Posts Tagged ‘Hugh’s books’
February 21, 2013
I just finsihed writing my latest book, “The Art Of Not Sucking”. Rather than publish it as an e-book or regular hardback, I thought I’d just blog the whole thing, like I did with my first book, “Ignore Everybody”. Maybe I’ll publish it properly later down the road, but in the meantime, I wanted to make it available to as many people as possible. Enjoy:
When I was attending University in the 1980’s, I went and got a suit-and-tie summer job in a large office in downtown Houston, doing white-collar drudgery for a big oil company.
That summer, I was also in a painful, Nowheresville relationship with a lovely young woman. That also sucked.
That year my college grades sucked, as well. As did my social life and financial situation.
The whole year sucked, frankly. I sucked, my job sucked, my love life sucked, my situation sucked. Sucked, sucked, sucked.
Over two decades later, I’m frankly still quite traumatized by it. Ha.
Since then, I’ve spent a great deal of time and energy trying to figure out how to keep myself out of jobs, careers, relationships and situations that suck, how to keep life from sucking in general.
Learning how to NOT SUCK is one of our most important pursuits.
Sucking is the enemy. Indeed.
So when I was recently asked to give a talk to marketing students at Unibe University in the Dominican Republic, I decided that helping them learn “The Art Of Not Sucking” would be far more useful for them, or at least, welcome, than the usual textbook marketing stuff they have to read on a daily basis.
Let’s face it, “Success” and “Failure” are still too far away in the distant future to be truly tangible most young adults, they’ve still got way too much in front of them. That was certainly true in my case, and every other case I knew well at the time.
However, leaving the comfy surroundings of college life and hitting the adult world and finding out right away that you suck at everything? That everything is going to suck from now on? That’s a real burning issue.
“What if I suck?”
With graduation looming, that’s what college seniors are REALLY worried about. I speak truth.
College kids aren’t afraid of failing, they’re afraid of sucking.
The talk I gave to the kids was so much fun, I thought I’d spread the love some more, by turning my notes into a little e-book and sharing it with everybody. This is it. I hope it’s helpful; thanks for taking the time to download it.
[NB: Many of the themes in this book were covered before, in both my blog and my books, some points more than others. If you experience déjà vu, that is why. Secondly, to make it more fun to read, I did my usual thing i.e. randomly inserted some of my favorite recent cartoons in the mix, similar to how The New Yorker inserts unrelated cartoons into their pages.]
May 6, 2012
Over the weekend, gapingvoid.com turned eleven years old.
I won’t dwell on it too much, other than to say,
1. Yes, it has been an amazing trip,
2. Thank you very much for all the love over the years and,
3. Looking back, I consider “Personal Faves” (2001) to be the best thing on it that I ever wrote. Written as I was setting the blog up, it set the tone for what came after– “How To Creative”, “The Hughtrain”, “Evil Plans”, “Freedom Is Blogging”, then the actual gapingvoid business itself, the “cube grenades” and the great team of people I work with etc– it all came from that. And I honestly, honestly doubt that I would had come this far without it:
When I first lived in Manhattan in December, 1997 I got into the habit of doodling on the back of business cards, just to give me something to do while sitting at the bar. The format stuck.
All I had when I first got to Manhattan were 2 suitcases, a couple of cardboard boxes full of stuff, a reservation at the YMCA, and a 10-day freelance copywriting gig at a Midtown advertising agency.
My life for the next couple of weeks was going to work, walking around the city, and staggering back to the YMCA once the bars closed. Lots of alcohol and coffee shops. Lot of weird people. Being hit five times a day by this strange desire to laugh, sing and cry simultaneously. At times like these, there’s a lot to be said for an art form that fits easily inside your coat pocket.
An artist is quite a f*****-up thing to be, and to be honest I’m not sure if I would recommend it to anybody. Still, in my collection there are a couple of examples that, in some sick and twisted way, make the whole thing seem worthwhile. For the first five minutes, at least…
Anyway, for those who hadn’t seen it before, I thought it was worth sharing [Here’s the link again]. Again, thanks for all the love, and Godbless. Now I have some more cartoons to draw. Rock on.
May 1, 2012
[Click on image to activate animation etc.]
This is one of the cooler “Social Object Factory” mini-projects we’ve done lately– a little animated Gif for Seth Godin’s lovely little book, Poke The Box.
[Yes. I know. We didn’t use my drawing style this time. The Factory is really about Social Objects, not about Hugh etc.]
One thing Seth and I always had in common, is that we both believe in writing short books. My personal rule is: All my books have to be short enough to be read on a plane ride between Miami and New York. And they are.
A book that makes you feel hopefully really inspired and really excited, that you close and put away satisfied, just as they’re dropping the landing gear, coming into La Guardia. It’s simple enough goal to aim for; certainly a lot less deluded than “Write the next ‘Sun Also Rises’ or ‘Ulysses’”.
Seth talks about his “short format” philosophy some more in a brilliant post, “Tracts and Books”:
The Communist Manifesto is 80 pages long. Certainly long enough to make an impact.
It has never taken me beyond a hundred pages to be persuaded. Sure, there are times when the pages after page 100 help me pile on, give me more depth and understanding. But a hundred (and usually fifty) is enough to get under my skin.
Or to steal heavily from George Bernard Shaw, “I’m sorry my last book was so long, but I didn’t have time to write a short one”.
