Every once and a while, you come across a book, a blog or a film that strikes a chord with you and you have that “AHA!” moment. It resonates with you because it reinforces a core belief that you hold. Or it touches upon a shared experience that helped shape who you are. And sometimes, it’s a rare voice that gives you permission to continue pursuing that crazy idea or that crazy dream that the “rational world” tells you is a waste of time.
Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys to Creativity, by Hugh MacLeod is definitely one of those books for me. I think most creatives who work in the advertising and design fields have a lot of shared conflicting feelings about the nature of what we do. We need to create. Its core to our being. But we want to work with others. Clients are a necessary driving force and often a partner to the creative process. What that does, however, is compromise some of the more personal motivations behind one’s creativity.
Ignore Everybody brings Hugh’s unique insights to the nature of that creativity, what motivates us to be creative and how to navigate the pitfalls that we so often fall into. Below are four key parts of the book that I found personally enlightening:
1. Good Ideas alter the power balance in relationships. That is why good ideas are always initially resisted
This is very true. It’s human nature to resist change and good ideas almost always bring about change. I doubt there has ever been a paradigm shift that came out of a focus group.
2. Human beings have this thing I call the pissed off gene. Its that bit of our psyche that makes us utterly dissatisfied with our lot, no matter how kindly fortune smiles upon us.
I think people with more dominant, artistic leanings have this trait in abundance, but I know EXACTLY what he is referring to here. It’s this drive that is in our nature that allows us to achieve. If this idea intrigues you at all, read The Moral Animal, by Robert Wright.
3. Sing in your own voice. Picasso was a terrible colorist. Turner couldn’t paint human beings worth a damn. Saul Steinberg’s formal drafting skills were appalling. T. S. Elliot had a full-time day job. Henry Miller was a wildly uneven writer. Bob Dylan can’t sing or play guitar.
Hard to argue with this advice. Actually, its one of the main points I try to convey to young designers and students. One, figure out what you are good at. Two, don’t worry too much if you don’t know what that is yet. Experiment. Try new mediums. Expose yourself to as much art, culture and industry as you can and eventually, you will see what speaks to you.
4. Meaning scales. People don’t. The size of your endeavor doesn’t matter as much as how meaningful it becomes to you.
To me, this speaks to the conflict between our artistic and capitalistic nature. I do know one thing—the endeavors that I have had the most passion and drive for always seemed to have the most successful outcomes. I believe that underneath all the flash and hype, our culture still craves authenticity more than anything else.
Ignore Everybody is worth the read, no matter what profession you are in, but if you are in the ad biz, you should definitely pick this up. You won’t regret it.
So I’ve come to this book(and his blog) a bit late as it was published in 2009. But better late than never. And in another nice surprise, he has a new book that has just come out this week called Evil Plans, Having Fun on the Road to World Domination. I’ll be checking that out as well.
Stay inspired my friends,