Friday, January 1, 2010

Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity by Hugh MacLeod

Thoughts and Observations

My first observation was more of a feeling than a thought. The words coming from the pages evoked a feeling of familiarity - not the words themselves but the feelings that came out of the words. The visceral sense of loneliness when you're conceiving of and pursuing a creative idea which is neither understood nor accepted by the outside world. The sense of unfairness that we all feel when our careers don't go as far as fast as we would like. The inequity that we often feel when we compare where we are to where others are. It's clear that the feelings, emotions and attitudes surrounding creativity are universal and applicable to many people and situations.

The book is a concise and powerful presentation of deep concepts embedded in the struggle for the development of human potential in the creative world. It also links together creativity and worldly success and makes them seem possibly attainable and not entirely contradictory.

The following thoughts were helpful to me as a musician expanding my career and accepting some realities of life and commerce. Each point is followed by my own personal thoughts.

The more original your idea is, the less good advice other people will be able to give you. Follow a strong gut feeling.

I have always sought advise from people on ideas and have always been surprised at what little solid suggestions I've received. Not that people haven't been encouraging but it's become increasingly clear that they don't really understand where I'm going. I don't know why I expect them too. After all, I'm the one who has lived with these concepts and directions my whole life. I am currently in the process of revamping my entire career with the help of people like Eric Hebert from Evolvor Media. I initially resist change and have had to rely on gut instinct to overcome my natural inertia.

The sovereignty you have over your work will inspire far more people than the actual content ever will.

I found this to be the most important concept in the book. I confess that I had never thought of it in this light. I know that my dedication to what I do has, in reality, been as important of a factor in my success as the content itself. I can more or less prove that to myself by observing my success in a wide variety of music related activities. As soon as I aimed enthusiasm and passion at a musical activity, it succeeded.

The importance of time, effort and stamina in achieving a worthwhile goal

This has never been an issue for me. I've always been a hard worker and have always understood the relationship between time, effort, stamina and achievement.

Nobody suddenly discovers anything - the myth of the overnight success.

I found that it has taken a long time to focus and concentrate on one specific, fulfilling aspect of my work. This focus is leading me in a better and more productive direction. My own career has been filled with multiple activities - all in the same music business but sufficiently scattered to prevent long term growth.

The more compelling the path, the more lonely it is.

If you do what everybody does, the path is crowded. If you totally focus on your actual goals, the path is at least less cluttered. This, however, leads to loneliness. If you can accept the feeling, you can deal with it successfully.

Keep using your box of crayons. You never outgrow the need for creative expression. Don't let your "adult" voice squash your "wee" voice.

I don't remember being a child but I'm sure that I was. I know that I am conservative by nature but a risk taker on another level. Accepting my own creativity has become more comfortable as I have matured in both age and artistry.

Make at least one serious attempt to get above the snow line.

I am currently making that serious attempt though I have been a music professional my entire life.

Talent doesn't require props or pillars.

I've always felt that my work in music didn't need much praise but that never prevented it from being enormously fulfilling.

Your plan for getting your work out there has to be as original as the actual work, perhaps more so. This would be a tribute to planning, niche marketing and follow through in areas that are not necessarily your strength or even your interest.

Being born into a generation of non computer users, it's always been a puzzle as to how I could get my work "out there". The "new music industry" seems to be offering a model by which I can get my work out to Japan to Europe to India and beyond. Though I entered this phase of my career kicking and screaming, I am now embracing it fully.

Learn to draw the "red line" that separates what you are willing to do from what you are not willing to do.

The biggest challenge for me was the decision as to what not to do. I could always do a great variety of musical work but only now am I drawing the all important "red line".

Adapt to the changing world and don't fight it in an effort to protect the world you knew and felt safe in.

This spells "Internet" and all of its ramifications.

Sing in your own voice.

I have been fortunate to be called "the most distinctive voice in jazz guitar". I have never tried to emulate any other players and I think that it's served me well.

Diluting your product to make it more "commercial" will just make people like it less.

When I finally decided to embrace what I did as "art", the commercial dilemma faded away.

Nobody cares. Do it yourself.

I'm saddened by the fact that "nobody cares" but somehow this encourages me to not wait and hope which I spent too much of my life doing.

Worrying about "commercial" versus "artistic" is a waste of time.

This is one of many wastes of time but an important one to remember. As Bill Evans, my favorite jazz pianist said "In the long run, we must accept what we do as art. We must play what pleases us. Don't chase players, don't chase styles and don't chase audiences. Play what you love to play and then go find the people who love what you love"

Write from the heart.

This is perhaps a key to life as well as a key to unleashing personal creativity.

Don't need approval, don't be desperate. You already have the power. You don't need to get it from anyone.

Dealing with the decision makers in music is enough to shake anyone's confidence. I try to find that place that presents simply and clearly who I am and what I do. I leave the rest of up to hard work and endurance.

Value the power of the internet and its role in the future.

As Michael Sembello (writer of Maniac from the film "Flashdance") said to me "Rome has finally fallen and we once again have control thanks to the internet."

No comments: