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And 39 Other Keys to Creativity
Creativity is a mysterious force. You may think that it’s a question of whether you have it or not, but according to Hugh MacLeod, it’s actually one of whether you’ll use it or not.
If you want to learn how he’s a good guy to listen to. And in our “Ignore Everybody summary”, we have a look at each of his 40 keys to creativity.
Who Should Read “Ignore Everybody”? And Why?
“Ignore Everybody” is specifically intended for creative types. True, some of the advises you’ll read here are applicable in other situations as well, but don’t bother if you’re not a writer, a musician, a painter, an architect.
If you are – use this book as a constant reminder. Because sometimes you’ll get an urge to quit your day job – and that’s when you’ll like to remind yourself of MacLeod’s Key #8. And when inevitably you’ll start suffering from writer’s block, Key #25 will certainly help you get over it.
About Hugh MacLeod
Hugh MacLeod is an American author and cartoonist.
He worked as an advertising copywriter for a decade before deciding to focus solely on his ultra-popular blog, gapingvoid.com, where he first published cartoons and then started writing about marketing as well.
In 2004, he published “Ignore Everybody” and “The Hughtrain.” Since then, he’s also authored two more books, “Evil Plans” and “Freedom is Blogging in Your Underwear.”
He regularly lectures on the effects of the Web 2.0 paradigm on modern businesses.
“Ignore Everybody Summary”
And, let’s face it, we can’t think of you as a genius of some sort if you’ve already guessed the first one. Or the fact that we’ll list all 40 of them in a second.
1. Ignore everybody.
That’s the basic premise of Hugh MacLeod’s book: if you want to become something important, you need to be able to ignore everybody.
It’s basically a paradox: the better your idea is, the more original artist you are, the less applicable the advice of those around you will be.
Just think of all the Van Goghs and Mozarts from history who died penniless because they believed what others told them!
You mustn’t repeat their mistake. If you think you’re on to something, you’re probably the only person who knows that.
2. The idea doesn’t have to be big; it just has to be yours.
Joseph Campbell said it best: follow your bliss.
We could have emphasized the second of these three words, but I guess you don’t need us to do that. It’s simple: copying a Mona Lisa will make you an epigone of Da Vinci, which is a fancy word for saying that you won’t pass the plagiarism test of history.
But drawing a mouse – and drawing it nice – will make you original. And, more importantly, yourself.
3. Put the hours in.
Remember the talented guy who sat next to you in Literature and wrote so much better than you ever will?
Well, allow us to enlighten you: he was probably just working much more than you. Because even Mozart wasn’t as talented as you think: he just put the hours in.
4. Good ideas have lonely childhoods.
Back to 1, we guess. So, there’s no need of much explaining: if you’re original, don’t expect to be understood. On the contrary, the better your idea is, the less audience you will have.
5. If your business plan depends on some big shot discovering you, your plan will probably fail.
Oh, come on – it’s the 21st century!
What did you expect? That someone will come knocking at your door and offer you a million dollars for your debut novel?
6. You are responsible for your own experience.
“No one can tell you if it is good or meaningful or worthwhile. The more compelling the path, the more lonely it is.”
Yes, that quote is taken right out of this book! You can tweet it right away – just go to our Quotes section.
7. Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten.
In other words: remember kindergarten? Remember how much you loved drawing? Come high school, and they suddenly took away your crayons.
And you forgot how much you liked them. Take them back. Just listen to the voice inside you saying: ‘’I’d like my crayons back, please.”
8. Keep your day job.
Now, don’t expect to earn money as an artist straight from the bat.
So, be aware that if you’re an artist, you probably are a person with two different jobs: 1) “sex” – which is your sexy, creative job; and 2) “cash” – which is the one which gets you the money.
Chances are – the more original you are, the less likely you’ll merge the two jobs into one.
So – juggle with them!
9. Companies that squelch creativity can no longer compete with companies that champion creativity.
The title of this chapter is so long that we don’t even need to explain it. We’ll let one of our summaries do that instead.
10. Everybody has their own Mount Everest to climb.
There’s no cure-all solution to your creativity problems: your Mount Everest is different from the one others have climbed.
Try climbing it yourself – even if you don’t get to the top, it will be a pleasurable experience!
11. The more talented somebody is, the less they need props.
Steven Spielberg didn’t have money to pay for a model of a shark in “Jaws.” His idea: to shoot from its viewpoint.
So, the camera became the shark and “Jaws” one of the scariest films ever.
12. Don’t try to stand out from the crowd; avoid crowds altogether.
Have you heard about crowd mentality? Then, does MacLeod really has to tell you this? As far as artists are concerned, there’s no wisdom in any crowd.
13. If you accept the pain, it cannot hurt you.
Buddhists say this for millennia. MacLeod says: they’re right!
14. Never compare your inside with somebody else’s outside.
You are the only one who knows what’s happening inside you. And the most you know about the people around you is what happens to them based on their outside.
Don’t make comparisons: there may be storms below the calmest faces. And saddest stories under the shiniest smiles.
15. Dying young is overrated.
It really is. Because it adds nothing to your art you’ll be able to appreciate.
16. The most important thing a creative person can do is to learn professionally where to draw the red line that separates what you are willing to do and what you are not.
You’re really making it easy for us, Hugh!
17. The world is changing.
Constantly. So, don’t expect the old formulas to be applicable both today and tomorrow. Try to adapt.
