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Friday, July 2, 2010

Ignore Everybody. Well, everybody but Hugh MacLeod

An odd question many people have asked me over the years is "What is it like being you?" I'm never quite sure how to answer them so I usually reply that it's exhausting because I don't sleep much. The next time someone asks me that I'm going to tell them to read "Ignore Everybody" because it's the closest thing I've ever read that describes what it's like to be me :)

My friend Carl Mindling loves to read. When he finds a great book he purchases several copies and gives them to friends. Over the years he's given me a few because he knew I'd love them too. A few weeks ago he read a book that would have knocked his socks off if he hadn't already taken them off to go to bed. He was so enthralled with the insights shared by cartoonist Hugh MacLeod author of "Ignore Everybody, and 39 Other Keys to Creativity" that after his wife fell asleep he snuck out of bed (so as not to disturb her) and sat in their closet (I hope it was a walk in) to finish reading it in one sitting. It was that good.

After reading "Ignore Everybody" I completely agree with Carl. This is a fantastic book. I feel like I've finally found someone I can identify with when it comes to being a creative entrepreneur. Hugh looks at the up side and the dark underbelly of being a creative person in business. The funny/mind blowing/reassuring thing to me, is that a lot of what he says perfectly describes the course of my creative life.

It was in 1997 that Hugh became "The artist who draws cartoons on the backs of a business cards." It was so not professional, so not the path, so not what could ever be turned into a "real" business, until it was. While some of his cartoons may be a bit overt for my personal taste and his vocabulary a bit more colorful (profanity laced) than my own, the book and his perspective and advice are so spot on that page by page I felt a little giddy and couldn't stop smiling, laughing out loud and nodding my head in agreement because everything he was saying was resonating with me pretty much at the core of my being.

That's the core of my being resonating with Hugh's book.
Bwaaa haaa haaa...

People often tell me I'm "lucky" to be "so creative." While luck (or genetics) may have something to do with it I've also worked incredibly hard to build my business and even harder not to lose my ability to think creatively. Dropping out of college 3 months before graduating with an Advertising Art degree was probably perceived as really stupid by a lot of people. But even as I earned good grades, day by day the formulaic teaching methodology was killing my creativity. So I walked away.

My favorite line in the book was this:

"And if you don't see yourself as particularly creative, that's not reality, that's a self-imposed limitation. Only you can decide whether you want to carry that around with you forever."

I believe that. I really do.

I've often told people that being creative is simply the willingness to stop thinking your age and think as if you were 5 years old again allowing your mind to wander amidst child like possibilities. It's not about ignoring the self limiting adult voice dictating to you what is and isn't possible. It's silencing and removing that voice altogether. Your mind needs to fill with imagination, that's how creative ideas are born. You simply can't let the lack of vision or limitations of others, impact your decision to move forward when it comes to thinking creatively. (How else could I have ever become a self taught, full time, couture bridal accessory designer, a self taught web designer and developer, a blogger, a public speaker...)

Pursuing your ideas is another step altogether. To pursue an idea you have to expand on it by being a visionary. Ideally you need to see the big picture. You need to envision each step of making your idea work and solutions to any problems along the way. You can't do that if you can't think creatively.

So what's your creative dream? What's holding you back? Why not just go for it?

I've often heard people talk about the financial investment or the time it will take to pursue their passion as the reason why they aren't moving forward with it. To which I can only respond that they have probably spent as much or more time and money in the past on things far less worthy. The truth of the matter is that money and time usually aren't the reasons people don't pursue their creative passions...

If you feel you "don't have a creative bone in your body" that belief probably took over your psyche many years ago. One day you shared a creative thought as a child and most likely an adult you trusted and respected replied "You can't do that" not meaning you shouldn't do that, meaning you aren't capable of doing that. It's a sad thing that with just a few simple words, that weren't meant to be spirit crushing, an adult who has accepted their self-imposed limitations can unknowingly and so effortlessly pass them on to a child. Think about it, just a moment before that same child was brimming with ideas because they still lived in a world full of imagination and creative possibilities. But with the single sentence "You can't do that" everything changed. The possibilities were replaced with doubts. Suddenly all that seemed possible became a mirage.

Child: Today I want to build a log cabin out of dog treats.
Adult: You can't do that.

I am very fortunate that I had two parents who both encouraged me to see possibilities, relatives and friends who supported my creative endeavors, and an art instructor who basically allowed my imagination free reign while in high school. Thanks to them I mustered up enough confidence in my creativity that later in life I never listened to the naysayers.

For years I've been telling people that the attempt to succeed is as worthwhile and valuable as succeeding itself. It's exercising your imagination, not wasted effort. To me, the attempt means you're open to the concept of possibilities. That my friends, is a great thing.

If you go to Hugh's blog "Gaping Void.com" you can read the first 25% of "Ignore Everybody."

Here are some excerpts from one of my favorite chapters:
"6. 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 books on algebra etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the creative bug is just a wee voice telling you, “I’d like my crayons back, please.

”So you’ve got the itch to do something. Write a screenplay, start a painting, write a book, turn your recipe for fudge brownies into a proper business, whatever. You don’t know where the itch came from, it’s almost like it just arrived on your doorstep, uninvited. Until now you were quite happy holding down a real job, being a regular person…

Until now.

You don’t know if you’re any good or not, but you’d think you could be. And the idea terrifies you. The problem is, even if you are good, you know nothing about this kind of business. You don’t know any publishers or agents or all these fancy-shmancy kind of folk. You have a friend who’s got a cousin in California who’s into this kind of stuff, but you haven’t talked to your friend for over two years…

Besides, if you write a book, what if you can’t find a publisher? If you write a screenplay, what if you can’t find a producer? And what if the producer turns out to be a crook? You’ve always worked hard your whole life, you’ll be damned if you’ll put all that effort into something if there ain’t no pot of gold at the end of this dumb-ass rainbow…

Heh. That’s not your wee voice asking for the crayons back. That’s your outer voice, your adult voice, your boring & tedious voice trying to find a way to get the wee crayon voice to shut the hell up...

...They’re only crayons. You didn’t fear them in kindergarten, why fear them now?"
The photo of Hugh and his cartoons are from his website: GapingVoid.com


  1. Seriously an awesome first 25% of the book! I am SO getting this to read. Thanks for sharing!


  2. Hi Stacie, Welcome to Carl’s book club. What a great book and so right on for the wandering mind. It’s so nice to know there are more artist in the world that think alike and yet in all different directions. The blog looks great.

  3. Seriously an awesome first 25% of the book! I am SO getting this to read. Thanks for sharing!


  4. Hi Stacie, Welcome to Carl’s book club. What a great book and so right on for the wandering mind. It’s so nice to know there are more artist in the world that think alike and yet in all different directions. The blog looks great.


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