Tuesday, January 5, 2010

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

Key Two of "Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity"
by Hugh MacLeod of gapingvoid.com

I'm reading and searching this book for outside-the-box creativity and marketing ideas for professional musicians.   Hugh has had unlikely success with his art and business of doodling on the back of business cards after hours from his day job as a copywriter.  Please join me in evaluating the 40 keys to creativity he suggests.

Key Two - "The idea doesn't have to be big.  It just has to be yours." ~ Hugh MacLeod

At first blush, Hugh, this resonates as truth with me.   However, when I begin to drill down and think about myself as a musician, writer and performer,  I feel a little squirmy - I mean- is there really anything I've ever done, written or sung that's completely original?  Is there perhaps a continuum of originality?

After-all, history is the memory – the intelligence, if you will,  of what has been seen, heard, felt, done, experienced, tasted, smelled, sung, etc. across the spectrum of time.  History encapsulates the remembrances of what came before it was reported.  That memory is the fabric displaying the continuum of interwoven threads of discovery now informing our own current creative thoughts and expressions.                  

Isn't all art, dance, song, cuisine, religion, philosophy, architecture, mechanics, agriculture, technology, manufacturing, sociology, psychology, medicine, law, well - isn't everything is predicated upon and intertwined with what came before it?   As Helen Keller stated “No one truly owns anything or anyone.” To quote a proverb from King Solomon of the Old Testament of the Bible - "There is nothing new under the sun." Everything evolves from state to state.

Therefore, the practice of MacLeod’s mantra that “it has to be yours”  has the potential of leading a musician to a state of creative and professional paralysis.  If I only allow myself to invest in my work when I am convinced my melody or lyric is completely unique, not influenced by any other artist or music, then they'd probably have to bury me without having finished a single tune.  

But then MacLeod states:
“The sovereignty you have over your work will inspire far more people than the actual content ever will.”

Ah - ha! So, maybe he wants us to think of sovereignty or ownership as the governing of self in the creative process,  rather than the governing of  “it” i.e.  the creation.  It is when I am totally invested in the process that I have the freedom to apply my passionate and creative energy to the idea, work, song, or dance.  As I am consumed by it and give my self freely to "it" - "it" becomes something new or “mine.”   That is the freedom that Hugh talks about.  It is when I get into that zone, things begin to happen.   Other people click with "it" and my little song begins to snowball, because it is then that I just might inspire others to do their own creative work.

How?  How do we get ourselves into that zone?  Any ideas?  I'd love to hear them.
Please leave a comment!



  1. Pam -
    Love this post because it's such a struggle when you are creating something. "It's been done" sounds off in your mind (that's the voice I try and ignore)

    But there is a you-ness that we bring to every idea. That's where we have to shine - in that you-ness. And believe me - you do! Love your stuff!

  2. I completely get where you areat here too. I've been writting songs for over 20 years now and all too many times I've been discouraged by how unoriginal my song are. Though he's an odd one to quote here Lenny Kravitz once responded in an interview "I just write the songs God gives me". I often think that way when I feel frustrated or hopeless about the songs I write. I guess for me the bad songs are the ones I write when I'm trying to sound like ssonething else. It's the songs that are from the deepest parts of me, the authentic true sings that are the best. Even if they aren't original or new.

  3. "As I am consumed by it and give my self freely to "it" - "it" becomes something new or “mine.”

    Pam, your interpretation of what he says makes more sense to me than his contention that sovereignty (ownership?) is more inspiring than content. I think of sovereignty not as ownership but authority, integrity.

    How do we get into that zone? Probably has a lot to do with key one: ignore everyone, including our own internalized censor. I think artists learn to become excellent trackers, following the energy of a work like a scent. You learn to recognize when it's hot or cold. You learn to trust yourself in the process and while you are in it, to care about nothing else.

    Elizabeth Cunningham www.passionofmarymagdalen.com

  4. Certainly creativity doesn't exist in a vacuum. Otherwise what do you call inspiration? I see an image, hear a sound, wonder what if, and then I am lead by my imagination. There is a spark and then you build on it to create your own fire to draw others to warm themselves.

  5. I am loving this conversation. Thank you,all, for your input.

  6. Anything you create bears your Mark (pun intended Pam). Complete originals (if such things exist) have no context and are abstract. Only the artist knows if they have been successful, others may or may not understand... sometimes not even the artist understands. The acts of exploration and expression establish an artist. Popularity and acceptance are entirely separate matters.

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  8. As you say, what is left to be original? However, when you think of original works of others, are they not \ have they not worked with existing elements? But in my mind I see the "yours" as personal not necessarily original. You do exercise a sovereignty of sorts in that it comes from you and all the varied influences that make this idea, melody, visual come out of you. The resonance this may strike with others may be from shared humanity or a sense of your skin in the game (I can't help but love the risk I see others subject themselves to...I'm a coward.) What I find fascinating is the personal interpretations that may be wide of the artists original intent or spark but may seems as valid to the observing participant.

  9. While there is "nothing new under the sun," I think we each bring part of the uniqueness of ourselves to the table. One of my friends has a painting group that meets once a month or so at her house. They all paint the same thing, and I'm always amazed at how different everyone's paintings are in the end. Great art is like that. It gives us a slightly different view of something we've seen before. Different artists move me in different ways. I'm always amazed at Patty Griffin's ability to marry her guitar with her voice with such intensity. Her songwriting moves me do deeply. Guys like David Wilcox can manage to communicate deep truths in their music one moment and be singing about something completely crazy the next. That's what I loved about DA too. Jesus was a story teller. All of us who have been around a long time have accumulated our own stories to tell. I agree with you that we are a part of a generation who is disenfranchised with a lot of the new music that is being marketed. I think there is a place for us to be true to our creative gifting as boomers as well. Who know's what might pop out of us in the future.

    That for me is where having a creative community is a wonderful gift. I miss that. When I was younger I had a bunch of creative friends... we would encourage each other and kick each other's butts too sometimes. I'm finding that online now as well. And through books like the one you are reading. (I read it at the same time and really enjoyed it.)