Creativity According to Hugh MacLeod


This is my second book report and again, the spoiler alert is in effect. (My first was Surfing with Malcom Gladwell.) For those of you unfamiliar with Hugh MacLeod, you need to go to his blog gapingvoid as soon as you get done reading this. (You should also stop at Amazon and buy his book.) You’ll like both.

Hugh’s new book is called Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity and it focuses on helping creatives (turns out this is all of us) with the realities of life as a creative. This book is survival guide with chapters such as:

  • Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten.
  • Power is never given. Power is taken.
  • Merit can be bought. Passion can’t.
  • Meaning scales. People don’t.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. His writing style is clean and to the point and I was reminded of lessons learned and learned some new things. If I had to some it up in a word, that word would be poignant. Some of my favorite topics are:

Power is never given. Power is taken. This chapter talks about you as a person being ready. Ready for the power. This does NOT mean you get someone fired to take their job. It means that your readiness for the challenge you’ve chosen is tacit.

The world is changing. I liked this chapter because I deal with this every day. Things are simply different than they were even three years ago. Different in a foundational way. I struggle to get most to understand that the mental model they have carefully constructed over the last 15-20 years is dead. Fear is something I also see every day.

Don’t try to stand out from the crowd; avoid the crowds altogether. The goal is to encourage artists (again, everyone) to create a new medium/venue and own it. For a fleeting moment I was briefly reminded of the Blue Ocean Strategy. I’m attempting to do this with my blog. I take the constituent parts (found objects) and then figure out how to assemble them into something new. Legos for your brain. (I never liked crayons. Legos are where it’s at.) I write the post, using elements of technology and marketing, then pick an artist; something that inspires/mirrors the blog post, and put them together to create something new. That’s the goal anyway.

A while back Hugh announced that he was going to focus on his artwork. About the same time I emailed him to see if he would be interested in creating a profile picture for me. I thought it would be unique way to represent myself and promote Hugh at the same time. I emailed him twice and never heard back. No hard feelings. In his book he also talks about knowing as an artist what you’re willing to do and more importantly what you won’t do. Maybe the request was too tacky. Who knows.

Anyway. Go to the blog and buy the book. It’s good for you!


  • I read the book as well. Even though many of his points on creativity were common sense, his approach was more like showing how stupid you are for not doing something now. And, I rather liked it.

  • I forgot to mention two other parts of the book that made me pause. Stamina is one of MacLeod’s personal elements that he listed as important. a.k.a. tenacity; this is the defining characteristic for success. He also talks about everyone having a personal Mount Everest. I actually have multiple and it makes it hard to know what to focus on at times but it never leaves you without some sort of direction.

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