Note: For the fullest experience, I recommend listening to the podcast, as the audio version always contains additional comments and tangents not found in the blog post version.

CSW 168: The Obstacle Nobody Talks About

As a creativity instigator, I hear from people all the time about the biggest obstacles that get in the way, that keep them from doing their creative things.

One of the most common ones is time.

“I don’t have time.” “I don’t have enough time.” “I can’t find the time.” “I’m not making the time.”

Really, all of these have very little to do with time. We all have the same amount of time.

So then it comes down to priorities, right? You’re choosing to spend your time on X rather than on Y.

Except that for creatives (or people who don’t identify as creative, but wish they were — and I would argue they actually are creatives, too, they’ve just got some serious mindset crap to work through…)

Anyway, for creatives, it’s not so simple. You can’t just say it’s a matter of priorities, because that would mean that the reason you’re not making time for your creative thing is that it’s not important to you. And that’s just BS.

The reason you’re not making time for your creative thing is that is so darn important to you, it terrifies you!

So really, that “I don’t have time” excuse (and yes, it is an excuse) — it all boils down to fear. 

Same thing with the next most common obstacle I hear: “I’m not good enough.”

Or some such variation on self-doubt.

“My work isn’t good enough.” Or, “Everyone else’s is better.” Or, “I’m just not not good enough yet.” Or, “I suck, so why even bother.”

Or on, and on, and on. You get the drift.

Again, it all boils down to fear.

My friend Sue Ann Gleason uses a shorthand for these two obstacles that I really like, and have borrowed with her permission: No Time and No Talent.

But there’s another obstacle I hear, that’s very much tangled up with No Time and No Talent.

It’s one that seems innocuous, because, after all, it’s not the real issue, and it doesn’t leap out at you, like a saber-toothed cat. It’s more insidious. It slowly creeps up on you, until you’re utterly paralyzed by it.

More like a python that slithers up and wraps itself around you, until is squeezes the life out of you.

Literally years can pass and this problem has you by the neck, limiting your ability to think, to act, to breathe, even. But you don’t do anything about it, because it feels impossible.

And then you turn around, and doing your creative thing feels impossible, all because of this killer obstacle.

What’s the obstacle?


Yes, clutter.

I once had a coaching client, Melody, who was so hungry to get to her needlework — she hadn’t made anything in over a year — but she was totally stalled, because her art room was an utter disaster. It was crammed with boxes and piles, and there was literally no empty surface for her to work on. She felt like she had to clear it out before she could get started on anything creative.


I asked her how long she though it would take just to clear a “minimum viable” space, and it was clear that simply was not going to be feasible. Just being in that room felt so oppressive!

So I took emergency measures. I asked her if she could get to any of her supplies (yes, she could), and I asked her if there was someplace else in the house where she could work temporarily, until she could clear space in the studio.

She thought for a moment, and said yes, actually, the dining room table would work.

So she collected her needlework supplies, and thanks to our call, she was able to get to work for the first time in months.

Being away from the clutter allowed her to think and breathe, and doing her art fired her up to finally start tackling the clutter that had piled up in her studio, so she could eventually reclaim that space for her art, and reclaim her dining room for her meals.

Melody is not alone. If I had a dollar for every client, student, or email-writer who told me that they can’t get to their art — whether it’s writing, painting, sewing, or music — because of the clutter in the way…

Or that they need to clear out their studio, or clear off their desk before they can get started, and that THIS is what’s holding them back, I would be a very rich woman!

And if you think I am somehow immune to this problem, I wish I were, but sadly, I really struggle with clutter. All through the house, but especially in my studio.

So much so, in fact, that four years ago I finally drew on what I knew about myself to do something about it.

Here’s what I knew:

I need external accountability.

For things that I’m über-excited about, I don’t need any external accountability. But for things (like dealing with clutter), I can use all the help I can get. If I don’t have someone to report to, forget it, I just won’t do it. But if I’m on the hook to show I did something, I will come through!

• Deadlines are magical. 

Sometimes it seems like nothing gets done in my life without one. But if I have a deadline, I’ll get ‘er done!

• I’m a sprinter, not a marathoner.

For creative work, I’m a huge believer in small, daily acts. “Think tiny & daily” is Creative Sandbox Way™ Guidepost #4, after all. But when it comes to drudgery, tiny and daily doesn’t always work for me. When it comes to clutterbusting, time-limited, intense sprints have been game-changers. They’re the only thing that have ever really worked, and they’ve worked wonders.

• Community is essential.

