics…



Not quite done.

Later that night my neighbor stopped me while I was in the driveway and said he had overheard my interactions with both masons while he was trimming his bushes.

Turns out, he too needed a mason for a job at his sister’s place…

While I offered to give him the second freelancer’s info, he said, “Ohh no, no. Not that second guy. Give me the info for that first guy, the younger guy.”

My mouth fell agape in confusion, “But that guy didn’t seem to know a dang thing,” I told my neighbor.

“Exactly,” he replied without missing a beat.

You see, my neighbor’s kind of a dick. He went on to explain it in his own words…

“I’ll run that kid around in circles so many times, I’ll have him do three times as much work and for half the price… maybe even for free!”

That’s right, given the choice between the experienced mason who obviously knew his stuff and the guy who didn’t have a clue, my neighbor actually wanted to pick the moron so he could deliberately take advantage of him.

And you know what, it worked out exactly as he planned.

He got the wall built. Had two extra pallets of bricks delivered. And drove the young mason so crazy, he got him to walk away from the finished job with less than half what he quoted him.

My jerk neighbor saw an opening to take advantage of someone’s ignorance and lack of experience… and did just that.


I’ve said it a million times before…

If you’re writing for yourself, nobody cares what or how you do it.

Write naked and smother yourself with mint jelly.

THERE IS NO IMPRESSION TO MAKE when it’s just you alone in your cave.

No one will judge your process, only your final product.


The second you involve other people in any part of your process

You are going to make an impression.

You make your impression in the way you do what you do and the knowledge you bring to the table on the industry, the content and the process.

You attract success in what you do, when you actually know what you’re doing.

So the next time you’re working on that script or book and think about totally dismissing the way its been done for a hundo years or so… remember this article. And remember to ask yourself,

What kind of brick layer are you?