It’s dirty little secret that most of my business-book author friends (and I have more than a few) will freely admit off the record: Most business books are lucky if people read more than the first hundred pages.
So why write more than a hundred pages? You tell me…
It’s never quite that simple, of course. There are as many ways to write a book as there are authors. If you want to spend the next seven years teaching junior college in order to be able to write the next Great American Novel in your spare time, that works too, go for it.
But if you’re just trying to get ideas to spread– if it’s the ideas that actually matter, not the book itself– I’d pay attention to what Seth is up to, very carefully.
Like I’ve said many times before about Media, we’re now living in the era of #CheapEasyGlobal. And thanks to that, I do honestly believe, it’s never been a more exciting time to be a writer.
Make of that what you will.
April 30, 2012
As you probably already know, I wrote a wee book, “Freedom Is Blogging In Your Underwear”, which just launched. It is my little love letter to the blogosphere.
We’ve also set up a special webpage: FreedomIsBloggingInYourUnderwear.com
Please click on it — it’s more than just a page about the book. It’s a movement, or at least, I think it should be.
I know for a fact, that a lot of you reading this found a similar freedom that I found through the Internet and blogging. Like me, you found a voice, you found a platform, the rest is history.Your stories are beautiful stories, so I wanted to create some free social objects that help you tell your stories… cartoons, animated videos etc. Simple, fun, stuff.
This week, in honor of the sentiment behind the book, I’d love for you to share your story of how blogging or the Internet has given you freedom. Blog, tweet, post on Facebook or G+… share your story however you want, on whatever platform you prefer. All I ask is that you include the hashtag #FreedomIsBlogging and if you can, email me a link to your post at “Freedom@gapingvoid.com.” I am going to be creating a commemorative print for the book, and everyone who emails me a link to their “freedom” post this week will have their name drawn in the print. I hope you will use these tools to tell your story. There’s beauty in all this, there really is. Which is why I wrote the book, anyway.
I can’t wait to hear your stories! Rock on!
[P.S. I am holding a “virtual book tour” this Thursday, May 3, at 6pm EST. You can sign up and join me, for free, HERE]
June 14, 2011
Today’s newsletter cartoon was inspired by Lisa Oz, wife of Doctor Oz, interviewing me for Oprah Radio last week, while I was in New York City.
It was a good interview. Lisa is a lovely woman who asked VERY smart questions about Creativity. She also plugged both my books, which was quite nice for me. Heh.
And I did my best to answer her questions. As I get older I’m less squeamish about talking about creativity in spiritual terms, rather than just “Because it’s cool and sexy” terms.
And whether you believe in God or Buddha or Allah or something else entirely, this creativity/spirituality is something you should not be afraid of exploring at some point. Life is short and you’re going to be dead one day; that’s all the motivation you need.
So I designed Lisa this cartoon to go on her business card. Like I said, I enjoyed the interview.
Anyway, I’m happy to report that the interview is broadcasting tomorrow, (Wednesday) at noon New York time [EST] on XM 111 and Sirius 204. It’s about 20 minutes long, so if you have satellite radio, I hope you’ll give it a listen.
Thanks, and Godspeed!
[Subscribe to the newsletter here etc.]
May 2, 2011
[UPDATE: Because I want people to see it, I’m keeping this as a placeholder at the top of the gapingvoid homepage for a while. Scroll down to see newer stuff etc.]
My manifesto, “How To Be Creative”, is still the most downloaded manifesto on ChangeThis.com. The editors there recently told me that at last count, it’s been downloaded 4.5 million times.
If you want the more deluxe version, HTBC eventually was reworked, extended and turned into a hardback book, “Ignore Everybody”, which went on to become a Wall St. Journal Bestseller.
Four point five million. Wow. That’s a lot.
Thanks to everybody who took the time to read it over the years. It means a lot, Seriously.
[PS: I also have a second manifesto on ChangeThis, called “The Hughtrain”. Check it out.…]
April 15, 2011
That was probably the best line in Evil Plans:
“Treat it like an adventure. An adventure worth sharing.”
Whether we’re talking about a business plan, a career, or something far more important, something that actually matters… that’s what we’re here for, no?
To live it. And to be able to share it with others.
If you can’t do that, you’r not really alive. Not really.
Hell, you’re not even really marketing.…
“Treat it like an adventure. An adventure worth sharing.”
That’s what having an Evil Plan is really all about. That’s what gapingvoid is really all about.
And even I forget that sometimes…
February 17, 2011
[ Available from: Amazon.Barnes & Noble.Borders.800-CEO-READ etc.]
“Everybody needs an EVIL PLAN. Everybody needs that crazy, out-there idea that allows them to ACTUALLY start doing something they love, doing something that matters. Everybody needs an EVIL PLAN that gets them the hell out of the Rat Race, away from lousy bosses, away from boring, dead-end jobs that they hate. Life is short.”
My second book, EVIL PLANS launched today. Here are some notes:
1. EVIL PLANS is basically a meditation on “The Unification of Work and Love”. Something a lot of us strive for; something worth striving for. What does it take for somebody to be able to love what they do for a living? What has to happen? What has to be given up? What state of mind does one have to be in? Questions that never get old.…
2. Like I said earlier, the book doesn’t matter; the conversation matters. How people conceive and execute their own Evil Plans is a subject worth exploring deeply. All the book can do is help get the conversation going. Same with this blog.
