You might expect a former poet laureate to specialize in melancholy—not to be as funny as a stand-up comedian, but Billy Collins is a funny man who writes poems that appeal even to those who proclaim they don’t like poetry. He may be the only poet whose appearances regularly fill auditoriums.

What Collins has done (wittingly or otherwise) is to employ a powerful marketing tool that for want of a better name I’ll call Just Show Up.

Actually, there is a little more to it than that; let’s call it  Just Show Up With Your Best Self in Tow. Letting people know the person behind your logo is the intention here.

One night when I was channel surfing and stumbled upon a program called Chihuly Over Venice. I knew nothing about Dale Chihuly and even less about how glass art is produced, but by the end of the program I was determined to see as much of his work in person as I possibly could.

Since then, I have made Chihuly pilgrimages to Tacoma, Seattle, Las Vegas, London, Madison, San Francisco and Minneapolis. He, too, makes frequent appearances on public television and at openings of showings of his art.

A born teacher, Chihuly also understands that creativity is creativity, wherever it shows up. He says, “A lot of creativity has to do with energy, confidence and focus. These are the elements for making creative things. It’s probably the same thing whether you’re making a movie, whether you’re an entrepreneur doing business, whether you’re an artist, or whether you’re a gardener or a cook. These are all the same qualities that it takes.”

Susan Harrow is a media coach and public relations specialist who tells aspiring authors, “The most important thing to a publisher is your presence. Good writing can be bought, but publishers want the truth of you connecting to people.”

I’m guessing that many are surprised to hear that an author’s presence gets such high marks, but I had two publishers make offers after attending one of my seminars in New York and determining that I was media ready.

If you understand how important this is, you’ll waste no time hiding out. In fact, you’ll look for ways to make it easy for people to find you.

“Somewhere someone is looking for exactly what you have to offer,” says Louise Hay. Our presence—showing up and being seen—is a marketing tool that should not be overlooked.

You’re a singular production and what you bring to your business will be uniquely and utterly yours alone. Knowing that will give you the added bonus of having more empathy and curiosity for other people.

Reveling in their uniqueness is how successful artists approach their art and how artistic entrepreneurs approach their business.

Or as Julia Cameron so eloquently reminds us, “ Since each of us is one-of-a-kind, the market, for all its supposed predictability, is actually vulnerable to falling in love with any of us at any time.”

But first you’ve got to show up.

When I took a sabbatical a few years ago,  I set off for Europe with no itinerary, but plenty of notebooks and eyes wide open. Anything and everything that caught my fancy was recorded and composted.

Long term travel isn’t the only option, of course. Taking regular jaunts to inspire yourself is good for your creative spirit. Even a day trip can yield results if you are open to it happening.

Here are a few of my favorite ways to recharge and refresh my entrepreneurial self.

° Visit a legendary business. Long before I set foot in Rejuvenation, a lighting, salvage and home furnishings store in Portland, I was a fan. I’d been getting their catalogs and loved their storytelling as much as their merchandise.

Seeing the business in person did not disappoint.

Another happy visit took place on a trip to Minneapolis when Alice Barry suggested we pay a call on Wild Rumpus, the imaginative children’s bookstore. Somehow I had never managed to get there when I lived in the area.

These kinds of places don’t always show up in guidebooks, but savvy entrepreneurs who are willing to scout them out, often find ideas and inspiration that they can synthesize in their own operations.

° Browse at a flea market. Whether or not you’re shopping for anything in particular, a couple of hours chatting with entrepreneurial sellers can be a fine way to invest some weekend time.

If a seller isn’t busy, ask about their business. Why did they choose the merchandise they sell? Where do they find things they market?

For some sellers, it’s a little sideline, while others travel the country marketing antique, art or clothing. Most sellers are also social beings and love to share their stories.

° Make a pilgrimage. The moment that I heard that the deYoung Museum in San Francisco was hosting the largest display of Dale Chihuly’s work ever gathered in one place, I knew I had to go. I have been tracking down his work in cities I’ve visited for the past several years, but never attended such an abundant exhibit.

I have, however, flown across the country and across the ocean with the intention of attending a special exhibit of the works of artists I love or to hear a performer or author I admire.

It’s always special to visit an exhibit or attend a concert or seminar that only exists for a brief time. Making the effort to admire creativity enriches and enhances your life.

° Visit an entrepreneurial city or town. When my friend Chris Utterback was alive, I always looked forward to my visits to her in Connecticut where one of our regular amusements was to visit our favorite shopkeepers in neighboring villages.

Like flea market sellers, shopkeepers who specialize in selling things that they love are frequently eager to talk about their passions.

Large cities, too, often have neighborhoods where locals run quirky little businesses. Scout them out.

° Be a tourist in your own hometown. During my days living in Santa Barbara, I always enjoyed visits from out of town friends with whom I could share this lovely spot.

