Tea and Cake with Gracie featuring Melissa Dinwiddie

Hi Guys! Welcome to a series we run on the blog called: Tea & Cake with Gracie :) My awesome friend and colleague Gracie Howle interviews inspiring artists and posts the interviews (including some free offers not published elsewhere before) here on the blog every 2 months or so. I love to create art and bring amazing artists & people together in my classes, in person and on social media. As part of this drive, I want to help bring more exposure to some of the amazing artists out there! Today Gracie’s interviewing the awesome Melissa Dinwiddie. Make sure you check out Melissa’s giveaway, free video tutorial and gifts for you below! Tam xoxo

If you love Artist Interviews make sure you read the previous Tea and Cake with Gracie ones – click on artist’s name to go to their interview: Tascha Parkinson / Susana Tavares / Lynn Whipple / Karine Bossé / Jenny Grant / France Papillon / Jenny Wentworth / Kristin Dudish / Rachael Rice / Angela Kennedy (Pennystamper) / Andrea Gomoll


Hi awesome readers of Tam’s blog, Gracie here! :) I got to interview the lovely, multi-talented Melissa Dinwiddie AND she gave us a copy of her fab book, The Creative Sandbox Way: Your Path to a Full-Color Life, to giveaway to one lucky reader! :D PLUS she made us a free video art tutorial too! Check out all her gifts and interview below. Enjoy! :)

1. Welcome Melissa! Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.


I’m an artist, author, and speaker, but really what I am is a creativity instigator. My mission on the planet is to get people creating. You could call me a teacher, and I’ve taught art and calligraphy (and many other things, too) for years, but the bulk of what I teach now is not so much art techniques, but rather how to shed the “skins” that are no longer useful.

My superpower lies in helping people to reclaim their innate entitlement to creative play.

Here’s an example: Have you ever signed up for a course that you were super excited about, but then you never participated, or didn’t participate as much as you’d hoped, because everyone else’s work was so amazing that you just felt like crawling into a hole? The voices in your head said you weren’t good enough, you’re not really an artist, you can’t do it, and then you beat yourself up because you spent all that money, and you didn’t do anything with it? That’s where I come in. The people who come to me after that kind of experience emerge from our work transformed, creating every day, making more art than they ever thought possible, and loving it. In short, I help people transform their relationship with their creativity from one of angst and pain to one of joy and ease.


We have a copy of Melissa’s book, ‘The Creative Sandbox Way: Your Path to a Full-Color Life’, to giveaway to one lucky reader!

Here’s a bit about the book from Melissa:

‘Filled with paradigm-shifting lessons and stories, journal questions, thought-provoking creative prompts, and coloring pages, The Creative Sandbox Way offers 10 “guideposts” and “creative invitations” with each guidepost that will help you take the fear out of creating and bring back the joy.’

Find more about the book here: The Creative Sandbox Way: Your Path to a Full-Color Life


Thank you to everyone for joining in the giveaway and for your comments! The randomly drawn winner is:

Marsha Gulick

who said:


Congratulations Marsha! :)

Take a look at Melissa’s (brand new and just for us!) art vid: ‘Every Woman Is Exceptional – Altered Book – Book Poetry’ (note the singing and music in the video – it’s Melissa!):

(Click the ‘play button’ to watch this video or click on the review link here: Review Link)

Melissa’s also gifting the first 50 pages of her book: The Creative Sandbox Way, plus a printable download of her “5 Reminders” poster. Claim your gifts by clicking on the image below or clicking here: http://melissadinwiddie.com/willowingMelissaD

Learn more about Melissa by reading the following interview: 

BetterCircumstances-spread-1000px2. You say: You can’t just paint over the grey. A full-color life is colored from the inside, by paying attention to your true hungers and feeding them well. I love that! I can see how you live by that; you have many different outlets for your creativity (visual art, writing, music, theatre, podcasts, (public) speaking about creativity -wowsa! Did I miss anything out?!). Can you tell us which you are drawn to the most, or the most often, and why?