3. The first line in the book is, “Everybody needs an Evil Plan”. That is my belief, that is my mantra. Besides drawing cartoons, Evil Plans is what my career has been about all these years– writing about them, discovering them, uncovering then, studying them, creating them, My own and other people’s.
4. People are talking about the book already. Fellow Penguin/Portfolio authors, Pam Slim, Jonathan Fields and Daniel Pink already have reviews up, plus you can see what people are saying on Twitter via the #EvilPlans hashtag.
5. This is only the beginning. I wrote the book to start a conversation about Evil Plans, not to be the definitive answer on the subject. Yes, I have some Evil Plans about Evil Plans. Funny how that works…
6. Thanks to everybody who helped make this happen, especially Jillian and Maureen over at Penguin, and my business partner, Jason, who had to put up with my nonsense for all those weeks. You guys rock.
June 14, 2010
[“Successful”, which I sent out in the newsletter a few weeks ago. You can buy the print here etc.]
This weekend I sent the final, edited draft of “Evil Plans” off to my publisher. It comes out in April.
A few hours later, a couple of people were asking me, “Why aren’t you celebrating? I’d be hitting the bars right now…”
Heh. Finishing the book is really not that big a deal. All it marks is the end of a massive, fairly tedious, weeks-long editing and “polishing” session, LONG AFTER you’re done with the meaty, creative, fun part.
To me, there are four really big moments in getting a book out. Finishing the book isn’t one of them:
1. Coming up with an idea for the book. That’s big. A big EUREKA moment that cuts through all the clutter like a sharp blade. The big initial flash of inspiration that gets the ball rolling. That’s all very exciting, but you never know how long you can keep the momentum going. It all might die out after a couple of days, it might last until you get the thing published and it hits The New York Times Bestseller list. You never know.
2. Landing the publishing deal. That’s what every aspiring writer dreams of. It’s a HUGE moment, especially the first time, though the euphoria doesn’t last long. Once you’ve signed the contract and cashed the advance check, within nanoseconds all that excitement is suddenly replaced with the heavy weight of “Damn, now I have write the bloody thing.” And the better job you’ve done convincing the publisher what a rockstar you are, the heavier the weight is.
3. Releasing the book. Seeing it hit the bookshelves. All those months and months of work, put to the test. That’s quite thrilling, especially the first time, though if your book bombs (and if it bombs, it bombs quickly), that can be devastating.
But the biggest moment for me, happens about halfway between Numbers 2 and 3:
4. The moment you realize that your book isn’t going to be shit, after all. That moment when you realize that, “Hey, this is actually going to work, after all”. That moment when you realize that the publisher didn’t waste his money giving you an advance, after all. That moment when you first realize that all the work you’ve done up to that point, wasn’t in vain. The moment you realize that all the people who had put their faith in you in getting this book of the ground, also didn’t do it in vain.
That’s the best time to hit the bars, if you ask me.
And don’t worry, I did…
May 9, 2010
From the Intro to EVIL PLANS:
“TO UNIFY WORK AND LOVE”
Sigmund Freud once said that in order to be truly happy in life, a human being needed to acquire two things: The capacity to work, and the capacity to love.
An EVIL PLAN is really about being able to do both at the same time.
So how do you do both at the same time?
Easy. You love what you do.
How do you love what you do?
You make the decision to do so.
The earlier in your life you make that decision, the easier your EVIL PLAN will be to pull off.
The easier it will be to actually create something.
The longer you’ve been working, the more you see this: People in their thirties and forties, who have kind of hit the wall in their career trajectory, but somehow need the money more than ever.
You know, to pay for all that “stuff”. Fancy cars, nice houses in the suburbs, golf clubs, that kinda thing.
They hate their work, but they love their “stuff”.
They say they have no choice. They have children, mortgages, responsibilities, that kinda thing.
But they also have a lot of “stuff”, which requires ever more time and money to enjoy properly, to keep the veneer from cracking.
Because the older you get, the more time and energy is needed to compensate for the fact that basically, you hate what you do. That you never liked what you do. That all along, it’s always been about the “stuff”.
Those people always get crucified, eventually. Their bosses always get rid of them, eventually.
So please decide to love what you do, the sooner the better. “Death By Stuff” is really no way to live.
[Bonus Link: Comedian George Carlin’s classic rant about “Stuff”.]
March 21, 2010
Since I got back home from SXSW I’ve been working on finishing EVIL PLANS, my second book.
I think I’m almost there, Folks. A few more days of obsessive tweaking to go, and then off to the publisher’s for the final edit. Hurrah!
Man, what a relief. Ever since I signed the contract last summer, I’ve been feeling the pressure. The first book, IGNORE EVERYBODY did very well– FAR better than I ever could have predicted. Beginner’s luck? Maybe.
Regardless, to do it a second time felt like a lot to live up to. It feels GREAT to have the hardest part of the process mostly over and done with.
EVIL PLANS will have roughly the same format as IGNORE EVERYBODY: 18,000 words, plus a hundred or so cartoons. Designed to be read easily on the john, or on an airplane. As I’m fond of saying, “This isn’t rocket science”.
Here’s how the Introduction opens:
INTRODUCTION: “EVERYBODY NEEDS AN EVIL PLAN”
Everybody needs an EVIL PLAN. Everybody needs that crazy, out-there idea that allows them to ACTUALLY start doing something they love, doing something that matters. Everybody needs an EVIL PLAN that gets them the hell out of the Rat Race, away from lousy bosses, away from boring, dead-end jobs that they hate. Life is short.