After one of these visits where I played tour guide, I realized that I wasn’t taking advantage of interesting things in my own backyard.

Every so often, get off your beaten path and go see something a visitor wouldn’t dream of missing if they came to your part of the world.

° Go on a treasure hunt. If you’re a collector, you already know the fun of treasure hunting, but if you aren’t so inclined, invent a project and see where it leads you.

Find the best taco or creme brulee within fifty miles of home. Or see if you can discover the most eccentric business in your area.

Entrepreneurial excursions can inspire and inform, of course, but the best part of taking such a trip is the possibility of encountering someone who is genuinely doing what they love.

As Danny Gregory reminds us, “When you are in the deep end of the creative pool surrounded by others full of energy and ideas and examples, you learn to swim a lot better.”


Bonus Excursion: In Seth Godin’s LINCHPIN he writes eloquently about the importance of creative thinking. “Art isn’t only a painting,” he points out. “Art is anything that’s creative, passionate and personal.” Like being Joyfully Jobless. And the upcoming Idea Safari can help you spread your art. There’s still time to join the exploration.

For half a century, Andy Rooney has been an outspoken and opinionated journalist. For most of that time, his stories were written on his beloved manual typewriter.

It is only in the past few years that he’s relented and switched to a laptop computer. His ancient typewriter is enshrined in his office where it remains a symbol of a long and creative career.

Andy Rooney is not alone. Watch someone masterful at work and you’ll notice that there’s almost a reverence given to the tools of their trade.

On the days when Eric Clapton performs, he chooses not to see or touch his principle guitar. He says that as he prepares to go onstage, he walks to get his guitar and it’s like going to meet a lover.

There is no work that I can think of which doesn’t involve some sort of tool or prop or machine. Whether it’s a computer, a ladder, a camera or a chisel, humans continue to devise tools to elevate the quality of their work.

Tools also provide valuable clues about whether our work is our passion or merely a way of filling time.

Although we hear alot about the role of technology, almost nothing is said about the role that tools (technological and otherwise) play in our success. Tools are never mentioned as a vehicle for self-awareness.

And yet they’re a nearly foolproof method of getting in touch with how we feel about the work we do with them. Far too many people do not experience anything close to the feeling of going to meet a lover when they pick up their telephone or dental drill. 

On the other hand, people who love what they’re doing regard their tools in an entirely different way. Besides keeping them in superb running order, they often personify them, giving them names and talking about their tools as if they were a partner. 

Paul Hawken was touring British gardens when he learned about the personal relationship some folks have with their tools.

He writes, “As I watched the gardeners work I studied their tools. I hefted a spade, the tool of choice. It seemed unusually heavy and it was sharp as an ax.

“The gardener saw me looking and came over. That was not merely a spade, that was his spade. I asked him if it wasn’t heavy and tiring to use.

“With a smile he invited me to give it a try. I toiled away as he grew increasingly amused. In his Lancashire accent he said, ‘Let your tool do the work. That’s what it’s made for.’ He showed me how use the weight of the spade, how to make the tool an extension of my arms, how to move my body.”

Hawken was so impressed with the lesson he’d learned that when he returned to the United States he tried to interest some companies in importing English garden tools.

No one was interested. Eventually Hawken realized that this idea belonged to him and the successful mail order business Smith and Hawken was born bringing the tools Hawken loved to a new market. 

Our relationship with tools is important—and maybe even a bit mystical. “I’m always looking forward to opening the ovens in the morning,” says glass artist Dale Chihuly. “Glassblowing is a spontaneous medium that suits me. I’ve been at it for forty years and am as infatuated as when I blew my first bubble in 1965.

“We use the same tools they used 2000 years ago. I know if I go down to the glass shop, I’m going to make something that’s never been made before. That in itself is an inspiration.

“I used to think it was the glass that was so mysterious, but then I realized it was the air that went into it that was miraculous.”

Inc. magazine founder Bernie Goldhirsh used to remind his writers that their entrepreneurial readers were actually artists and business was their canvas.

That’s been on my mind for a couple of reasons. On the one hand, I’m noticing a lot of online marketing gurus who resemble snake oil salesmen more than artists. Happily, on the other hand, Creativity with a capital C seems to be raging all over the place. It’s delightful when it’s married to entrepreneurial activity, but that’s not always the inspiration for creating.

On Saturday morning, I dashed into Barnes & Noble to pick up a copy of Is Your Mama a Llama?, a book I give all new babies and their parents, and decided to swing past the magazine rack and select something I hadn’t ever read before. I was startled to see two very glossy new small business magazines. On closer inspection, I discovered that each of them was actually a recruiting tool for a direct sales company. Imagine an entire magazine of advertising disguised as journalism. Clever or duplicitous? 

