The 16th century essayist Montaigne put it well when he advised, “If you’re going to withdraw into yourself, first prepare yourself a welcome.” While I suspect he was talking about becoming introspective, his advice stands up if you’re going run a solo business and/or live an idea-filled life.
If you run your business from home, one of the dangers is that spending the bulk of your time in the same place can squash your creativity. An antidote for this is to make your personal environment the knd of place that consultant Mike Vance calls a “kitchen for your mind.” Too many homes are filled with the appliances of living, but lack the materials needed to spark ideas. One new entrepreneur told me she started noticing that all the magazines coming into her home were deadfully dull. She promptly cancelled all her subscriptions and began replacing them with new titles that fed her imagination.
It’s not just things, however, that can welcome fresh ideas. Bernice Fitz-Gibbon made a fortune by employing her creativity. Fitz, as she was known, grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. In the twenties, she headed for New York and became an advertising legend. Not only did she write ads that people remembered, she taught hundreds of young people the trade.
Fitz was a big believer in creating an environment where it was safe to make mistakes. She credits her father with nurturing her curiosity. In her wonderful book, Macy’s, Gimbels, and Me, she writes, “I was fortunate in having a teacher-farmer father who encouraged wildness. He felt that there were always enough tamers-down around. He equated docility with dullness. He didn’t want a house full of docile, respectful children. He wanted kids that exploded with different ideas—cockeyed ideas, unconventional thoughts clothed in an unconventional way.”
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Play with wild and crazy ideas. Whether you live alone or with others, keep finding ways to prepare a hearty welcome for the ideas that want to join you.
$100 Hour: Create a network. “My business really took off,” an artisan told me, “when I expanded my network of other artisans and we passed along leads to each other. Clients appreciated our professional recommendations and since we all knew each other’s work, we felt confident giving referrals.”
Explore More: If you’re not in the habit of looking at books of interior decorating ideas, spend some time browsing at your library or bookstore until you find a book that appeals to you. Authors such as Tracy Porter, Alexandra Stoddard and Sarah Susanka all have different styles, but are popular creative catalysts.
Sometimes I think creativity is magic. It’s not a matter of finding an idea but allowing that idea to find you.–Maya Lin