Hugh MacLeod’s “Ignore Everybody”: How to Be More Creative Than Necessary

Ignore Everybody is Hugh MacLeod’s manual about staying sane while you do stuff you don’t really love, and trying to figure out what it is that you do love. MacLeod wrote the book in New York (of course) where he worked in advertising (of course!) until he was successful enough to stop. He also made comics.

His creative schtick is “comics drawn on the backs of business cards,” which is accurate if nothing else. They’re abstract vignettes about life in the big city—particularly as lived by somebody who wanted to live there to be with the cool people, only to discover that they’re all faking it, too.

The advice itself is good, if you’re in the business of finding the Big Idea. Not very many people are, though, and Big Idea-ing is one of the few businesses in which an 80% failure rate is still a success. Ignoring everybody is probably a great way to get the germ of a good idea, but it’s no way to improve one.

Google’s founders ignored everybody when they built a search engine instead of a portal. But they immediately began to pay excessively close attention to how users used the search engine, how advertisers advertised on it, how website owners tried to game it, etc., to the point that their creative people tend to flee because Google is too interested in doing what works for users, and has no time to be creative for it’s own sake. If they hadn’t ignored the main idea of Ignore Everybody, they would have been nothing more than a particularly unfortunate dot com flameout.

It’s good advice for the first 1% of whatever you do. In purely creative fields (i.e. the ones you enter once you’ve earned enough money doing something else), it works. But that next 99%—the testing, tweaking, researching, and refining—really adds up.

(Full Disclosure: I got a free copy of the book at Alex Krupp’s Swagapalooza. If you want it, you’ll probably have to pay for it, which you can do here)

(This post, by the way, is part one in a series of posts on short, reasonably profound books, mostly about advertising. Stay tuned!)

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| September 21st, 2009 | Posted in books |