Saturday, January 2, 2010

Key One of "Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity"

I bought "Ignore Everybody"  by Hugh MacLeod the very day it was recommended by Derek Sivers on his blog. 

I love it so far.  Don't bother to read it if you are offended by an occasional swear word.      Author Hugh MacLeod  let's it all hang out.  He's got some hilarious stories about his journey of becoming a successful cartoonist by scrawling funny remarks and sketches on the back of business cards - sitting at a bar after-hours from his job as a copywriter for an advertising agency.   Though Hugh is a cartoonist, he provides some pithy tips to those of us making our living through our music.   I'm going to share a series of blogs as I work my way through the book looking for those tips and applications for musicians.
Key One: "Ignore Everybody"

Hugh's basic premise is that you really don't know if your idea is any good the moment it's created.  Nobody else does either, so keep it hush-hush til you've let it rattle around inside you a while, and you've tweaked and developed it some.  He also says "the more original your idea is,  the less good advice other people will be able to give you." because "Great ideas alter the power balance in relationships.  That's why great ideas are initially resisted."

This insight gives a deeper understanding of what Julia Cameron preaches in "The Artist's Way" about drawing a circle around your self and work, and keeping your energy inside that circle, focused entirely on the work.   Protecting it from well-meaning friends, family or business associates.  One raised eyebrow, one lukewarm remark can potentially derail fresh but vulnerable confidence.

Hugh's observation about altering the balance of power in relationships is very helpful in understanding why things get awkward with others when you share your new ideas or songs.   It helps us understand what motivates resistance from others.

Sometimes, I do feel the urge to share a brand new song as soon as I've stirred all main ingredients together.  But I'm usually aware of how uncomfortable sharing prematurely made me feel in the past.    If I don't let the song simmer and stew for a while,  it's probably not going to be as satisfying as I initially imagined.  I'm more likely to abandon it before it even had a chance to develop it's full flavor and aroma from a number of taste, season, and simmer cycles.

Ignore everybody?  How do we do that with the artist-direct-to-fan music business model now firmly established?  There is an increased demand for quick and total access to the artist and product.   It is going to require the artist's confidence and discipline to maintain a level of privacy around him/her self and the work.   We are having to learn to be more business minded and deliberate about how and when we share what.   The artist will know when it is the right time to share.    Otherwise, musicians may sacrifice quality for quantity.

Your thoughts?

To be continued on Key Two


  1. It might be easier to ignore everybody else than to ignore the self-censor (which is likely influenced by our perception of "everybody else".) Imho, The freeing thing about direct-to-fan is the removal of a gatekeeper for "what's worthy" of fan attention.
    8 minutes ago ·

  2. Steve, I so agree with you that it is the inner critic, the "self-censor" that is the toughest battle. When I am able to give myself total freedom to say it wrong, to play it wrong, that is usually when "it" shows up in all it's glory and I both lose and find myself in "it".

    I agree, as well, about the beauty of removing the gatekeeper. Here once again, I now recognize myself as the gatekeeper with whom I must reckon.

  3. I do like that point in theory. Being creative for a living is a weird thing. Our art is so subjective. When I was doing album covers all the time and doing promo work, I would do a shoot, see the proofs and think they are going to HATE these... and they would love it. Other times I thought people would love the stuff and they hated it.

    I think, for me, the key with creative ventures now, given the different dynamic and the direct-to-fan instant access that people expect, is to let people know we are working on stuff, but limit the access to what we are working on while it's in process to those who we trust to be the voice of reason / our toughest critics / greatest fans who really understand what we are capable of.

    I do think having instant feedback could be great sometimes too when it comes to some things. But at the end of the day we need to be brutal in keeping ourselves focused and not allowing the other feedback to kill that creative spark. I'm still looking for that ballance in the new age we live in.

    I just watched "It Might Get Loud"... that documentary with Jimmy Page, the Edge and Jack White... and the take away from that movie for me was toward the end where they were pounding stuff out... talking about keeping writing... keeping going. I love the online community of creative people where we can encourage each other to press on... and for those of us who've been around a long time... to not be afraid of creating new art in this new season.

  4. Seasoning a song with time and objectivity is something that does take disipline which is really hard for someone like me, who has to open up the gift with purchase and start trying everything before I even make it home. A song is the ultimate gift that beackons to be opened and shared.

    Some artists are solely caught up in the process of creating. One of my dearest friends who is a painter could paint masterpiece after masterpiece and never care if a person saw them because the painting of it is enough. I would walk through her home aware that I was witnessing greatness, a secret Getty and yet few will ever see the work. I admired her for this, wondering why it was so important for me to share my work and hoping it wasn't lack of humility. I later realized that I was simply wired completely differently. Like a seed pod that spins off it's tree that is designed with a perpellor that carries it on the wind to be planted and multiply, I have created my music for the love of it yet always had both the will and desire to share it. Neither type of artist can judge the other, though both types can be misunderstood. One is thought to be hiding their light and failing to share it. The other is considered commercial and disinguous as if their art is less pure because it comes with a method of delivery. But yet I believe God wired each of us uniquely for his purposes. There iis no right or wrong, simply a different fingerprint both leaving it's mark.

    From my observations, these tendencies are born into us. Some children quietly creating in their rooms, and others creating flyers for their performances and selling tickets in advance. ... See More

    I look so forward to reading this blog you are going to do. Creating with wisdom as to when to release our work will be a great subject to explore!

  5. Great comments about finding that balance in doing the work of creating for the joy of doing it, and hopefully adding value to the world around us.

    Sometimes I feel like a kindergartner jumping off the school bus with my new finger-painted masterpiece waving from my hand while yelling "Mommy, Mommy look what I did!" Having as much joy in the sharing and parental affirmation as I did in making the mess in the first place. :-)