It’s difficult to define what Hugh Macleod is or does in a few words, and I think that’s the beauty of his success. Above all, he’s practicing his art.
The former advertising employee traded in his 9 to 5 to make doing what he loved every day a reality. It’s paid off. His blog, gapingvoid.com, is extremely popular, as is the book he published in 2009, “Ignore Everybody: And 39 Other Keys to Creativity”. I enjoyed reading it and was excited to interview him.
Why should we ignore everyone?
“The more original your idea is, the less likely it is that people are going to give you any valuable advice. I like to say that good ideas have lonely childhoods. My friends and family have often thought I’m nuts. But I’ve been able to prove them wrong a few years later more than once. In reality, many people are threatened by new ideas because they upset existing power structures and social dynamics,” Macleod explained.
The tendency to be resistant towards new ideas extends into the workplace.
“Let’s say you have a great idea. But it’s going to make your boss seem less relevant to the company. He or she is going to resists it, despite the fact that their opposition has nothing to do with the merits of the idea.”
This is absolutely true. And it’s the reason why I warn inventors to take the opinions of their friends and family lightly – or not at all.
Macleod is succinct. “Just get on with your idea,” he advocates. Having approval or disapproval? It might make you feel better (or worse), but it’s just not that important.
Another piece of advice Macleod gives in his book is that you don’t need to have a big idea, but it needs to be yours. How do you like to spend your time? What’s your passion? It’s not easy to find, but we should strive for it.
“When I began cartooning, I didn’t envision where it would go. I enjoyed doing it. I put in the time. That’s so crucial. I have many friends who are successful artists. I’ve tried to identify what separates them from other artists and I’ve decided that isn’t their talent. It’s how hard they work, how much they commit themselves,” said Macleod.
And part of making that commitment is understanding that having a creative life isn’t glamorous. He describes the divide as one between “sex and cash.”
“There’s two parts. The sexy part is making art, is doing what you love. The other part is the stuff you do to pay the bills. The invoicing and shipping and accounting and marketing. That stuff is never going to go away. You’re always going to need the money. Once you accept that fact, rolling up your sleeves and letting go of the glamorous vision becomes easier.”
And he’s absolutely right. I think the joy is in being able to be successful creatively – and to be successful as a creative individual, you have manage the not-so creative aspects.