Review: Ignore Everybody, and 39 Other Keys to Creativity

I don’t normally pile on when a book has more than 20 reviews already, but the distribution of reaction here is a bit unusual so I thought I’d add one more five-star vote. I love this book. I’ve looked at it a dozen times in the bookstore and never carried it out; kept thinking I could get it all for free. I follow Hugh’s blog. I am a professional artist. I know this stuff.

And I can’t be reminded enough. I read the book straight through, then reread Orbiting the Giant Hairball, which covers some of the same material in a corporate setting, and then back to Ignore Everybody, pretty much in one evening. I wanted to see how the two books covered the territory. They’re similar, and if you hated Hairball, stay away from MacLeod. I’m juiced. I’m supported, encouraged, permissioned, understood.

There are, I suppose, creative people who are surrounded by encouraging, supportive communities, people who have adequate sales from their creative output (and sometimes that’s a regular paycheck) to never worry if they’re doing the right work (or partners with good benefit programs), who live free of the fear of having their ideas knocked off on another continent. There must be such people. I’ve never met them, but they must exist.

For the rest of us, there are books. Ignore Everybody is the latest. Art and Fear is my favorite, the one I carry when I fly because it’s small and can be finished in the amount of time it takes to fly anywhere. Ignore Everybody will sit right next to it on the shelf. Hairball is there, although I’m not in corporate anymore. Jessica Hagy sits on the same shelf, and If you only knew how much I smell you, and George Leonard’s Mastery, and Brian Andreas.

It’s not clear to me why this book was shelved, and perhaps sold, as a business creativity book. I would have expected to find it closer to The Artist’s Way. On one hand, creativity is creativity, but on the other, there’s a difference between making art and making business. Ignore Everybody is more about the personal elements of creativity–getting your head and your behavior out of the way.

Michael Pollan sums his own work up in seven words–eat food, mostly plants, not too much–and doesn’t let that stop him selling yet another book. What does it matter that MacLeod can do the same thing?

Now go to your studio and make stuff.

Ignore Everybody

Review: Planner Books

I love these books. I use them as planners, by gluing a paper copy of my Outlook calendar into a two-page spread, and leaving blank pages for notes in between each week (and another pair of pages in between each month). I get about 9 months to a book which helps to break the “only starting new stuff in January” problem. I like the color, I like the size, I like the binding, I like the numbered pages. The books would, perhaps, be more perfect if the pages were unlined but they are a product for the accounting market and that may be too much to ask.

My life improved when I finally accepted that no commercial calendar or planner did everything I needed to do. For today (and for the past several years), this book and system works for me.

I use these books, and have for the past 8 years, to make my own custom planner. I couldn’t find any commercial planner that allowed me the right combination of schedule, notes, view-ahead, and flexibility that worked for my life. Every week, I print an Outlook 7-day calendar and glue it into a 2-page spread. My planner runs for 9 months / volume, which helps to break the sense that life starts anew in January. When a future week’s calendar gets cluttered with hand-written changes, I just print a fresh copy (post-a-note gluesticks!).

Numbered pages let me add a TOC (table of contents).

The size is convenient to carry and large enough to take good notes.

I simply can’t “see” enough of my life on any of the electronic calendars to plan readily. A paper-based system works all the time, charged-or-not, lets me think and plan the non-committed time, and lets me see the shape of time bigger than any one week. YMMV.

I love these books.

Review: The View From The Studio Door: How Artists Find Their Way In An Uncertain World

I’m just another artist with a day job, and while I may know, at some level, many of the ideas in this book, it is completely worth the time it took to read and the money it cost to buy. I read it twice right away, actually, and it will join Art & Fear in my flight carry-on because they’re good books for times when you can’t make your own art.

I particularly relish the way Ted speaks to artists in all media; there’s far too much “truth for every artist” that turns out to be for painters only.