Every person who ever managed to do this, every person who manged to escape the cubical farm and start doing something interesting and meaningful, started off with their own EVIL PLAN. And yeah, pretty much everyone around them– friends, family, colleagues– thought they were nuts.
Thanks to the Internet, it has never been easier to have an EVIL PLAN, to make a great living, doing what you love, doing something that matters. My intention is that by the time you’ve finished reading this book, you will completely concur. More importantly, you’ll actually feel compelled enough to go and do something about it yourself, if you haven’t already.
Last year my friend, David Brain interviewed me:
DAVID: What was the motive behind writing the book [IGNORE EVERYBODY]? I mean, I know how little money these things make, but do you want it to help other people better their lives or is it just another evil plan?
HUGH: I certainly didn’t expect to make any real money from it, and how much it would “help” other people is pretty debatable. But sometimes in your life you have these defining moments, where you draw a line in the sand and declare to the world, “This is who I am, this is what I believe, this is what’s important to me.” I think we all need these moments at some point, to make us better understand who we really are. Writing a book is a good way to force these moments to the surface. That was really the key driver, here.
And “forcing these moments to the surface” was the key driver with EVIL PLANS, as well. The book is not a how-to book; it’s not an instruction manual. It is a personal rant about something I’ve been pursuing all my adult life: to somehow find a way to unify both Work and Love.
i.e. To do what you truly love, and somehow get paid for it. Again, conceptually this may not be rocket science, certainly, yet it’s still something that eludes most of us. Most of us still have to schlep for a living.
Personally, I think most of us would rather not have to schelp. I think most of us would rather have an EVIL PLAN. I think most of us would much rather find a way to unify Work and Love.
Which is why, of course, I wrote the book. Wish me luck with it, anyway. Thanks…
[EVIL PLANS is scheduled to hit the bookstores April, 2011.]
January 5, 2010
i. The Book. Sometime on Sunday I finished the first draft of “EVIL PLANS”. Sent it off to the publisher yesterday. Now begins the editing and the production. It hits the bookshops January 2011.
I’m already thinking about a third book…
About mid-December I had this big ol’ panic attack; thinking I’d better get to work on EVIL PLANS or else I’d miss the deadline I’d set for myself. So I buried myself in the office and pulled my hair out for a couple of weeks. All this while the Holiday Season was kicking in– more hair pulling there as well, but that’s a story for another day etc.
Ok, so the deadline was met in good time, but I’m a nervous wreck now…
ii. The Newsletter, Phase Two. From the Sign-Up page:
“From early January, 2010, I’m starting a newsletter for you guys. The plan is to e-mail y’all a new, free cartoon every morning at 6am, New York Time. I may include other stuff along with them– written observations, tips, useful links etc– but regardless, I’m hoping it’ll be something that starts your day off with a chuckle.”
Daily Cartoons and the occasional long “Crazy, Deranged Fools” written piece. I hope you’ll sign up, Thanks. I’m hoping that launches any day now.
iii. Ummmm… Did I mention that I’m a nervous wreck now…?
[About Hugh. Cartoon Archive. Commission Hugh. Sign up for Hugh’s “Daily Cartoon” Newsletter.]
October 27, 2009
Now that my October travels are over, I’m sitting at my desk again, working on my second book, EVIL PLANS. Here are some notes:
1. The definition of an “EVIL PLAN” is, quite simply, a great idea that the world isn’t quite ready for yet, or at least, doesn’t think it is. Think of all the world-changing ideas that met resistance when they first came out. The motor car (“What’s wrong with a good horse?”). The telephone (“Hey, if someone wants to speak to me, they can damn well come and visit me at my office, or write me a letter.”). Universal Education (“We can’t have commoners learning how to read– it’ll give them all these fancy ideas they have no business thinking!”). Personal Computers (“The world is perfectly happy with $5 million mainframes, Laddie.”). Women’s Suffrage (“Women? Voting? But they’re not mentally stable enough to choose a good leader!”).
2. Everybody needs their own EVIL PLAN. Because that’s our ticket off the treadmill, the nine-to-five, the working for The Man. Being a wage slave in the post-industrial world sucks. Besides, the latter doesn’t pay very well.
3. Everyone needs to find meaning in the brief time they’re living on this planet. Besides Love– friends, family, babies, your fellow man etc– I believe the best way to achieve that is to find a way of making a living that (A) pays the bills and (B) creates something that you can believe in. We are happiest when the work we do fulfills a sense of purpose. This isn’t rocket science. This is just an EVIL PLAN to get our sorry asses out of the salt mine and on to doing something that matters.
4. EVIL PLANS are not really “Evil”, of course. Maybe “Impish” would be a more accurate term. But calling it “Evil” is really pretty “Impish”, so hey, it works. There is something rather mischievous about having something up your sleeve that will surprise everybody eventually– something that will carry “the joyfully unexpected” to a place it wasn’t before.
5. My good friend, John T Unger once said, “Probably the easiest way to create good in this world, is by starting a small business that makes cool stuff.” I totally agree. That’s how I’ve chosen to spend my life; the point of EVIL PLANS is to reach out to those who have done the same. There are MILLIONS of us. It’s damn exciting.