18. Merit can be bought. Passion can’t.
You know what Angela Duckworth says, right: passion breeds perseverance and the latter breeds greatness.
So, do what you’re most passionate about!
19. Avoid the Watercooler Gang.
Sure you know the Watercooler Gang! They are the guys who try to get you down whenever you’re up. Someone likes your song? They are the ones who say: “So what: many musicians have been one-hit wonders!”
Let us spell that out for you:
A-V-O-I-D! Avoid them!
20. Sing in your own voice.
For someone who favors originality so much, MacLeod is a bit unoriginal. See 1, 2, 4, etc.
21. The choice of media is irrelevant.
It is. Once again – the only thing you need is a medium you’d be interested in. Creativity can be fashioned in all of them.
22. Selling out is harder than it looks.
First of all, because of what we said in 5. And secondly, because of what we said in 1, 2, 4, 20…
23. Nobody cares. Do it for yourself.
Yeah… yeah… we know by now. Ignore everybody.
24. Worrying about “Commercial vs. Artistic” is a complete waste of time.
This is related to 22. And it’s kind of important.
Because people seem to think that if you’re commercial, you’re probably unartistic.
There’s no more commercial writer than Shakespeare, no more popular band than The Beatles, no more profitable artist than Picasso or Dali.
The point is: you won’t know if you’re making something popular or not for most of the time. Because it’s impossible to guess.
25. Don’t worry about inspiration. It comes eventually.
Suffering from a writer’s block? That merely means you have nothing to say at the moment.
How long do you think that will last?
A month? A year? Three years?
The less you worry about it, the faster it will pass.
26. You have to find your own schtick.
Now, this is getting rather obvious: be original and true to yourself. We get it, Hugh.
27. Write from the heart.
If it sounds like a cliché, that’s because it is. And it is – because it’s been proven correct numerous times in the past.
28. The best way to get approval is not to need it.
One of the first lessons you’ll learn from “The Art of Seduction.” The same is true with art itself.
29. Power is never given. Power is taken.
That is: you are not a passive participant in this.
30. Whatever choice you make, the Devil gets his due eventually.
It may seem unfair, but it happens: sooner or later, something bad will happen. You know – the Big Crash. Face it.
31. The hardest part of being creative is getting used to it.
Tell me about it!
I can’t get used to eating vegetables every day, let alone pushing myself to the limits of my creativity. Speaking of which –
32. Remain frugal.
The less energy you spend today, the more you have for tomorrow. So, unless you are a Stephen King type of guy, don’t be too prolific.
33. Allow your work to age with you.
The world is changing. So are you. So should your work.
34. Being poor sucks.
Of course it does! That’s why – see 8.
35. Beware of turning hobbies into jobs.
As we said – see 8!
36. Savor obscurity while it lasts.
Want to be famous? You know that fame comes with a price, right? So, there’s an upside to your current obscurity!
37. Start blogging.
You need absolutely nothing to start blogging. So, why don’t you?
38. Meaning scales, people don’t.
Shakespeare didn’t write many of the things your teacher says that he did. You know why? Because the meaning of what he did changed simultaneously with the world. Even though Shakespeare died way before Eagleton wondered if the Witches in “Macbeth” form a communist sisterhood.
39. When your dreams become reality, they are no longer your dreams.
40. None of this is rocket science.
Key Lessons from “Ignore Everybody”
1. Be True to Yourself and, Thus, Original
2. Art Won’t Pay the Bills Until You Get Famous
3. When You Do – Don’t Forget Us
Be True to Yourself and, Thus, Original
You know why DNA sampling works?
Because everyone has a different DNA. And when you add to this fact the fact that you actually are your DNA, you realize that, according to science, you are a unique being.
So, your artistic creed should be by now obvious: be true to yourself.
Because if you are – you’ll also be original.
Art Won’t Pay the Bills Until You Get Famous
The Beatles said something along these lines, and there’s no need to quote them here. No need to explain either: only a small part of the artists currently working in the world will really make it!
But are you in it for the money?
If so – then you are not an artist. If not – then you need to be something more than it. In other words, a man with two jobs: a sexy, creative one, and one that gets you the money to be able to work on the former.
Bear that in mind. Until you get famous, that is.
When You Do – Don’t Forget Us
When you do become famous, and your dreams become a reality, please don’t be one of those guys who suddenly forget who they were before they were famous.
Because – after all – being true to yourself is what got you there.
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“Ignore Everybody Quotes”Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten. Being suddenly hit years later with the 'creative bug' is just a wee voice telling you, 'I'd like my crayons back, please.’ Click To Tweet Writer's block is just a symptom of feeling like you have nothing to say, combined with the rather weird idea that you should feel the need to say something. Click To Tweet Nobody can tell you if what you’re doing is good, meaningful or worthwhile. The more compelling the path, the more lonely it is. Click To Tweet You have to find your own schtick. A Picasso always looks like Picasso painted it. Hemingway always sounds like Hemingway… Part of being a master is learning how to sing in nobody else's voice but your own. Click To Tweet If your business plan depends on suddenly being ‘discovered’ by some big shot, your plan will probably fail. Nobody suddenly discovers anything. Things are made slowly and in pain. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
Just like the Hugh MacLeod’s 40th key to creativity explicitly states – none of the book’s advices are rocket science. Which means that most of them are both obvious and unoriginal.
However, it also means that you’ll be able to understand them instantly. And that you’ll be able to apply them the very next second.
So, why don’t you start right now?
Your future depends on it.