I come away strengthened, encouraged, set back on my path. I am doing the right thing and I don’t have to know where this path leads. It did used to be different for artists but it’s not that way now and make your art anyway.

Heck, a therapist or a creativity coach will charge a lot more and take a lot longer to get you to the same place!

If I were writing the book, I would devote much less space to art students, but perhaps my distaste for that chapter has its roots in major-envy, in that I want to believe life would be different if only I’d recognized a path earlier. And yet probably my life would have been much the same if I had, only with no insurance.

Own the book. It’s doesn’t cost much, and it’s worth it. Someone over in the Art & Fear reviews noted that all the used copies are completely covered in highlighting and margin notes. My copy of View is well on its way to the same end.

The View from the Studio Door

Review: Turn Your Art/Photography into Profitable Greeting Cards Online

I’m new to the POD art world, learning my way around the various e-commerce systems for selling digital versions of my art. I am only just beginning to see greeting cards as a possible product.

If you have art to sell and need a low-cost, entry-level product, consider learning about the POD options available to you today in greeting cards.

Reading Stephanie’s book was a very useful, cost-effective introduction to marketplace sites for greeting cards, as opposed to stand-alone e-commerce platforms (Cafe Press vs. Shopify, for example). I came away with a lot of ideas for what to do next and am completely satisfied with the cost-per-idea / encouragement ratio.

This book is a perfect match for Kindle–instant; brief, inspiration to be consumed during a road trip where I wouldn’t have internet access.

(Four not five because it is not a life-changing book; four not three because it is a perfect answer to the problem it proposes to solve.)

Turn Your Art into Profitable Greeting Cards

Review: Organizing For a Living

How to Build a Profitable Career as a Professional Organizer

To quote one of the other reviews, “it will save you money because you won’t need any other books about professional organizing!”

You also won’t need any other books about being in business, or doing your accounting, or managing your time, or…

This is a great book. It is completely thorough. The author addresses every question one could have in detail.

I am giving this book four stars because there is, simply, too much material. In order to fit into its 304 pages, the book designer went to very narrow margins, small type, and even smaller type for “pull outs”–stories and quotations. I can only read a few pages at a time before my eyes rebel. I am accustomed to being able to read hundreds of pages at at time in well-designed books, so this beef is very specific to the design of this edition.

There is a LOT of content in Organizing for a Living, and it is all well-written, and it is all tailored to the organizing profession specifically. I simply wish I could read it easily.

What it Took To Create That Post

I knocked out two blog posts in as many days that were helpful to me, and perhaps helpful to anyone reading this website, about planning from ground-level up to 30,000′.
I teach social media marketing, and WordPress website development, and I am aware that what we teach does not always translate into students having the ability to create content on the fly. I thought about what it took to get those two posts from conception to publication. There are a lot of skills involved, and a lot of tools. Here’s a flow chart:

The skills and tools used to create the posts about Levels of Planning

The skills and tools used to create the posts about Levels of Planning

Save

Save

Review: The Upside of Irrationality

The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home

Writing as reviewer #31, having written a number of other reviews myself: what is it about this book that virtually all of the reviews thus far, even the negative ones, are multi-paragraph and thoughtful? Usually, by the time a book has 30, we’re seeing the “loved it!” “hated it!” “Didn’t arrive on time!” filler. Not here. Ariely’s work sticks in your mind, and you are inspired to write more than you normally would.

That said–it appears that behavioral econ gets really really close to marketing, as a field of study. Economists are testing and discovering what marketers have known since Ogilvy wrote his first ad.

Both of Ariely’s books are “news you can use.” I find myself referring to the stories–we cheat, given the opportunity. We make decisions about sex differently when we’re drunk (duh, but that’s rarely addressed in sex ed). (Still haven’t forgiven him for presenting 50-yo women as “beyond the pale” in that experiment, BTW.) Those experiments are from the first book. I know the one about Legos and meaning in work from this book will find its way into my life–watching work get canceled or undone has had a huge effect on my own career and motivation.