6. “It’s not just enough to make money. One needs Personal Sovereignty as well.” My Scottish grandfather was poor as dirt his whole life. But he died a free and proud man, and loved by countless many. One thing Grandpa didn’t like, was being told what to do by other people. Especially bureaucrats. “Wee Mannies”, he called them. Small men who used their State-given authority to push bigger men around. They never really pushed Grandpa around, though– frankly, they weren’t that dumb. As I get older, the more I realize how much I take after Grandpa MacLeod. Which is why I own my own business, which is why I would never do well in a large corporation. I don’t like having bosses. I don’t like being told what to do. Again, there are millions of people out there who feel the same. Again, it’s exciting.
7. I’m not writing a “How-To” book. A library of How-To books won’t tell you as much as the following sentence: “Work your ass off for twenty years and THEN, JUST MAYBE you’ll finally get a frickin’ clue.” Like my first book, IGNORE EVERYBODY, I’m just compiling a list of all the stuff that has helped me over the years. But it’s true– a little talent & a good work ethic goes a lot farther than a lot of talent & a poor work ethic. As a lot of my hapless, talented-but-lazy friends found out far too late.
8. I’ve been an artist, I’ve been an entrepreneur. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference– they’re far more similar than the popular myths would have us believe. A fortysomething musician sent me an email recently. He told me that, although his life for the most part has been a happy one– good health, lovely wife, great kids, good friends, nice house, etc– his career has always been a bit foggy for him, like he was never sure what would happen next. I replied, “No worries, your situation happens A LOT with creative people, even among the super-creative-successful types. The never-ending fog of being an artist.” Whether we’re talking art or being an entrepreneur, “The Fog” is always with us. There is no cure, there is only building up a tolerance. And a good sense of humor helps, as well.
9. I think human beings inherently want to do “Something That Matters”. I think it’s in our DNA. I think the people who say they don’t want do something that matters are liars. I also think having an EVIL PLAN constantly in the back of our minds– quitting our day job and opening a bar, writing the Great American Novel, whatever– is also in our DNA. EVIL PLANS is a meditation about finally waking the hell up and going off to do something meaningful.
10. Life is an adventure. EVIL PLANS is my way of proving the preceding sentence correct. And the people who want to prove me wrong? They’re welcome to try– even if they’ll probably fail. Screw ‘em anyway.
[Backstory: About Hugh. E-mail Hugh. Work with Hugh. Twitter. Cartoon Archive. Newsletter. Book. Interview One. Interview Two. EVIL PLANS. Limited Edition Prints. Essential Reading: “Everything You Always Wanted To Know About ‘Cube Grenades’ But Were Afraid To Ask.”]
September 29, 2009
I was quite amused by this, in a weird kinda way.
A few days ago, some groovy cat in Japan spotted my book in a bookshop in some town I’d never heard of before.
And he went and took this picture of Page Sixty Four. Why Page Sixty Four? I have no idea. I guess that’s what intrigued me.
[I saved the photo right then, I went back to try to find the link a few days later but couldn’t find it, sorry…]
Some random dude in a Japanese bookstore. Some random cartoonist in West Texas, with an equally random book serving as asocial object in a now hyper-connected world.
I told a fellow author the other day, “If your book isn’t a social object, your book isn’t selling. End of story.”
He scratched his head for a minute, so then I filled him in all about “Baked-In Sociality.” He got it, then.
And the Internet makes all this far more apparent than it ever was before, of course.
[Backstory: About Hugh. E-mail Hugh. Work with Hugh. Twitter. Cartoon Archive. Newsletter. Book. Interview One. Interview Two. EVIL PLANS. Limited Edition Prints. Essential Reading: “Everything You Always Wanted To Know About ‘Cube Grenades’ But Were Afraid To Ask.”]
September 12, 2009
[Backstory: About Hugh. E-mail Hugh. Twitter. Newsletter. Book. Interview One. Interview Two. EVIL PLANS. Limited Edition Prints. Private Commissions. Cube Grenades.]
It’s been almost four years since I first posted “The Global Microbrand Rant”:
A small, tiny brand, that “sells” all over the world.
The Global Microbrand is nothing new; they’ve existed for a while, long before the internet was invented. Imagine a well-known author or painter, selling his work all over the world. Or a small whisky distillery in Scotland. Or a small cheese maker in rural France, whose produce is exported to Paris, London, Tokyo etc. Ditto with a violin maker in Italy. A classical guitar maker in Spain. Or a small English firm making $50,000 shotguns.
Frankly, it beats the hell out of commuting every morning to the corporate glass box in the big city, something I did for many years. Just so I could make enough money to help me forget that I have to commute every morning to the corporate glass box in the big city.
There are thousands of reasons why people write blogs. But it seems to me the biggest reason that drives the bloggers I read the most is, we’re all looking for our own personal global microbrand. That is the prize. That is the ticket off the treadmill. And I don’t think it’s a bad one to aim for.
As I’ve been working on my next book, EVIL PLANS, it suddenly occurred to me, THIS is what I’ve been doing all along with gapingvoid these last eight years– trying to build my own global microbrand, and trying to help others do the same.
Like my old French buddy, Laurent Haug told me while we were sipping beers in Geneva, not long after I’d written the Global Microbrand Rant:
“You nailed, it, Man. You’re set for life.”
“What do you mean?”
“The Global Microbrand. You coined the term, now you own that conversation.”
“So what’s the big deal?”
“Everybody wants one, Hugh. That’s what we’re all chasing after.”
Laurent had a point. Looking back, it seems so glaringly obvious now…
Eureka. EVIL PLANS just got slightly more evil. Rock on.
[Bonus Link:] “Ten Thousand People: The Antidote To ‘Chasing Gigs’”.