The magazine I settled on also had a connection to a business, but it wasn’t selling a business opportunity. MaryJanes Farm magazine is just one of the profit centers flowing out of the enterprising mind of Mary Jane Butters, an Idaho organic farmer who has a huge following of women who are passionate about gardening, wistful about farming and enthusiastic about creative activities of all kinds. I love people who are the artists of everyday life and this magazine celebrates that spirit. 

Over the weekend I also caught up with a couple of friends whom I hadn’t spoken with in ages. My friend Jill McDermott, who lives in Spring Green, WI, told me that her personal project for the year was to reconnect with her creative spirit. To that end, she’d taken a class the day before called Yes, You Can Draw. “I was the only person in the class who had no art training whatsoever,” she laughed. “It was challenging, but by the end of the day I discovered that I could draw.”

That call was followed by another from Karyn Ruth White in Denver. She just got certified to lead Laughing Yoga so we talked about her plans for teaching that. Karyn raved about a book she was reading called The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp. I recalled having it checked out of the library some time ago, but don’t think I got around to reading it. Karyn said, “I think it’s The War of Art’s older sister.” That was all the incentive I needed to give it another look. And I’m urging you to do the same. Tharp makes a convincing case for the necessity of daily practice, whether we’re dancing, writing or running a business. 

On Monday, I spent an hour catching up with Ken Robert, a guy I’d met a couple of years ago at Work at What You Love. Ken has started blogging (last week I mentioned his terrific piece How to be Mildly Creative) and I’m loving the results. During our conversation, he mentioned another piece he’d written, one I hadn’t seen, called Creating Like a Kid. It, too, is quite wonderful and a poignant reminder of how easy it is to stray from our creative impulses.

In some ways, creativity remains a mysterious process. What’s not true about it, however, is that only a few of us a privileged to possess it. When we see creativity in action, we’re witnessing the results of practice, nurturing and cultivation. As Dale Chihuly, one of my favorite artists/entrepreneurs, points out, “A lot of creativity has to do with energy, confidence and focus. These are the elements for making creative things. It’s probably the same thing in whether you’re making a movie, whether you’re an entrepreneur doing business, whether you’re an artist, or whether you’re a gardener or a cook. These are all the same qualities that it takes.”

My love affair with  Dale Chihuly began about a decade ago when I stumbled upon a public television airing of Chihuly Over Venice. I had no idea who Chihuly was, but five minutes into watching and I was spellbound. I grabbed a videotape and popped it into the recorder sensing that what I was about to see was worth seeing again.

“In the moment of knowing a live,” says Ray Bradbury, “intensify it.” That’s just what I did, making it a personal project  to learn everything I could about this prolific artist. Since I like to spice up my travels with explorations, Hunting Chihuly became a favorite. I tracked down his work wherever I could find it and have admired his installations in Minneapolis, Tacoma, Seattle, Madison, as well as at the Dallas Museum of Art, Kew Gardens in London and, of course, at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

When I heard that the deYoung Museum in San Francisco was having a monumental display of his work, I knew it was not to be missed. Thanks to Southwest Airlines, it was easy to make a daytrip out of my next Chihuly quest. I decided to make the trip on September 9 since it’s a memorable milestone day for me and this seemed like a great way to celebrate. I invited the delightful Sharee Schrader, a recent participant in Compelling Storytelling, to join me. She was a perfect travel companion. Besides sharing my enthusiasm for the stunning works that fill eleven galleries, Sharee is also a voracious photographer and took dozens of pictures which I’m hoping I’ll be able to share some of them with you later.

I also enjoyed the descriptions in each room which discussed Chihuly’s sources of inspiration. In one of the first galleries, the wall plaque talked about how he got the idea to climb up on a stepladder and drop molten glass on the ground below to see what would happen. The pieces in that room are the result of that experiment.

The museum expects that by the time the show closes on September 28, more than a million people will have viewed it.  I can’t begin to describe what we saw, but you can get a sense of it by watching this Chihuly at the deYoung slide show. 

Chihuly loves to talk about his work, about creativity and the things that inspire him. Here are a few of his observations.

Chihuly on Chihuly

A lot of creativity has to do with energy, confidence and focus. These are the elements for making creative things. It’s probably the same thing whether you’re making a movie, whether you’re an entrepreneur doing business, whether you’re an artist, or whether you’re a gardener or a cook. These are all the same qualities that it takes.

Glassblowing is a spontaneous medium that suits me. It requires split-second decisions and a great team. It’s very athletic. The more you blow, the better you get. I’ve been at it for forty years and am as infatuated as when I blew my first bubble in my basement in South Seattle.

I thought it was the hot glass that was so mysterious, but then I realized it was the air that went into it that was miraculous.

You know, you don’t teach art. That’s the last thing you’d ever teach. All you have to do is set up the environment and it happens.

I’ve been such a nomad all my life. I don’t think I’ll ever lose the desire to travel to beautiful places—one more archipelago, another round of standing stones, another glassblowing session in some exotic spot, or just one more trip to Venice to see the full moon over the Grand Canal.