Visual art seems to be a consistent anchor for me, but as a passion pluralite (AKA a multipassionate, Renaissance soul, multipotentialite, etc.) I’m always loathe to pick a favorite anythingFor a long time I wished I could pick a favorite, because oh, how I wished I could just stick with one and become “The Best” at something. But I’m simply not wired that way — I get bored! It took me into my 30s to finally figure out that I do get to do everything, just not all at the same time.

It was then that I landed on what I now call my Stovetop Model of Life DesignYou know how we talk about putting something on the back burner? Well, my Stovetop Model takes this metaphor to the next level. It’s based on your typical, old-fashioned, four burner stovetop, because I’ve figured out that I can have about four “areas of adoration” simmering in metaphorical pots on my passion pluralite stovetop at any given time. Fewer than that and I start to get bored (your mileage may vary!) Any more than that and things start to get too crazy.

DWC-CB-66150527A-TurningThink about it: even the most skilled chef wouldn’t be able to keep track of 100 pots cooking all at the same time! Even twenty would be too many. Four, though, that’s manageable. Maybe one of your pots is your family, and one is your business. Maybe one is your visual art, and one is Argentine Tango, which you’ve gotten really passionate about lately. It’s up to you. Or if you’re a new mom, maybe your new baby takes up three pots for now, until she’s grown up a bit. If you’re writing a book, as I just did at the end of last year, the book might take up two or three pots until it’s done.

Now here’s the beautiful part: the burners never move, but you can rotate pots at will, and you can adjust the flame — the amount of energy you give to the pots on each burner! The front, right burner, that’s the “hi-speed” burner, which cooks hotter than the rest, so when you’re really focused, right now, in the moment, guess where the pot is sitting? The front, right burner. The rest of the pots can simmer, and get a stir here and there, but your main focus is on that pot on the front, right burner, because in the moment, we can really only focus on one thing at a time.

Plus, here’s the other really beautiful part of this metaphor: not only can you move pots around on the stove, but you can take pots off the stove and swap them out for other pots that might be waiting in the fridge or the deep freeze. You can even whip up brand new pots from ingredients in your cupboard or in the grocery store! It’s an infinitely flexible metaphor that allows for passion pluralites like me to indulge our multiple passions, without feeling like we’re abandoning any of them forever, while still making space to focus. And it keeps us from overcommitting and stalling out from trying to take on too much at one time.

YouWereBornToCreate_600x784_cc_CROPPED3. In your words you ‘lived a very grey life for decades at a time. It took (you) a long time to embrace the labels “Creative” and “Artist” … (you) figured out how to get past the struggle and on with the joy’. Can you tell us a bit about this, how you came out of the grey?

The first time I came out of the grey was the summer after I’d gotten married to my first husband. I’d recently completed a masters degree, and also recently decided not to pursue the academic career path I’d been on, so I felt pretty lost. I spent the summer after the wedding “trying” to be a writer, but I was so paralyzed by perfectionism that I barely wrote a thing.

And here’s an irony: I actually started doing arts and crafts as a form of procrastination! I hadn’t really created with my hands since I was a child, and I had forgotten how much fun it was. Coming back to this kind of creative expression was profoundly liberating, and it truly did feel like I’d suddenly discovered the color saturation knob on my life.

Of course, I was also filled with deep insecurity — I wasn’t a real artist! I hadn’t gone to art school! Who did I think I was? But thankfully I didn’t let my fears stop me. In fact, I ultimately turned my love of creating into full-fledged business as a calligrapher and ketubah artist (a ketubah is a Jewish marriage contract, a traditional part of every Jewish wedding ceremony). For a dozen years or so I made my living as a professional artist and teacher, but over time, there was so much pressure on my art to make money that I stopped making art for me.