Many of the review copy books that come my way get passed on to book swaps, in hope that someone else will find them more useful. I’m keeping this one. I’ll be back in it.

The Upside of Irrationality

Processing an Idea for Content

What do you do when you have an idea for social media or website content?

Just like entrepreneurial wannabes who think their ideas are worth millions, it can be hard to know exactly what to do when you have an idea that could be useful content marketing material, if only you knew what to do with it.

I’m learning Creately, the process mapping tool, and I find myself creating decision trees to help clarify my thinking. This is another one: processing ideas for content. I do this on automatic pilot now, but it wasn’t always that easy. I tried to document the steps I follow.

What to do when you get struck by an idea for a potential content marketing item.

What to do when you get struck by an idea for a potential content marketing item.

Let me know if you have questions about the map or the process. I’m still learning the tool. Building a real map that can be printed on paper helps me see where the sticking points are, as well as where my thinking is cloudy.

Live version of the map

Happiness and the $300 couch

How people think themselves into unhappiness and how to think yourself out of it

I heard a couple talking as I walked around the thrift shop the other day:
“Well that’s an ugly couch. I wouldn’t want that in my home. Holy smokes! They want $300 for that thing? Who’s going to pay $300 for that!  It was donated!  Who are they to put a $300 price tag on something that was donated to them!  They shouldn’t be asking that much money!”

Reasonably clean white couch.  Picture sold separately.

Reasonably clean white couch. Picture sold separately.

For donated couch, it’s pretty clean. I couldn’t have that couch in my own home. It’s white. Our dogs are allowed on the couch and it would be mud colored in no time.

But it’s painful to sit in resentment. It’s draining to know how everyone in the world should be running their business, setting their prices, managing their inventory, and to be unhappy because they didn’t ask me how they should do it. I could see discontent in the speaker’s face. I wondered what she looked like when she was happy. Shift. Get curious.

Try this:

“I wonder who’s going to pay $325 for a used white couch at the thrift shop? What kind of home would that go into?”

“I wonder how long it’ll be here? I wonder if they’ll have to put it on sale? I wonder what it sold for when it was new?” (I haven’t spent more than $50 on a couch in 20 years.)

And there’s the path to working out of unhappy certainty and resentment, into at least a disinterested curiosity. It helps when I can remember that the thrift shop’s business is to raise money for the schools, not to provide low-cost furniture for people who can’t figure out how to use Craigslist and get free couches.

The couch went out on the sales floor on January 19th. I’ll try to remember to look for it next time I visit.

Asking $325; will adjust price if it doesn't sell.

Asking $325; will adjust price if it doesn’t sell.


The price tag is barely visible on the far arm, attached to the arm protector, not the upholstery itself.

Glue it up!

Glue up your spreadsheets, that is.

You see things differently when it's all on one page.

You see things differently when it’s all on one page.

Glue sticks.  Simple product, magic effects.  How did we ever manage before they were invented?  (For that matter, do you remember life before post-it notes?  You can even buy post-it note glue sticks…)

Warehouse store box of glue sticks so I never run out.

Warehouse store box of glue sticks so I never run out.

A boatload of years ago, before the internet but after spreadsheets were invented, I worked on two huge bid packages for one of the computer processing giants.  We wanted to manage parking operations.  Both cities are huge; massive infrastructure needed; lots of moving parts.

One of my co-workers insisted that he could look at spreadsheets printed across sheets of paper and understand everything that was going on.  He was wrong. He did not understand the scope of the project. (Neither did one of the cities, for that matter. They had underestimated the work by roughly $14M. When they saw our spreadsheet, glued up (before the internet, remember), they went back to their drawing board. We found more moving parts in their operations than they realized they had.)

(There’s something to be said for not printing, I understand, but there’s also risk in not looking closely enough to see what’s going on in the moving parts.)

Glue up your spreadsheets.  You see information differently when you don’t have to turn the page.