“What’s with the sandbox, Melissa?”

People often wonder why I named my company Creative Sandbox Solutions™. It’s been awhile since I’ve shared the story, so I thought I’d share it again.

I used to sing spontaneous operas about my cat when I was little. I wrote “novels” about talking animals. I drew so much, we should have bought stock in the Crayola company.

But really early onthe Comparison Trap started to sink its teeth into me.

In first grade, when I couldn’t draw race cars as realistically as Aaron Brody could (never mind the fact that I had no desire to draw race cars!), I concluded that he was the real artist, and therefore I was not.

In fourth grade, when I saw a painting that a professional artist had made, and wasn’t able to instantly match their skill, instead of concluding that I had some things to learn, I concluded that I simply lacked artistic ability. They were the real artists, and therefore I was not.

In high school, when a classmate played music at a higher level than I was capable of, instead of concluding that I had some practicing to do, I concluded that I simply lacked musical ability. They were the real musicians, and therefore I was not.

By the time I was fifteen, I’d quit art and music entirely.

Like many people, I suspect, I spent my young adulthood believing I was not creative. 

Art, music — all forms of creativity — those were for other people, not me.

But then in my late 20s, I found myself in need of a procrastination device, and I started making arts and crafts. Specifically, doing papercuts.

My family and friends loved my papercuts. So did the folks at the frame shop where I took my pieces to be framed. On a whim, I entered some in an art show, and they got in!

A friend paid me to make a papercut for her. Then a second friend commissioned a piece.

Suddenly I found myself in business, and I decided to study calligraphy, to add to my versatility.

It was a heady time. I loved unlocking this (old) new door, and climbing creative learning curves. I took all sorts of art classes. I felt like Dorothy when she landed in Oz, and suddenly everything went from black and white to Technicolor®!

Trouble in Paradise

Making a living from my art (in expensive Silicon Valley, no less!) increased my confidence, but it also led to burnout. Although at first it was exciting to be “living the dream” as a professional artist, it wasn’t long before art become just a job.

I was deeply mired in creative block, only creating for clients, never doing the kind of joyful exploration that had gotten me into art in the first place. I was pretty miserable.

Then after many years of this stuckness, I finally figured out how to blast through the roadblocks.

The secret? Play!

What my creative spirit needed, I realized, was to be like a little kid in a sandbox: exploring, making messes, unconcerned with the outcome.

The metaphor of the creative sandbox was born!

I wrote about my creative sandbox principles (or guideposts) on my blog, talked about them on my podcast, created an e-course about them, and eventually wrote a book expanding on them.

When I turned my focus to helping teams and organizations blast through their creative roadblocks and build Cultures of Creativity, it made sense to call the company Creative Sandbox Solutions™.

The audience may be different (teams and organizations, instead of individual creatives), but the outcomes I deliver are similar:

✅ blasting through creative roadblocks

✅ increased ability to take productive risks

✅ willingness to embrace failure

✅ more cohesive and supportive collaboration

✅ increased ability to co-create in the present

✅ better listening skills (to oneself and others)

And the ultimate outcomes: creativity skyrockets and innovation thrives.

So that’s the story of the sandbox. If you thought it was a bit of a nutty name, hopefully it makes a little more sense now!

Go play!

I love using play to help people-first teams and organizations blast through creative roadblocks and build Cultures of Creativity. If you or your team could use help increasing your impact, and getting there faster and more joyfully, let’s chat!

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