Book review: Ignore Everybody


There are three people and/or things directly to blame for me starting a blog way, way back on November 1, 2004:

  1. a severe onset of Crohn's disease, which served both to jar things loose and make me unafear'd (or less afear'd) of looking like a jackass;
  2. my friend, Debbie, who is so discreet her web footprint is almost invisible, and so modest she's probably already mortified at being called out here (hi, Deb!);
  3. Hugh MacLeod, insanely great writer and generous creative mind who also draws cartoons on the backs of business cards

I was introduced to the goodness that was Hugh back in 2003 by a smart but annoying troubadour during my 18-month tenure as the Whore of Babylon. Hugh's blog was by far The Troubadour's biggest gift to me; I was instantly hooked both by the mad and intricate drawings that came from Hugh's Rapidograph and the buckets of cold, clear water he splashed over the screen with his keyboard. The Hughtrain, his manifesto on marketing, remains one of my favorite WAKE THE FUCK UP, PEOPLE! screeds on the nexus of old tenets and new tools. His blog posts were a refreshing mix of smart, funny and flat-out curmudgeonly. And the cartoons, well, they made me laugh. Hard. And think, at the same time. And slightly after that, wish I could draw well (I'm still trying, as you can see by the little illos on my monthly newsletter). And yes, hate him. Just a little.

But it was his "How to Be Creative" series that hooked me hard and eventually turned me into the drooling fangirl obsessively linking linking linking to Hugh's shit. "How to Be Creative" was as comprehensive in his way as Twyla's is in hers. There's theory embedded in there, and stories, and even how-tos, if you're not a lazy slob.

Ignore Everybody (And 39 Other Keys to Creativity) is the book that (finally) sprung from that amazing series of posts. It's inspiring and infuriating, and it's both of those things because it's true as hell. Hugh has lived his way through these 40 rules and has the experiences and the output (and doubtless the battle scars) to show for it.

The book itself is an example of Rules #1 ("Ignore Everybody") and #16 ("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.") As he says himself in a story illustrating Rule #5 ("If your business plan depends on suddenly being 'discovered' by some big shot, your plan will probably fail"*), Hugh was offered a deal years before to turn his series into a book, but turned it down because ultimately, he couldn't stomach the terms. This book, he says, is exactly the book he wanted to make, with exactly the cartoons to illustrate it.

Having gone through a heady back-and-forth myself with a big NYC agent earlier this year, this cheered me greatly. Yeah, I was probably a dumbass (or a hard-head) in most people's books for not making some changes that would move me closer to my dream of being a Writer Who Speaks.

In my book, though, it would have been in wild violation of Rules #27 ("Write from the heart") and #26 ("You have to find your own shtick.") When something is going to chip away at your soul just enough to bother you, there really isn't another choice.

To answer that question (cheap) people repeatedly bring up when it comes to books derived from blogs, yes, a great deal of what you'll find in Ignore Everybody is easily found on Hugh's blog. Frankly, if you're that hard up, I'm guessing Hugh would be cool with you reading the material online for free and just missing out on the tweaks and finessing that make this a book-book. But if you're really enmeshed in the struggle to be creative, don't you want an ally at your side, your literal, actual side, while you whack your way through the marshy swamps that lie between you and your cherished prize?

I did. I do. No one is getting my copy. Not until Oprah drives by in that long, sleek limo, rolls down the window and beckons me in...


*Or, as I call it, the Limo Analogy.

Card design ©2008 Colleen Wainwright; Card redesign ©2008 HughMacLeod.