“IGNORE EVERYBODY”, NINE YEARS LATERPosted: June 13, 2018
“IGNORE EVERYBODY”, NINE YEARS LATER
Nine years ago this summer my first book, “Ignore Everybody” came out. Here are some thoughts to mark the occasion:
1. The book had a long genesis. It began in 2004 as a series of blog posts, then later that year as a PDF e-book on ChangeThis.org, that ended up being downloaded over 6 million times. By the time I got the book deal with Penguin Portfolio, it was already “Internet famous”.
2. The title was often misunderstood. When I said, “Ignore Everybody”, I didn’t mean, “Pay no attention to what other people say, ever”, or “What other people think about your work is irrelevant”. I meant it more in the sense that, nobody can tell you whether your idea is any good or not, so stop behaving like they can. Whatever it is you’re doing, do it for yourself, and let the chips fall where they may. Don’t worry what the chattering classes might think.
3. It was really Seth Godin who got me the publishing deal, via a recommendation to Penguin from him. To say I feel a debt of gratitude to him is an understatement.
4. Book royalties generally don’t make a lot of money, but they do open a lot of doors- speaking gigs, workshops, TV deals, merchandising opportunities etc. Plus there’s the status. If the book sells enough copies, then suddenly you become “A Name”. And people like giving money to Names, much more than than they like giving money to “Nobodies”. This is why so many people try to get published, try so hard to game the bestseller lists. Because when it works, it works very, very well.
5. With an official Wall Street Journal bestseller in the “creativity” part of the self-help section, I could’ve easily gone off and become a creativity self-help guru, a-la Julia Cameron. Though not a bad gig (my dear friend, Austin Kleon, who started a few years after me, has done some great work in this department), I got the feeling that had I pursued it, I would’ve run out of new things to say really quickly, and started repeating myself inside a couple of months. This would’ve made a lousy business model, so I avoided that path. That may or may not have been a wise move.
6. On paper I am far more successful an author than I ever was a cartoonist. This was never my idea. Like the old Hebrew proverb says, “Man makes plans, God laughs”. This man has since taught himself to laugh occasionally, too.
7. The thing about “creativity” is (like Tim Burton once told me over dinner, many years ago) that if you’ve got it, it never goes away. So there’s no point in trying to suppress it, that’ll just make you even more miserable. But that’s no excuse for not being smart about it, either.
8. Your creative schtick may never go away, but you’re always going to be in constant negotiations with it. How much are you willing to compromise? What are you willing to sacrifice? What is the true cost, and are you willing and able to pay it? These questions never lose their sting.
9. The bad news is, “creativity” is as hard to monetize as it’s ever been, at least in its pure form. The good news is, we seem to be living in an era where “The Real World” seems to need the help of creative folk more than it ever has. So there’s lots of great opportunities out there for anyone willing to look for them.
10. I’ve had a long life and have had many wonderful adventures in the ol’ career department. But pound for pound, in terms of time and energy spent, “Ignore Everybody” has by far had the most impact. I guess that’s not a bad result, it’s certainly something very much worth feeling grateful for. Thanks to Everybody long the way who helped make it happen. You guys are the best. Cheers.