August 2, 2009
[The cartoon I gave to Ester Dyson back in 2008.]
“Random Acts of Traction”.
This is a phrase I use a lot these days.
It seems to be the story of my life.
I put stuff out there– cartoons, prints, a book, a blog post, whatever. Some of it flies, some of it goes nowhere.
Eight years of pretty successful blogging later, and I STILL have no way of predicting what will work, and what will fail.
Who knew the book would be a bestseller? Who knew the phrase, “Social Object” would enter the lexicon of mainstream marketing, simply by me rabbiting on about it ad nauseam? Who knew “Wolf vs Sheep” would be my most popular-selling print? Who knew the Blue Monster would spread like wildfire through Microsoft? Who knew all these things would gain “Random Acts of Traction”?
Not I, that’s for sure.
The great Doc Searls described this phenomenon much better than I ever could:
Tell ya what. I’m fifty-seven years old, and I’ve been pushing large rocks for short distances up a lot of hills, for a long time. Now, with blogging, I get to roll snowballs down hills. Some don’t go very far. But some get pretty big once they start rolling.
See, each snowball grows as others link to the original idea, and add their own thoughts and ideas. By the time the snowball gets big enough to have some impact, it really isn’t my idea any more.
Anyway, at this point in my life I’d rather roll snowballs than push rocks.
I think anyone who makes their living even partly via blogs and social media will understand the snowball metaphor, will understand “Random Acts of Traction”.
My friends, Dennis Howlett and James Governor, both technology consultants, certainly understand this. As they can only realistically execute on 10% of their ideas, they don’t seem to mind giving away the remaining 90% for free, via their blogs. If one of their free ideas gets “Random Acts of Traction”, it’s great PR for their businesses. It leads to conversations eventually. Conversations that eventually lead to paid gigs.
This only works, of course, if you can make your “snowballs” quickly and inexpensively enough. If you spend too much time worrying about it, you lose. If you try to control where the snowballs go after you’ve released them down the hill, you lose.
“Fail cheap. Fail fast. Fail often. Always make new mistakes.” -Esther Dyson. Words to live by. Exactly.
[Update: Just added this blog post to EVIL PLANS.]
[Backstory: About Hugh. Twitter. Newsletter. Book. Interview One. Interview Two. Limited Edition Prints. Private Commissions. Cube Grenades.]
June 27, 2009
Though I don’t start the Texas road trip for at least another month, I’ve already started working on the second book, EVIL PLANS.
If you click on the link above, you’ll see that I’m pretty much writing it the same way I wrote IGNORE EVERYBODY i.e. I’m just cutting and pasting random thoughts, old writings and cartoons together, trying to get it all to fit somehow. Sure, it’ll take a while to gel, but hey, there’s no rush.
Besides, it’s quite fun, to push the unfinished idea “out there”, and watch it evolve over time. Is it the best way to go about writing a book? Probably not.
[Backstory: About Hugh. Newsletter. Book. Interview One. Interview Two. Limited Edition Prints. Private Commissions. Cube Grenades. Hughtrain.]
June 11, 2009
[Books arriving at my office for signing. It’s a lousy job, but hey, somebody has to do it…]
Fourteen months since I went public with the news, my first book, “Ignore Everybody” finally launches today.
Now available at:Amazon.
Barnes & Noble.
800-CEO-READ. (great for bulk buys)
IndieBound. [to find an independent store]
[The book jacket– click on image to see enlarged PDF version etc.]
Here are some brief notes:
1. Big thanks to my agent, Lisa, to Jeffrey and Jillian, my editors over at Penguin/Portfolio, to Maureen Cole, who does my marketing over at Portfolio, to my friend and mentor, Seth Godin, for introducing me to Portfolio.
2. Big thanks to all the bloggers and blog readers who inspired and encouraged me all along the way… You know who you are.
3. The book only took me a couple for months to write. It took me four years to find the right publisher. I feel fortunate that it wasn’t the other way around…
4. Some of my favorite cartoons in the book were drawn at this very small, funky West Village Bar in Manhattan, during my New York days. Probably the proudest moment with getting the book published for me so far, was being able to send an advance copy to the bar’s owner, along with the following note:
Remember that crazy guy with the tweed jacket who used to sit at the end of your bar every night, drawing those weird cartoons on the back of business cards?
I’m happy to report, he ended up alright…”
5. Yes. I am insanely happy, excited and grateful about all this. Thanks and God Bless to you all. Rock on.
[etc: About Hugh. Interview. Newsletter. Book. Limited Edition Prints. Private Commissions. Cube Grenades. Hughtrain.]
May 23, 2009
[Me signing copies of “Ignore Everybody” earlier this week. 25 boxes, 40 books in each…]
With my upcoming book launch less than three weeks away, we decided to published prints from some of the cartoons found in the book.
The book has eighty-odd cartoons in it, I’ve made a shortlist of fourteen [See Below], from which I’ll actually print up three in the next couple of weeks, to coincide with the books hitting the shops [UPDATE: I’ve also included two or three cartoons that aren’t in the book, but maybe should have been etc.].
These prints will be smaller than the last ones [approx 9“x14” i.e. roughly the same dimensions as my MacBook] and cheaper [around $100-$125 for one, around $300 for the set]. They may be black and white only, or we may use maybe one color, we’re not sure yet.
In spite of their small size, like last time, they will be signed, and will be printed as high-quality silkscreens.
