Thursday, March 19, 2009

Upcoming Book Review: Ignore Everybody

One of the greatest pieces of advice I've ever heard is this: when a person gives you advice, it's just as important to scrutinize the person giving the advice as it is to consider the advice itself. Ask yourself: would you take financial advice from a bum begging for change? Advice on what restaurants are good from a person whose diet is made up of fast food and pizza? I definitely wouldn't. 

So whenever I hear advice on how to succeed as a creative person, I'm skeptical. A person giving advice on writing should frequently write themselves. Someone who thinks they know all about music should, generally speaking, listen to and play a wide variety of music. So I hope you'll believe me when I tell you that Hugh Macleod, author of the blog and upcoming book Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys to Creativity, is a person to listen to. Hugh draws cartoons on the back of business cards, the most powerful of which to me resonate some stark truths he's found in his life as a creative, like so:

Sometimes the cartoons are just his thoughts, which are often crass and humorous:

If any person can tell me how to succeed in the artistic world, it is the man who has the ability to make money by selling doodles on the back of business cards. This is as good a time as any to give full disclosure: I have every reason to like this book, and few not to. I one day hope to make a living off of my creativity. I read Hugh's original Ignore Everybody post a year ago and enjoyed it immensely. I've re-read his thoughts several times since then. I even enjoy Hugh's artwork, which is by no means a requirement for enjoying his book, though there may be some correlation.

If you've never heard of Hugh, want to be a creative and maybe laugh a bit, make your way to his excellent blog and buy Ignore Everybody. The insights in the book are largely the same from the original musings posted, although a few ideas, such as more on the nature of good ideas and how such ideas spread, have been expanded upon. 

And if you have heard of Hugh, know that the book's abundant cartoons (80 to be precise) make it something special and different from its online counterpart. 

If you haven't read the book, here is an excerpt taken from Hugh's site which also gives some more insight into its author:

2. The idea doesn't have to be big. It just has to be yours.
The sovereignty you have over your work will inspire far more people than the actual content ever will.
We all spend a lot of time being impressed by folk we've never met. Somebody featured in the media who's got a big company, a big product, a big movie, a big bestseller. Whatever.

And we spend even more time trying unsuccessfully to keep up with them. Trying to start up our own companies, our own products, our own film projects, books and whatnot.

I'm as guilty as anyone. I tried lots of different things over the years, trying desperately to pry my career out of the jaws of mediocrity. Some to do with business, some to do with art etc.

One evening, after one false start too many, I just gave up. Sitting at a bar, feeling a bit burned out by work and life in general, I just started drawing on the back of business cards for no reason. I didn't really need a reason. I just did it because it was there, because it amused me in a kind of random, arbitrary way.

Of course it was stupid. Of course it was uncommercial. Of course it wasn't going to go anywhere. Of course it was a complete and utter waste of time. But in retrospect, it was this built-in futility that gave it its edge. Because it was the exact opposite of all the "Big Plans" my peers and I were used to making. It was so liberating not to have to be thinking about all that, for a change.

It was so liberating to be doing something that didn't have to impress anybody, for a change.

It was so liberating to be doing something that didn't have to have some sort of commercial angle, for a change.

It was so liberating to have something that belonged just to me and no one else, for a change.

It was so liberating to feel complete sovereignty, for a change. To feel complete freedom, for a change.

And of course, it was then, and only then, that the outside world started paying attention.

The sovereignty you have over your work will inspire far more people than the actual content ever will. How your own sovereignty inspires other people to find their own sovereignty, their own sense of freedom and possibility, will give the work far more power than the work's objective merits ever will.

Your idea doesn't have to be big. It just has to be yours alone. The more the idea is yours alone, the more freedom you have to do something really amazing.

The more amazing, the more people will click with your idea. The more people click with your idea, the more this little thing of yours will snowball into a big thing.

That's what doodling on business cards taught me.

If you get a chance, check it out. In the end, it's a book about finding what you love and pursue it with all your heart. Have fun, be open to new things, and just rejoice in the life you have. As Hugh likes to say, rock on, with whatever it is you do. Hopefully this book will help you rock as much as it's helped me. I'll leave you with one more cartoon, my favorite:

Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys to Creativity will be released on June 11th, 2009

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