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The Backbone of Creativity and the Antidote to Feeling Stuck

According to coach and writer Helen McLaughlin, the backbone of creativity, and the antidote to feeling stuck, to feeling listless is fostering wonder. Wonder “inspires us to seek and to experiment and to learn,” she said. Wonder “puts our very existence into perspective by suggesting an expanse of things we don’t yet know or understand.”

We never lose our sense of wonder—even though you might feel like you have. Rather, as adults, we often forget about it. We often bury it under bills, laundry, dishes and work.

Thankfully, connecting to our sense of wonder is fairly simple. Below, Helen shared four powerful and creative ways we can foster wonder in our everyday—whether your intention is to be more creative or reconnect to your childlike self, who walked around in awe of it all.

Start obsessing about something. According to Helen, this could be absolutely anything: seahorses, house building, pinecones, the color blue, furniture upholstery or medium format cameras. Because what really matters is the obsession. Because people who are obsessed with a subject read anything and everything about it. They follow the experts. They watch videos. They research related topics.

“When you decide to put forth this caliber of energy—the kind that comes with getting consumed by something—you’re crafting opportunities to feel fascinated…Pick something, obsess over it, and wonder will follow.”

Use a magnifying glass to explore. In fact, Helen suggested carrying it with us and creating our own scavenger hunt for objects to explore. For instance, you might explore an anthill, the woodgrain of a cafe table, or a raindrop on a blade of grass, she said.

“When we give ourselves a new way of viewing the world, so-called ‘common things’ look different enough to prompt us to see them as if for the first time. How differently might you see snow if you were to spend an hour studying and drawing the shapes of individual flakes? What about a sandy beach? The skin on the back of your hand?”

Plant something. “Witnessing a plant’s growth from seed is endlessly wonder-filled,” said Helen. She suggested taking pictures and keeping a journal that documents your daily observations. “On what day after planting does the green pop up? When does a leaf or a bud of some sort begin to form? Allow yourself to become intimately acquainted with the process of growing something.”

Seek out colors all around you. “Throughout your day, whether you’re in the prettiest place on earth or the most ordinary, be on the lookout for nuances in color along with combinations that look stunning to you,” Helen said. Also look for combinations that seem delicious, alarming, unreal or flat-out bizarre, she said.

“Make a viewfinder out of your hands and hold it out in front of you, studying the environment for color only.” To take this further, snap pictures with your phone, and upload them to to see which colors dominate, she said.

When you’ve got creator’s block, when you’re feeling restless, blah or bored, reconnect to your sense of wonder. Study your surroundings, study different subjects as if you’re experiencing them for the first time, as if they’re actually rare. Because as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years how man would marvel and adore.”

Helen is currently working on a book all about wonder (I can’t wait to read it!). Learn about her work at, and follow her on Instagram @wonderinghelen. Plus, check out her illuminating insights on creativity in this interview on Make a Mess. 

Photo by Vincent Giersch.
The Backbone of Creativity and the Antidote to Feeling Stuck

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2017). The Backbone of Creativity and the Antidote to Feeling Stuck. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 2 Jun 2017
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