Upmarket Cube Grenades. Exactly.
Here is the shortlist. Feel free to leave your feedback in the comments, Thanks!
WOLF VS. SHEEP
WE NEED TO TALK
I DON’T HAVE FRIENDS
IT’S NOT WHAT THE SOFTWARE DOES
IF YOU TALKED TO PEOPLE
GOOD FOR YOU
THRIVING IN MARKETS
March 10, 2009
[The book jacket– click on image to enlarge etc.]
My book, “Ignore Everybody” hits the bookstores on June 11th.
[You can download two PDF sample chapters here for free etc.]
800-CEO-READ. [great for bulk buys]
IndieBound. [to find an independent store]
The book has been a long time coming. What started out as a series of blog posts in 2004, took on a life of its own.
In a hundred years I’ll be dead. So will you. Before that time comes, I want to keep asking the question, “How do we make the world a more fun, meaningful, loving, creative place?” This book is part of that.
I can’t think of a better way to spend the remaining time God has given me on this planet, frankly. You?
[The Official Publisher’s Blurb for the book:]
When Hugh MacLeod was a struggling young copywriter, living in a YMCA, he started to doodle on the backs of business cards while sitting at a bar. Those cartoons eventually led to a popular blog – gapingvoid.com – and a reputation for pithy insight and humor, in both words and pictures.
MacLeod has opinions on everything from marketing to the meaning of life, but one of his main subjects is creativity. How do new ideas emerge in a cynical, risk-averse world? Where does inspiration come from? What does it take to make a living as a creative person?
Now his first book, Ignore Everyone, expands on his sharpest insights, wittiest cartoons, and most useful advice. A sample:
* Selling out is harder than it looks. Diluting your product to make it more commercial will just make people like it less.
* If your plan depends on you suddenly being “discovered” by some big shot, your plan will probably fail. Nobody suddenly discovers anything. Things are made slowly and in pain.
* Don’t try to stand out from the crowd; avoid crowds altogether. There’s no point trying to do the same thing as 250,000 other young hopefuls, waiting for a miracle. All existing business models are wrong. Find a new one.
* The idea doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be yours. The sovereignty you have over your work will inspire far more people than the actual content ever will.
After learning MacLeod’s 40 keys to creativity, you will be ready to unlock your own brilliance and unleash it on the world.
About the Author
Hugh MacLeod worked as an advertising copywriter for more than a decade, while developing his skills as a cartoonist and pundit. His blog is Gaping Void, and more than a million people have downloaded the original post that inspired this book, “How To Be Creative.” He also lectures and consults on Web 2.0 and its impact on business.
October 15, 2008
[One of my all-time favorite cartoons, from The Hughtrain.]
As the book now stands, there will be about eighty or so cartoons in it. I don’t have the exact number so far, a lot has to do with the actual design of the physical book– dimensions, page numbers, layout, cost of production etc. all factor into it.
Choosing the cartoons has probably been the hardest bit of the editing process so far. Besides the 1,800 or so cartoons on the blog, I’ve got– Wow– AT LEAST another 4,000 unpublished ones just sitting around in cardboard boxes.
I wanted the cartoons in the book to offer a pretty thorough overview of my work– who knows, this might be the only book I ever publish, or whatever. So I wanted to include cartoons from all my various stages in the last ten years. From the early days in New York, to publishing “How To Be Creative” and “The Hughtrain”, to my recent work.
The other thing– I’m older. A lot of my best earlier work has a lot more f-bombs and sexual references than the cartoons I’m drawing today. But I wanted them in the book anyway, regardless of how it may misrepresent my more “mature”, present-day self, or undermine the “corporate” side of the book market. Thank God my editor agreed with this approach. Whittle down the edges too much, of course, and eventually you have nothing left.
The good news is, whatever my petty concerns might be, the people at Penguin, both Editorial and Sales alike, seem very excited and gung-ho. I’m feeling that way a bit, myself. Rock on.
July 22, 2008
For the last couple of days I’ve been pinging back and forth with my book editor over at Penguin, Jeffrey Krames. We’re about to work through the final draft.
From what I’ve been told, the hardback version of “How To Be Creative” is coming out around Valentine’s day, 2009, give or take a few weeks.
This harks me back to a blog entry I did in October, 2004, entitled “Why I’m Writing A Book”.
I’m writing a book. It’s an expansion on a web post I published this summer called “How To Be Creative”.
(NB: The Book Outline is here)
The premise is very simple:
“So you want to be more creative, in art, in business, whatever. Here are some tips that have worked for me over the years.”
I didn’t really have a reason for writing it at the time. It was simply one of those lists of everything you wish you had known 10 years previously but didn’t, but had you done so it would have saved you a bunch of time and trouble. Education is expensive.
It started off short and simple, but then I started adding little paragraphs to it, explaining it all the better. Then I started adding wee cartoons to it. The whole thing started to grow. And grow.
In the end the list was seen (and is still seen) by a lot of people. Folk started telling other folk about it. It went viral. After a few weeks of crazy traffic the book idea started coming to me.
I had always drawn cartoons, but never really wanted to do it professionally. Cartooning as a day job meant chaining yourself to your table, scratching out a living in silence, interrupted only by frequent trips to the coffee shop. I wanted to see more of the world than that. I wanted to get out, have adventures, travel, make money, live in the adult world. I wanted to be part of the noisy, hustle n’ bustle, big city life. I wanted to look out my bedroom window in the morning and see skyscrapers. Cartooning was too ‘college town’ for me.
