CSW 147: The Frustration of the FlailAt the end of 2015 I faced a moment of truth.

I realized I was not getting to my art table to make art.

Weeks had gone by, and I had not managed to squeeze in even a few minutes, despite the fact that my art table is literally right behind my computer desk. So all I have to do is turn around and take two steps to the left to be standing at it.

The gravitational pull of my computer is so strong, it was keeping me from doing even that much.

Clearly, something had to change.

What to do?

One thing I know is: the thing I do FIRST is the thing that gets DONE. 

So I asked myself, “How can I do my art truly first thing?”

As in, before I even get out of bed?

That way I wouldn’t have to worry about the gravitational pull of my computer sucking me away, because the computer is in my studio, and I’d be across the hall in my bedroom.

Of course, sitting up in bed I couldn’t use messy acrylic paints and big canvases or parent-sized sheets of paper. But I could use a sketchbook and some Pigma Micron markers.

Making the Change

I confess, I wasn’t super excited about the idea of drawing in black and white, having always been a color person, but I was desperate. And this was an experiment. And in the corner of my mind there was the idea that perhaps one day I might create a coloring book, so that was an added incentive.

That was how I started my morning doodle practice, which I’ve been doing pretty much daily in my “early morning studio” (AKA, my bed) ever since.

Sometimes I’ve worked on teeny tiny canvases and incorporated color.

Tiny canvases made during my "early morning studio" daily doodle time

Sometimes I’ve worked in sketchbooks. Both in color, and lots of black and white.

The black and white doodles from 2016 became the (colorable) illustrations you’ll find on almost every page of my book, The Creative Sandbox Way!

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

Sometimes I’ve worked on postcards.

Postcards doodled in my "early morning studio" daily doodle time

There was even a month when I practiced drawing faces.

Faces doodle from my "early morning studio" daily doodle session

(I wonder how much better I could have gotten in the year and a half since then if I’d kept it up, but apparently drawing faces just doesn’t hold my interest the way abstraction does. Who knows why?)

Anyway, the important thing is that for over two years I’ve taken a bit of my morning to doodle. Almost every single day.

The Reality of the Creative Process

There have been days when I have been utterly delighted by what I’ve created. So much so that at times I’ve laughed out loud!

That is the part of the creative process when I’m in the groove, and it is absolutely my favorite part. I wish it would last forever!

Alas, it never does.

Inevitably, there are days when I don’t like what I create. When the critic gremlins go nuts, telling me that I suck, that what I’m creating sucks, that I should quit, who do I think I am, etc.

That’s always going to happen.

When I’m in the groove, those days are few and far between.

But after the groove has gone on for awhile, it eventually deepens into a rut.

And where a groove feels fun and delightful, a rut feels boring, uncomfortable, and like something has got to change, but I don’t know what or how!

So here’s where the flailing starts.

For awhile, I keep at the same thing, trying to keep the groove going, but it’s stale. It’s not working anymore. I’m only rehashing the same old thing.

It’s lost the magic, and I don’t know what to do or where to go next.

This is so painful.

And here’s the thing: I always try to think my way out of this, and into another groove, but it never works.

You can’t think your way to creativity, you have to DO something! You have to get your hands dirty, either literally or metaphorically.

This is so uncomfortable.

It feels like I’ve got this itchy old skin that I’m trying to molt, and the only way to get it off is to flail and bump around on things. Which is kinda painful!

The Flail

So that’s where I am right now, in the Flailing stage. I’m seeking out my next groove, knowing that it may very well be a long time — weeks or months — before I find it. So frustrating!

But that’s the creative process. There’s no getting around it. It is what it is.

So if you’re feeling frustrated, hating what you’re creating, here’s what I can tell you:

  1. You’re not alone.
  2. It’s all part of the process.

Try to focus on those little sparks of enjoyment that you experience in the process. Because that’s what’s really important.

Remember Creative Sandbox Way™ Guidepost #2: Think process, not product. 

You will get back to a place where you enjoy what you create again, but for now, keep bringing your attention back to the process, the experience, and make that fun for yourself.

Because really, if that’s not fun, why are you doing it?

Something to consider.

Now go get creating!

Something Cool

Backblaze – the world’s easiest cloud backup (yes, that’s an affiliate link — I use Backblaze, and it lets me sleep easier at night, knowing my data is being backed up automatically).


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 and leave a rating and review. (If you don’t know how to do that, you’ll find step-by-step instructions at creativesandboxway.com/itunes-review).

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, and how the podcast has made a difference in your life. You can email me at creativesandboxway.com/contact.

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 Tunes!

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.

Subscribe in iTunes | Subscribe via Stitcher

Now go get creating!

xo, Melissa <3

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

Manifestos by Melissa Dinwiddie

Subscribe to My Newsletter and Get My Manifestos!

Click here!

Get the Inside Scoop!

Join our mailing list to receive entertaining tips & updates via email no more than once a week, and we'll send you our Team Assessment Tool to uncover the strengths and weaknesses of your team in under 10 minutes. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!