Thursday, April 18, 2013

Take Umm… 40? With Hugh MacLeod

Image © Hugh Macleod and
This Thursday, instead of our normal take five post, I wanted to share some amazing advice from cartoonist Hugh MacLeod. I recently got the chance to read his book: Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys to Creativity and was blown away by some of the really powerful observations he made about living a creative life. I'll be posting up all 40 of his key points below, but I highly suggest you pick up a copy of the book itself because it is definitely worth the read!!!  Hugh even lets you read the first 25% of the book for free if you click here!

Ignore everybody.

“The more original your idea is, the less good advice other people will be able to give you. When I first started with the cartoon-on-the-back-of-bizcard format, people thought I was nuts. Why wasn’t I trying to do something that was easier for markets to digest, like cutie-pie greeting cards or whatever?”

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.”

Put the hours in.

“Doing anything worthwhile takes forever. Ninety percent of what separates successful people and failed people is time, effort and stamina.”

Good ideas have lonely childhoods.

“This is the price you pay, every time. There is no way of avoiding it.”

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.”

You are responsible for your own experience.

“Nobody can tell you if what you are doing is good, meaningful, or worthwhile. The more compelling the path, the more lonely it is.”

Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten.

“Then when you hit puberty, they take the crayons away and replace them with dry, uninspiring books on algebra, history, etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the “creative bug” is just a weak voice telling you, “I’d like my crayons back please.”

Keep your day job.

“I’m not just saying that for the usual reason – that is, because I think your idea will fail. I’m saying it because to suddenly quit one’s job in a big ol’ creative drama-queen moment is always, always, always a direct conflict with what I call “The Sex & Cash Theory.”

Companies that squelch creativity can no longer compete with companies that champion creativity.

“Nor can you bully a subordinate into becoming a genius.”

Everybody has their own private Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb.

“You may never reach the summit; for that you will be forgiven. But if you don’t make at least one serious attempt to get above the snow line, years later you will find yourself lying on your deathbed, and all you will feel is emptiness.”

The more talented somebody is, the less they need props.

“Meeting a person who wrote a masterpiece on the back of a deli menu would not surprise me. Meeting a person who wrote a masterpiece with a silver Cartier fountain pen on an antique writing table in an airy SoHo loft would seriously surprise me.”

Don't try and stand out from the crowd; avoid crowds altogether.

“Your plan for getting your work out there has to be as original as the actual work, perhaps even more so. The work has to create a totally new market. There’s no point trying to do the same thing as 250,000 other young hopefuls, waiting for a miracle. All existing business models are wrong. Find a new one.”

If you accept the pain, it cannot hurt you.

"The pain of making the necessary sacrifices always hurts more than you think it’s going to. I know. It sucks. The being said, doing something seriously creative is one of the most amazing experiences one can have, in this or any other lifetime. If you can pull it off, it’s worth it. Even if you don’t end up pulling it off, you’ll learn many incredible, magical, valuable things. It’s not doing it – when you know full well you had the opportunity – that hurts far more than any failure."

Never compare your inside with somebody else’s outside.

“The more you practice your craft, the less you confuse worldly rewards with spiritual rewards, and vice-versa. Even if your path never makes any money or furthers your career, that’s still worth a ton.”

Dying young is overrated.

“I’ve seen so many young people take the “Gotta do the drugs and booze thing to make me a better artist” route over the years. A choice that wasn’t smart, original, effective, healthy, or ended happily.”

The most important thing a creative person can learn professionally is where to draw the red line that separates what you are willing to do from what you are not.

“Art suffers the moment other people start paying for it. The more you need the money, the more people will tell you what to do. The less control you will have. The more bullshit you will have to swallow. The less joy it will bring. Know this and plan accordingly.”

The world is changing.

“Some people are hip to it, others are not. If you want to be able to afford groceries in five years, I’d recommend listening closely to the former and avoiding the latter. Just my two cents.”

Merit can be bought. Passion can’t.

“The only people who can change the world are people who want to. And not everybody does.”

Avoid the Watercooler Gang.

“They’re a well meaning bunch, but they get in the way eventually.”

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. Eliot had a full-time day job. Henry Miller was a wildly uneven writer. Bob Dylan can’t sing or play guitar.”

The choice of media is irrelevant.

“Every medium’s greatest strength is also it’s greatest weakness. Every form of media is a set of fundamental compromises. One is not “higher” than the others. A painting doesn’t do much, it just sits there on a wall. That’s the best and worst thing about it. Film combines sound, movement, photography, music, acting. That’s the best and worst thing about it. Prose just uses words arranged in linear form to get its point across. That’s the best and worst thing about it, etc.”

Selling out is harder than it looks.

“Diluting your product to make it more “commercial” will just make people like it less.”

Nobody cares. Do it for yourself.

“Everybody is too busy with their own lives to give a damn about your book, painting, screenplay, etc., especially if you haven’t finished it yet. And the ones who aren’t too busy you don’t want in your life anyway.”

Worrying about “Commercial vs. Artistic” is a complete waste of time.

“You can argue about “Selling Out” versus “Artistic Purity” till the cows come home. People were kvetching about it in 1850, and they’ll be kvetching about it in 2150.”

Don’t worry about finding inspiration. It comes eventually.

“Inspiration precedes the desire to create, not the other way round.”

You have to find your own shtick.

“A Picasso always looks like Picasso painted it. Hemingway always sounds like Hemingway. A Beethoven symphony always sounds like a Beethoven symphony. Part of being a master is learning how to sing in nobody else’s voice but your own.”

Write from the heart.

“There is no silver bullet. There is only the love God gave you.”

The best way to get approval is not to need it.

“This is equally true in art and business. And love. And sex. And just about everything else worth having.”

Power is never given. Power is taken.

“People who are 'ready' give off a different vibe from people who aren’t. Animals can smell fear. And the lack thereof.”

Whatever choice you make, the Devil gets his due eventually.

“Selling out to Hollywood comes with a price. So does not selling out. Either way, you pay in full, and yes, it invariably hurts like hell.”

The hardest part of being creative is getting used to it.

“If you have the creative urge, it isn’t going to go away. But sometimes it takes a while before you accept the fact.”

Remain frugal.

“The less you can live on, the more chance your idea will succeed. This is true even after you’ve 'made it.'”

Allow your work to age with you.

“You become older faster than you think. Be ready for it when it happens.”

Being poor sucks.

“The biggest mistake young people make is underestimating how competitive the world is out there.”

Beware of turning hobbies into jobs.

“It sounds great, but there is a downside.”

Savor obscurity while it lass.

“Once you 'make it,' your work is never the same.

Start blogging.

“The ease with which a blog (or whatever social medium you prefer) can circumvent the gatekeepers is staggering.”

Meaning scales, people don’t.

"It may be modest, it may not be. It could be a little candle shop; it could be a software company with the GNP of Sweden. It doesn't matter. Meaning Scales."

When your dreams become reality, they are no longer your dreams.

“If you are successful, it’ll never come from the direction you predicted. Same is true if you fail.”

If this hit home with you, make sure to pick up a copy of Hugh's Book Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys to Creativity so you can get the full story behind each of these amazing statements!

Hugh MacLeodHugh Macleod is a cartoonist, author and creator of and Social Object Factory.  He currently has three amazing books for sale: Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys to Creativity, Evil Plans, and Freedom is Blogging in Your Underwear.

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