So I got a job in a big Chicago advertising agency. It was a good choice. It pretty much used the same part of my brain as cartooning, the pay was good, the work doable enough and you got to interact with adults most of the time. Plus it also indulged one’s fascination with mass media that all young adults seem to have. I was dead pleased to be in the business.
Still, my first few years in advertising were not easy. Writing ads is a tough profession. There are far too many people doing it, it’s very competitive, it’s hard as hell to stand out and get ahead, the stress is awful, the future is always uncertain, the hours are long, the working weekends are many and the politics involved are completely insane.
By the late 1990’s I was starting to burn out a bit. The job was taking its toll. In spite of this I found myself being offered a great new job in New York City, which I jumped at.
My first year in New York was a transient time for me. Uncertainty about my career and other personal issues meant instead of settling down like a normal person, I was going out a lot. I was drinking way too much. About this time I started doodling on the back of business cards, just to give me something to do while sitting at the bar.
Business cards are the perfect medium for a New York barfly. They’re easy to carry around, they don’t attract a lot of attention, they don’t take up a lot of space at the bar, they’re cheap and disposable enough so it doesn’t matter if you spill your drink on them. They’re a completely unfamiliar, baggage-free, expectation-free medium, so it doesn’t matter if you never get a foothold in the gallery or publishing scene. They can simply exist without a lot of fuss.
People walking past the bar on the way to the bathroom would see this jittery, unkempt guy in a tweed jacket on a barstool, doodling furiously and wonder what was up. Sometimes they’d look at my work. Sometimes it would be met with enthusiasm, sometimes not. Often I was asked if I publish. I’d say no, I don’t.
Saying no would invariably get me a funny look. Why was I bothering doing something this involved if I wasn’t planning on publishing it? This is New York, dammit; you’re supposed to have a master plan for world domination etc.
But I had the advertising job. I didn’t need the money, not really. The advertising paid well enough; even if it was wearing me out a bit. I knew how much most cartoonists make (peanuts) and how hard they work (very). It wasn’t a route I wanted to go down.
Besides, I had been working my ass off for over a decade. Maybe I liked just doing something for no reason, for a change. Maybe I liked the fact that these wee drawings would never be seen by a wide audience. Maybe I liked not having the pressure to succeed at all costs in the forefront of my psyche. Maybe it made me feel less of an animal to be motivated by something other than raw ambition.
Maybe I just saw myself swimming in this crazy, desperate, horny, existential, urban, greedhead-frenzy sea of random bodies, and maybe the act of sitting at the bar and doodling for no reason was my little antidote for it. My little piece of driftwood to cling on to.
It is a very agreeable feeling, when you know you have something special and wonderful happening, but you don’t feel any particular need to let everybody know about it. I knew the cartoons were good, I knew I could do something with them. But I also knew the publishing market. I knew those media folk weren’t ever going to make my life easier. Instead of waiting to be discovered, I was doing the opposite. I was deliberately keeping them from the commerce-minded people, who I just knew would spoil everything the moment I let them anywhere near.
Then the internet came along and changed everything.
I’m not sure how I got into the internet so heavily. It just snuck up on me. One day I just built a website and started posting my drawings on it. A few months later 9 – 11 happened and all hell broke loose. People were being laid off all over. People were at home, surfing the internet. I guess that’s when my work started getting noticed. People started blogging. I started blogging, too.
The world has changed since 9 – 11, anybody who thinks differently is a fool. And for some reason I find myself far better suited to the post-9 – 11 world than the fun, prosperous, party-central one that came before.
The future we see before us is a chaotic one. Somehow sitting there at a Manhattan bar in the late 1990s, endlessly doodling away for no reason, I got a glimpse of the impending chaos a few years sooner than my more stable, prosperous, well-adjusted friends.
And now it’s informing my advertising career.
Chaos can be a positive thing. Chaos is inherently part of the creative act. To embrace creativity means you must also embrace chaos. Things don’t happen when everything is neat and “just so”. Creativity is all about disruption. The people who tell you that creativity is pain-free are liars. The people who tell you they’ve got a plan are liars. There is no plan. There’s just you, God and the need to invent. And this uncertain world is what most of us now find ourselves entering, willingly or otherwise.
Creativity equals chaos. Chaos equals creativity. Embrace it or die. I’ve already done so. I know all about it. It almost cost me my liver but like I said, education is expensive.
The Creative Age is upon us. The Chaotic Age is upon us. We are scared. Damn right, we should be scared. But out of the terror comes the amazing opportunities for us to expand both on the material and spiritual level. The fewer safety nets there are to save us, the less choice we have to be anything other than ourselves, the less choice we have besides doing what is meaningful to us. And finding ourselves, doing what matters, becoming the person we were born to be, this is what God put on this earth to do.
We live in amazing and interesting times. I intend the book to do a damn good job proving it.
I’m looking at this piece and saying to myself, “Damn, I wish I could still write like that…” But I can’t. When I wrote that, I was a lot more poor, unemployed and desperate than I am now. “Hunger is the best spice”. No money or success can replace the artistic edge that prolonged poverty & under-achievement gives you. Sad but true.
Would I want to go back there, for the sake of “Art”? No. I was there once already. And it sucked.
Yes, it was an adventure. But only in retrospect. At the time, the reality was far more mundane and unedifying. Besides, new adventures interest me now, a lot more than the old ones do. Happy but true.