Which leads us to the second time I came out of the grey, back in 2010, and my answer to your next question…

4. Can you tell us about your ‘Creative Sandbox‘ and how that started?

I’d been growing increasingly burned out on my art business, which by this point had become “just a job.” And meanwhile the U.S. economy had tanked, and my business had taken a nose dive. For a couple of years I “threw money at the problem,” trying to revive my ketubah business to its former glory, but I really only succeeded in driving myself into debt.

Then I lost a big sale, and my boyfriend betrayed me, all in the same two-week period. It was as if the Universe had walloped me upside the head with a 2×4.

I realized something had to change, and a big part of that was that I needed to get back to creating for joy, not just for money.

I was so mired in perfectionist paralysis, though, that I literally had to develop a set of “rules” for myself, in order to let go of the perfectionism learn how to play again! I needed to think like a small child playing in a sandbox, which is how the metaphor of a Creative Sandbox came about, and the “rules” I developed eventually evolved into the 10 Guideposts that I write about in my book, The Creative Sandbox Way.

Now I run an online community for women creators called the Creative Sandbox, where we practice these Creative Sandbox principles and support each other in living them daily. We share our creations, our challenges, and our successes, in an online forum, and I host live group calls twice a month so we can get together in real time, almost like open office hours around the coffee table in my living room. We also have monthly Studio Work Days, where we meet up in real time to get stuff done together, and ArtShares, where members gather to share what they’ve been creating, and share creative tools and resources. There’s an archive of art tutorials, interviews with creatives, and even business and marketing lessons for artists, in the membership site, but all the members say the real value is in the community. The heart connections and the support in the group is amazing, and the live calls I do are absolutely my favorite part of my job. I always leave feeling so energized!

5. Guide us through your usual work day and what it looks like.

Ha! Usual work day? There really is no usual work day! That said, I do try to maintain a morning routine, which evolves over time, but currently looks something like this:

  • Gentle spinal twist stretches in bed – about 10 minutes
  • Drink two big glasses of water
  • Meditate – 10 minutes
  • Journal in bed, including plotting out my priorities for the day – 10-20 minutes
  • Doodle in bed – 10-20 minutes
  • Intense stretches on the floor – 15 minutes
  • Feed cat, eat breakfast, make teaDWC-CB-66150307D-yes-1000x1000

From there, I typically hop on my computer and tackle my daily priorities. I have a standing desk, with a cheap little treadmill that my husband hacked for me to sit underneath it, so I can walk while I type. I average about 90 minutes of walking a day, which helps me not to feel so guilty if I don’t get a workout in!

I generally aim to keep my mornings free for creative work, which can include strategizing, writing, speech writing, podcast recording, art, and music. Afternoons are generally for phone calls, appointments, and administrative tasks. It should be noted that all of the above is the target I aim for, not necessarily what I achieve on a regular basis. I used to feel badly about myself when I would miss the mark, but I’ve learned to forgive myself for being human, and I now find it useful to have something to aim for, even if I don’t always hit the bullseye.

Also, while I don’t have a typical day, I’ve been working on a “block” scheduling my week, so that certain days — or chunks of days — are dedicated to specific tasks, or types of tasks. For example, some people I know take all their client calls on Mondays only. So far, however, except for Tuesdays as podcast creation days (which is fairly consistent, because my podcast goes live at 6:00 AM every Wednesday), this is definitely a work in progress for me.

Like everything else in life, I expect my schedule, and my relationship to it, to evolve as I do.


Follow the links below to find more about Melissa! :)
Thanks for being here :) See you for Tea and Cake next time! Love Gracie x

The Creative Sandbox Way: creativesandboxway.com
Creative Sandbox Community for Women: creativesandboxcommunity.com
Facebook: facebook.com/LivingACreativeLife
Instagram: instagram.com/a_creative_life
Twitter: twitter.com/a_creative_life

Melissa’s teaching on Life Book 2017 with us this year – yayyy! You can learn from Melissa and many other awesome teachers by signing up to Life Book 2017 here:
www.willowing.org/life-book-2017 Come and join us! :)


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