Pam Mark Hall's Summary of "Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity" by Hugh MacLeod
I bought "Ignore Everybody" by Hugh MacLeod the very day it was recommended by Derek Sivers on his blog. Here's my summary of creative and marketing advice I found applicable to a musical career.
1. Ignore Everybody.
Pam Mark Hall said...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 advice really applies to both the creative process itself, i.e. writing the song, rehearsing the song, recording the song, as well as to the marketing of the recording of the song or the act. It gives another take on 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.
Linda B. said..."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."
Christina Duane said...
"Seasoning a song with time and objectivity is something that does take discipline 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 beckons to be opened and shared."
2. The idea doesn't have to be big, it just has to be yours.
Pam Mark Hall said...This is the one that got most response from my readers. Musicians scrutinize the concept of "ownership"and originality.
Grandma Mary said...
"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. "
Elizabeth Cunningham said... "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
Rick Conklin said...
"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."
Steve Bell said...
"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 seem as valid to the observing participant."
Dani Hoy said...
"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."
Pam Mark Hall said...
Yes, 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".
Pam Mark Hall said... 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.
Don't worry about what's the hippest, newest latest - do your own thing. Commit to yourself, because being authentically you is the most powerful, attractive thing you can do.
"The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel." ~ Piet Mondrian
3. Put the hours in.
Pam Mark Hall said... On Christmas morning when I was six, I was seriously surprised when I opened my "big gift" and discovered that gorgeous red and white record player. Then I opened my 45's of "Tammy" by Debbie Reynolds, "How Much is that Doggie in the Window," and a 33 LP of children's songs including "I Went to the Animal Fair." I was ecstatic! I was totally hooked. I spent hours and hours playing those records and singing them over and over again. I had absolutely no idea anyone was paying attention to me, I was totally absorbed in the joy of participating in the performance of the song. I spent most of my childhood hopping off the school bus, running home, getting a snack and then playing my records, or playing the piano by ear and picking out tunes I knew, which led to my composing my own songs. I was totally enveloped in my own world with the music. Now, as an adult, I find I have to give myself permission to go there. Shouldn't you be "doing" something? Like cleaning the house, raking the yard, making business phone calls, Twittering? Shut those voices up, and go pick up your guitar, sit at the piano, begin playing something you know, it will lead to the next thing. I can always find that sweet place and I will hear something new.. I just need to give it the time and show up.
Dani Hoy said...
"Often I've heard the cliche "Do what you love and the money will follow." I imagine this has worked for some. Maybe it should be "Do what you love over and over until it's amazing and the money will follow."
4. Good Ideas Have Lonely Childhoods. "This is the price you pay, every time. There is no way of avoiding it."
Pam Mark Hall said...Basically the message continues to be - get down to it. Do the work, don't parade it around before it's time. Protect your muse personally and professionally. This also reminds me of Joni Mitchell's lyric in "A Case of You": "I am a lonely painter, I live in a box of paints", that her seemingly glamorous life is at the expense of many lonely hours.
Christina Duane said..."I love Hugh MacCleod's writing. Yes. There is a universal law, I am convinced that when we let the air into the vintage too soon, it is prevented from reaching it's full presentation. There is a part of me that wants to test this principle and share the enthusiasm of the idea because why should I have to be so self protecting and why would the project not succeed just because I want to share something so exciting? But every time the principle is tested. I learn the principle is non-negotiable."
Pam Mark Hall said...Yes, Christina, I agree that universal law refuses to bend to the superego's need for parental affirmation. Yes, yes, when the right time comes, there will be the reward of the deep satisfaction of having done the work - but the need to be affirmed at some stunted childhood development level must be acknowledged, comforted and quieted while we continue the work to completion.
darrell a. harris said...It's been years since I read Calvin Seerveld's "Directing Imperatives" for artists (in his "Rainbows for the Fallen World.") But it seems I remember him calling for creativity to be nourished in the context of a community of artists. He may have been suggesting a community that cuts across artistic disciplines. Can't recall. Where do you think the balance is?
Pam Mark Hall said..."Darrell, the concept of creativity being nourished in the context of artistic community is not addressed in MacLeod's book, and I agree it is important. Where's the balance? I like what Christina Duane said...in the post prior to yours: "Maybe this is because of the intimate communion we can have in exploring and developing our idea of ourselves in communion with our creator and inner circle of our creative partners and the effect that has on the work."