The real reason clutterbusting is so dang hard is because of all the emotion tied to it. How do you let go of stuff that holds meaning in your life? How do you let go of stuff when you don’t want it to just end up in landfill, but you don’t know where the heck to take it? Decision fatigue is real, and the uncertainty and emotional issues that clutterbusting can stir up are just too volatile to face alone.

We need a team on our side when we take this on!

So, knowing that I needed external accountability, deadlines, a time-limited sprint, and a community of supporters, I created a program to help me and any creative who wanted to join me, clear out the clutter so we could finally focus on creating!

It was called the Great ClutterBust, and it worked wonders.

Here’s a peek of some of what I was able to achieve:

Because clutter has a way of creeping back up on you, however, I find myself in need of help again.

So I’m going to be running another Great ClutterBust in a few weeks.

A sprint. To clear out the clutter, clear out all that baggage you’ve been dragging around, clear our space to create, so we can think and breathe and walk into the room and instead of going “ugh,” go “ahhhh.”

So our spaces are an invitation to create! Imagine that.

Stay tuned for more info, and let’s walk into late summer feeling light, and free, and spacious, ready for Fall, ready for anything.

Something Cool

Mechanical light cottage morphs sliding skin with use/seasons


Calling All Silicon Valley Artists, Writers, Crafters, and Those Who Wish They Were!

Creative Sandbox Playday hosted by Melissa Dinwiddie

Creative Sandbox Playday is a half-day to come together with other creatives and get stuff done on your own creative project.

As a professional creativity instigator, author of The Creative Sandbox Way™, and host of the Creative Sandbox Way podcast, I hear from people all the time that the biggest obstacles they face are, first, carving out the time to get to their creative work, and second, getting past the “I’m not good enough” gremlins that inevitably pop up.

Creating in isolation is so hard, so let’s do it together!

Sun, August 5, 2018
10:00 AM – 2:30 PM PDT
Palo Alto, CA

Click here to read all about it and register now

Use the code YAYFOREARLYBIRDS by 6pm PT on Sunday, July 8, to get 15% off.

Listeners Wanted!

Has the Creative Sandbox Way™ podcast made a difference in your life? Would you like to be featured on the podcast?

I love sharing listener stories, so if you have a story of how listening to the podcast has changed your life for the better in some way — big or small — I want to feature you in a Listener Spotlight.

Here’s how it works:

1. Just log into iTunes/the Apple Podcast Player and leave a rating and review. (If you don’t know how to do that, you’ll find step-by-step instructions at

2. Then copy and paste what you wrote in your review into an email, and send it to me, along with why you want to be featured in a Listener Spotlight. How has the podcast made a difference in your life? You can email me at

That’s it!

If I pick you for a Listener Spotlight, we’ll have a relaxed, fun conversation, and the recording of our conversation will be part of a future episode! How cool is that?

Want a creative kick start?
Check out my book!

The Creative Sandbox Way: Your Path to a Full-Color Life, by Melissa Dinwiddie

What would change for you if you could totally revel in the joy of creating? You CAN, with The Creative Sandbox Way!

You’ll learn:

  • Melissa’s 10 fool-proof guideposts that have helped thousands get joyfully creating.
  • 5 reasons why creative play is good for you, AND for the world (it’s neuroscience, baby!)
  • Why “I’m not creative” is always a lie, and how to bust it.
  • How to turn creative blocks into friends.

AND you’ll get creating right in the book itself. 

ChrisGuillebeau“It’s one part field guide, one part creative practice—and I loved it. The Creative Sandbox Way is an adventure packaged as a book.”

~Chris Guillebeau
NYT best-selling author of The Happiness of Pursuit and The $100 Startup

Buy The Creative Sandbox Way by Melissa Dinwiddie - checkout with Amazon


Hear ye, hear ye! This is to serve as official notice that all links to anything for sale, be it books or courses, are likely to be affiliate links. What this means is that if you click through said links and make a purchase, although it won’t affect the price that you pay, a few coins will jangle into my coffers, enabling me to buy a packet of hard gluten-free biscuits to feed myself and my husband for another day, or perhaps a pen with which to create some artwork. Or perhaps they will contribute toward paying a fraction of my web hosting bill, so that this blog and podcast can continue to exist. Thank you kindly for your attention.

Thanks for Listening!

Thanks so much for joining me this week. Have some feedback you’d like to share? Leave a note in the comment section below!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the bottom of the post.

Also, please leave an honest review for the Creative Sandbox Way on the Apple Podcast Player/iTunes!

If you’d also like your voice to be heard on the show, leave your question as a voice message right here.

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunes to get automatic updates.

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Now go get creating!

xo, Melissa <3

PS — Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!

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