Feeling stuck creatively? 6 steps to get unstuck.

Counterintuitive advice for creatives who work from home.

If there’s one thing I hear most from people who work from home, it’s the challenge of ignoring household duties to focus on your work. The struggle is real. In my decade of professional creative work I’ve developed a lot of jedi mind tricks for getting in the zone.

But today I’m going to offer you some counter-intuitive advice. When you’re stuck — when the work isn’t flowing, when you don’t joyfully race to the desk or work space, when you are struggling with how to start, continue or complete a new project, nesting might be just the right prescription for getting you back on track. And a house project might be the perfect thing to shake you out of the funk.

The creativity center of your home

Feng shui (the ancient Chinese art of placement) holds that the creativity + children area of your home is located in the middle right quadrant of your home. You can find it by placeing the square blow over your home’s floor plan. If you’re new to the feng shui bagua, think of it this way: It’s basically a floor plan for floor plans. Here’s a good post from the Spruce about how to align the bagua on your home to figure out which sections of your home correspond to which areas of your life.

In my home, the creativity + children center is located in my downstairs powder room and our game closet.

    1. Identify where you are stuck in the process. This means taking a firm look at what is going on with your work. For me, I have too many projects right now and I really want to focus on my memoir book proposal. But then I have this kids’ book I continue to sell, and this holiday I started, and and and. I want to move from one project to the next. Transitions are hard for toddlers and they are hard for adults! So I need something that will allow me to feel less stuck, more inspired, and help me make the transition to the next project.
    2. Head to the creativity center of your home and assess. What do you hate about this area? Maybe you’re not a hater. What are the shape of objects? The color of the room? The decorations? The flooring? The way the toilet seat (in my case) doesn’t fit directly on the seat? Is a faucet leaking? What’s going on in this area? If it’s another area of the home (not a bathroom), go there and see if you can feel what is going on in the space.
    3. Pinpoint what bothers you. Chances are good that if you are stuck creatively you will need to change something in this area. In my bathroom, what bothers me most is this Moroccan stencil I started and never finished about four years ago. I was reading Young House Love: 243 Ways to Paint, Craft, Update & Show Your Home Some Love and had decided to paint a white pattern on a grey background. It was an arduous, hateful process, and I never even finished it because I started hating the design before I was done. Let this be a lesson to everyone. Stenciling is a terrible idea. Don’t do it.
    4. Make a change, be it minor or major. I have a dream bathroom I want in that space. I have a spreadsheet with the tiles I want on the floor, a new toilet, a new vanity, a mirror and about $5,000 worth of work I want done. It basically looks like this. But it is just not in the cards for us right now. But you know what I can do? I can paint over that old terrible Morrocan stencil I hate so much. The one that feels like gridlock to me. The one that is… ahem… a tessellation. I chose Sherwin Williams Marshmallow and I got to work painting. It took me about a day. Also, paining made it feel cleaner in there since I painted the baseboards as well. White, by the way, while boring, is a good color for a creativity area. Blank slates, right?
    5. Enhance the area. So here is where things get personal. Objects, colors, materials and other enhancements are classic feng shui cures. But the very first thing every person needs to do, even if they don’t believe in this feng shui juju, is to make sure this area is sparkling clean. De-clutter, shine it up. I did this first, before painting. But now I am in the process of choosing some select objects to enhance creativity. What you choose to bring in there is a personal choice, but to me, enhancements are all about messaging. What is it I want? I want to feel more at play in my work and home life. So I’m hanging this Asian wall hanging my husband picked up from a garage sale as a teenager. It’s got some monkeys on it, which remind me of my two children. I also put some tiny plants in there, a brass deer (I like how gracefully and simply it goes about its grazing) and, since I’m not doing that $5,000 bathroom reno anytime soon, I decided to order myself a Marimekko hand towel. Why? Because of my other child, our Finnish exchange student, who lived with us three years ago.
    6. Get back to work. It may have taken a day off of my productivity, but I am back in action. I am going full throttle on my new project, I feel like I’ve created a nice bookend to my old project (the kids’ book), and — this is a complete surprise — it turns out having white at your back instead of grey makes you look less like Wednesday Addams in the mirror!

Remember: Even Einstein took a little time every day to play his violin as part of his creative practice. So when anyone gives you flak for fixing something in your home instead of sitting at your desk, tell them #becausefengshui. I’m not done yet with my creativity center. I know I’ll be doing some tending here, but in the meantime, I know I’m ready to make a smooth jump into the next writing project!

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