Pam Mark Hall said...Is the inner circle of creative partners one established through intuition? Trial and error? I have certainly been discovering a new sense of creative community via social media. Yet, the caution of being careful and deliberate about what to share is in place. Musicians in particular need to be careful with whom they share their business ideas. Sure we all would prefer to be rescued from the responsibilities that are included in the job-description of "artist." We are sometimes lulled into the delusion that the details are being taken care of, and therefore fail to pay attention to important day to day details.
5. If your business plan depends on some big shot discovering you, your plan will probably fail.
Pam Mark Hall said... Oh sure, Hugh, I've thought if I could only meet so and so, then he'd/she'd recognize how amazing I am and help me get this or that deal and help me gain a broader audience. Well, I've met big shots through the years, but more importantly it's all the little things I've done, and day-to-day relationships that have created the musical/artistic/community tapestry I now have. It's been the sum of all these things that have created the trajectory of my career. I sang and tap danced for school shows, performed in talent contests, beauty contests with talent segments, traveled with a nationally musical touring group, fronted rock bands, sang the national anthem before baseball games, sang on the sidewalk at Fisherman's Warf in San Francisco, started a coffee house through the YMCA and booked talent to perform there, including myself, sang at anti-war demonstrations, sang at weddings, sang at churches, sang at youth camps, sang at conferences, taught song-writing classes, worked with homeless songwriters, wrote a song for underprivileged teens to perform with them at a fundraiser for their music program and did many things that didn't seem to have anything to do with a musical career.
Success may partially be impacted by who you know, but it's not really the big shots, it's those in your circle of influence who are always there believing in you to take that next step, who loved you all the way from the first record player, through piano lessons, to the stage you had wings to fly.
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."
Pam Mark Hall said... I love Mississippi John Hurt's version of "You Got Walk That Lonesome Valley. And I embrace my the responsibility for walkin that lonesome valley. All of these keys are connected. Bottom line, it is about listening within yourself for guidance. It is about being authentic and absolutely loving what it is we are envisioning, birthing, and creating.
7. Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten.
Pam Mark Hall said... MacLeod says that "we hit puberty and they take our crayons away and replace it with Algebra, History and boring subjects. He say that later down the road we may just hear that small wee voice saying ' I'd like my crayons back please.' "
Pam Mark Hall said...Picasso put it this way: Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain artist once he grows up. Some of us actually kept our box of crayons and continued drawing, or playing an instrument, or dancing, etc. We were lucky that way. However, when we got to college, and were facing adulthood and being self-supporting, we weren't given the tools to keep playing music and generate a livelihood. So, at least in the 70's, we threw caution to the wind and followed our muse, whatever that may have been. In my case, I was able to make a good living for fifteen years with my music, until circumstances redirected me.
8. Keep your day job.
MacLeod says the creative person has two different kinds of jobs 1) the sexy creative kind "Sex" and the one that pays the bills "Cash" the job that He posits that this tense duality will never be transcended.
Pam Mark Hall said... Well, it can be a challenge when all you've ever done professionally is write songs, record songs and tour into your 30's and then, wham you got two kids and a mortgage. There are plenty of music business degrees in colleges around the country. But how many of them offer a "Sex" and "Cash" course to teach musicians how to make a living as well as music? I do agree with his theory that in order to maintain personal creative freedom, you must protect your muse by not requiring it to perform for the landlord. You must have some other means of generating revenue. As a musician, It's not out of the question that a person can harness their talent for both "Cash" and "Sex." It's possible to musically generate revenue - say transcriptions, or playing covers as a regular at a local fancy restaurant. "Cash" as well "Sex" - writing original music and recording it on your home studio.
9. Companies that squelch creativity can no longer compete with companies that champion creativity.
Pam Mark Hall said... Nice work if you can get it. Or maybe the key is for musicians to have non-creative day jobs so they have their creativity reservoirs full when they get home, have a bite to eat and then get to creating.
10. Everybody has their own Mount Everest to climb.
Pam Mark Hall said...Whatever it is, you've got to climb it. You may not make it to the top, but in the end you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you at least put on your boots and gear and made it to the snow line.
