As I was running errands yesterday morning, I heard an interview on public radio with violinist Joshua Bell. He had some interesting things to say about how he maintains his enthusiasm for music. Part of his success, he hinted, is that he’s also passionate about football and other things that have nothing to do with music. He confessed that some days he doesn’t even practice his violin. As I listened, I realized that Bell’s approach is one adapted by many creative souls…my sister Margaret, for example.

Before  Margaret drove me to the airport for my flight back home on Tuesday, she loaded up her car with tools. One of the customers for her handywoman services needed a house call after the man of the house cleaned their aquarium and dumped the rocks down the garbage disposal causing a household emergency.

After she dropped me at the airport—and before she came to the rescue of her distraught homemakers—Margaret stopped at a large fabric/craft store and purchased feathers and other supplies for her big new passion, handmade fascinators. Her enthusiasm has been so contagious that all sorts of people are adding their support. Earlier in the day, Margaret’s daughter called to say she had the photographer booked and was lining up models for an upcoming photo shoot to expand her Website. Over the Top Fascinators has generated a creative flurry  at Margaret’s house and a delightful new profit center.

While I love the juxtaposition of fashionista and handywoman, I also realized that the way in which this has come together is a study in generating creative thinking. What did Margaret do that we can use in our own enterprises?

1. Created a vacuum. After two decades in corporate life, Margaret quit her job not quite knowing what was coming next. She did, however, think it was time to be self-employed. It took a bit of time for her to realize that Another Pair of Hands, her handywoman business, was an idea that was hiding in plain sight. The bigger lesson here is that getting rid of what we don’t want often is a critical first step to creating what we do want. It also requires some courage.

2. Followed where enthusiasm led.  Too often we dismiss ideas when they don’t fit neatly with other things that we’re doing. If we acknowledge the the creative life will open new doors to new passions, we tend to be more welcoming. After all, passion begets more passion so we constantly discover new things to be excited about.

3. Practiced creative cross-training. Being involved in activities that require wildly different activities can be a powerful force for building creative muscle. Each activity makes its own special contribution and synergy is the result.

While our rational left brain may be telling us to keep thinking about solutions or options, often shifting gears for a while produces far greater results. 

Explore More: It’s only January and  I may have already found my favorite book of the year. Sir Ken Robinson, one of the world’s best-known thinkers on creativity, has a brand new offering called The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. Filled with great stories, along with his keen observations about creativity and innovation, this book is both fun to read and wonderfully encouraging. There’s his story about the Traveling Wilbury’s, for instance, which reminds us that if we start the creative process we may end up with something far more brilliant than we expected. Robinson also talks eloquently about the importance of finding your tribe and nurturing your own inherent creative spirit. Simply inspiring from cover to cover.

Enthusiasm is the most important single factor in making a person creative. ~ Robert E. Mueller