Ignore Everybody is two things in one. First, it's a series of tips designed to turn creatives into artists. Second, it's a collection of Hugh's best cartoons. While some of the cartoons do support the text, I'm going to review the cartoons and the text separately because they really do stand on their own.
What separates a writer from an author? A rower from an oarsman? A comedian from a humorist?
Greatness in any field comes from taking a novel idea and pushing it to its logical conclusion, redefining the medium in the process.
Hugh doesn't teach you how to come up with your big idea, nor is the book a collection of theories on what makes something innovative. Rather, Hugh's rules teach a mindset conducive to pushing great ideas to their logical conclusions.
This book won't teach you how to paint, but if you're lucky you'll come away with the mental frame you need to avoid having the outside world crush your creativity. And if you really take its lessons to heart then hopefully, in the words of Steve Jobs, you'll ship.
Over the years I've sent the blog post that inspired this book to countless friends, and now that I've read the book itself I can't recommend it enough. I'd consider it a must-read for any creative who aspires to be an artist, not just some guy who lives in a loft and calls himself a writer.
But even if you don't aspire to become an artist, the book still has much to offer. In Hugh's own words, "This book is about becoming more 'creative' in one's work, whoever you may be. Or just useful advice for any one who aspires to undertake some creative or artistic journey."
While reading Ignore Everybody, one gets the sense that Hugh MacLeod would be far happier if only he were a little less intelligent. The existentially depressed cynic to Woody Allen's bumbling neurotic, the Hugh MacLeod character is sort of a cross between Dostoevsky and George Carlin. That is, the cartoons are really a collection of observations about people, their motivations, and the shallowness and meaninglessness of the human condition.
So, is Hugh truly an artist, someone who has pushed the medium forward? Yes. Two reasons:
1) Hugh is the only cartoonist that's figured out a way to draw his characters in a way that really lets you see into their souls. Hugh manages to nail the platonic ideals of the ditzy blonde, the pretending-to-be-an-artist-to-pick-up-girls guy, the too-full-of-himself corporate a**hole, etc. Considering that his cartoons are really only simple line drawings, it's amazing how well he's able to convey the characters' posture, dress, facial expression, body language, etc.
You can tell exactly what the character is like as an entire person just by looking at them, even if you cover up the text. Open up the Sunday comics and it quickly becomes clear that no other cartoonist can do this.
2) Hugh's second trademark is being able to write the one sentence that sums up the character's entire existence.
Man: "I can't decide what I want to be: A millionaire or an artist."
Woman: "Can't you just compromise? Become a millionaire artist or something..."
Viewed through the lens of the art, the human existence is nothing more than posturing and superficiality.
Does Hugh actually believe this? He says,
"I don't necessarily find the human condition shallow and meaningless per se. Just our egos and pride sometimes force us to act like it is. I think we're all strive to find meaning in life, we just don't always elect to take the high road when doing so; we're often far too willing to look for shortcuts."
All in all, this is a book that will change the way you think. In a good way. A very good way.