I may never sell a million CDs, but I can have the personal satisfaction of knowing I at least activated myself to dig deep and write some wonderful songs. And that I activated myself and somehow got them recorded and distributed to people who wanted to hear them. And that I am continuing to learn new technology so I can record new songs myself. And that I am making the effort to make that music available to the small group of people who have indicated my music brings them pleasure.
And I continue making these efforts in the face of physical, emotional and financial challenges.
11. The more talented somebody is, the less they need props.
Pam Mark Hall said... The latest and greatest Mac and applications, or latest controller for the keyboard, or pedal board for the guitar, or fill in the blank. These things can actually be detours away from the actual work of writing, practicing, singing, or picking up the phone to make a connection.
12. Don't try to stand out from the crowd; avoid crowds altogether.
Pam Mark Hall said... This is excellent advice, especially for those of us who are regrouping for our second career in music. Why try to compete with the half million 20 - 30 somethings for a market you don't relate to and doesn't relate to you since you are a Boomer?
13. If you accept the pain, it can not hurt you.
Pam Mark Hall said...Hugh, you're getting pretty Zen on us. The beginning of all suffering is desire. So how does one motivate themselves to take action? What do you love? Take a step towards it, but never cling to it.
14. Never compare your inside with somebody else's outside.
Pam Mark Hall said...We never know what is really going on with anyone else. What the price of their "success" may be costing them.
15. Dying young is overrated.
Pam Mark Hall said...This is a no-brainer really. We've watched way too many brilliant musicians waste their minds and health on drugs and alcohol.
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.
Pam Mark Hall said...This is really true for all human beings. In order to draw a line that separates what you will and will not do, you have to spend time clarifying your values. You've got to look inward and make some decisions about what is important to you and base your life's choices on those values, as Stephen Covey would recommend. Winston Churchill once stated that an unexamined life is a life not worth living.
17. The world is changing.
Pam Mark Hall said...This can be a frightening or exciting reality depending on whether or not an individual is open to learning and growing. I know a person who used to be the VP of marketing and promotions at a major label. He still refuses to use a computer or the internet. His commitment to his own unique abilities is admirable, however, he is now not able to assist breaking artists as he once was.
As Dylan once pronounced "please get out of the new road if you can't lend a hand, for the times they are a changing."
18. Merit can be bought. Passion can't.
Pam Mark Hall said...I'm not sure what the first part of this phrase means, but I do know what it means to have no passion for the work at hand. And it feels like death.
19. Avoid the watercooler gang.
Pam Mark Hall said...In the music industry, the watercooler gang, is equivalent to the staff songwriters I often encounter at the post office or local pub. They may have had a couple of number one hits, but all they have to talk about now is about how hard it is. "Hey Joe, what are you up to these days?" Joe - "Same ol, same ol. Writing and more writing. Got a couple of songs on hold for X Super Star, just keeping my fingers crossed." And year by year their spirits sink, and want to bring you down with them. Why not create a new path?
20. Sing in your own voice.
Pam Mark Hall said...I recently took some very old tapes in to have baked and remastered and digitized. I cringed when I hear myself at 16 years of age emulating Joan Baez, then at 18 - Judy Collins, then at 19 - Joni Mitchell. By the time I was 23, when I recorded my first nationally distributed album, I'd also been influenced by so many others: the Beatles, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Beach Boys, the Kinks, the Animals and James Taylor - and I began to relax into my own voice. Sure you can hear elements of all of the above, but now I am told I have my very own identifiable sound. It takes time to accrue influences, filter and incorporate into the timber, vibrations of your own vocal chords and attitude.
21. The choice of media is irrelevant.
Pam Mark Hall said...The principles of being an unique artist are transferable.
22. Selling out is harder than it looks. Diluting your product to make it more "commercial" will just make people like it less.
Pam Mark Hall said...Once again, be authentically you!
23. Nobody cares. Do it for yourself.
Pam Mark Hall said...I have found this to be so true. People are very busy trying to figure all the same things out. "They" don't have time to be paying attention to you. It is a mental discipline to block the mind from obsessing about what a certain party who might be influential in your career is thinking. For years, I tied myself up in knots about this. But I finally proved to myself that I could achieve what I am passionate about, and if it has a purpose beyond my own passing satisfaction.
24. Worrying about "Commercial vs. Artistic" is a complete waste of time.
Pam Mark Hall said...Can you really name what makes one product commercial and what makes another artistic? Over my 35 year career, the songs, recordings and projects that have been most successful, have been the ones that I just gave myself over to as a conduit for what was there. Of course I did rewrites and tweaking. But I did not try to manage the muse. I listened and I transcribed. Of course the inspiration came as a result of everything that I exposed myself to visually, music, books, and conversations
25. Don't worry about inspiration. It comes eventually.
Pam Mark Hall said...As the author C.S. Lewis once wrote in "Surprised by Joy" - I am surprised by inspiration. It comes, but as indicated above, it usually comes as I am exercising some discipline or practicing, reading, walking, etc.
26. You have to find your own shtick.
Pam Mark Hall said...We all know that there is nothing completely new under the sun, there are unique ways to combine elements together that cause the light to reflect off the prism in just a slight different way and cause people to say..."That gal is one of a kind." You probably remind them a little of U2 or Fleetwood Mac or Shawn Colvin or Elvis, and they are comfortable with that, but you also sound uniquely you.
27. Write from the heart.
Pam Mark Hall said...In order to write from the heart, one must spend time in solitude and listen to it.
28. The best way to get approval is not to need it.
Pam Mark Hall said...This is true in personal relationships and it is true in business and the arts.
29. Power is never given. Power is taken.
Pam Mark Hall said...I rather think that Power is neither given or taken, but rather evoked by self mastery, vision and confidence.
30. Whatever choice you make, the Devil gets his due eventually.
Pam Mark Hall said...No matter what you chose to do, you've got to pay some dues. It's frustrating, it doesn't seem fair. But it's a part of what is required.
31. The hardest part of being creative is getting used to it.
Pam Mark Hall said...I guess that means embracing the scope of what is involved in being creative. Being creative is a joy, and it is also a discipline.
32. Remain frugal.
Pam Mark Hall said...The less stuff you buy, the less energy you have to spend on upkeep. The less money you have to make to support your lifestyle, which leaves more psychic and physical resources to direct towards your music.
33. Allow your work to age with you.
Pam Mark Hall said...And I must add - allow your age to work for you. I am a Boomer and I am excited about my musical future. I have lived a colorful life filled with amazing people and experiences. My compost pile is rich and I have so much to draw on. I am no longer intimidated by the fact that the industries of movies, television, records are targeted towards kids. Census reports reveal over half the US population is over 50, and like me are hungry for books, movies, music and experiences that are relevant to them. The internet has given us an alternative means to connect with the Boomer population. Your work must reflect your true life experience, no matter what age!
34. Being poor sucks.
Pam Mark Hall said...I've been there. It does suck. I've never worked harder than when I was poor. Don't want to be there again. Work smarter, so you don't have to continue to work hard the rest of your life.
35. Beware of turning hobbies into jobs.
Pam Mark Hall said...Good advice to be cautious about turning a hobby into a job. I do think it is possible to turn your hobby into a revenue stream, that it is possible to create a balance.
36. Savor obscurity while it lasts.
Pam Mark Hall said...I like the word solitude substituted for obscurity, because it takes that alone time to think, to create, to plan and to execute the plan. This all takes focused energy and time.
37. Start blogging.
Pam Mark Hall said...I've only recently started blogging and I love it. It is giving me a way to work out ideas, and share them with my friends and fans and a way for them to interact with those ideas. I am confident songs will be born and relationships developed out of this process.
38. Meaning scales, people don't.
Pam Mark Hall said...I had to search for the definition of the word "scales" to understand it's intent. It is used in so many different ways. My interpretation is that you can do something small with meaning to you like create a the ultimate collection of local butterflies, or your could do something big with meaning to you like build a skyscraper, and big or small, as long as it is meaningful to you, it doesn't matter which you choose to do - you will experience equal satisfaction.
39. When your dreams become reality, they are no longer your dreams.
Pam Mark Hall said...Then, we've got to keep looking for new dreams. Otherwise we stagnate.
40. Non of this is rocket science.
So true. Keep it simple. Pay attention to what your gut is telling you first and foremost. Don't blab Pam Mark Hall said...about things before those things are ready to be heard, done, seen, etc. Be authentically you.
What are your thoughts?