There’s No Rushing the Creative Process

One of the things I’ve learned about the creative process is that it can’t be rushed – it takes time for all the necessary materials and inspiration and (sometimes physical energy) to fall into place.

Case in point: our downstairs fireplace.

When we bought our home nearly nine and a half years ago, the basement rec room was a cavernous expanse of space running the entire length of the house (with the requisite bar at one end).

Here’s a closer look at the fireplace.

Pretty stark, eh?

Once I finally got rid of the wallpaper that seemed clung tenaciously to every wall in the house, I got out my paint can and began my love affair with yellow. I knew the basement (and that fireplace) would be last on the list of renovations so I slapped on some paint to at least warm things up a bit.

As you can see, once we added two boys and their toys the space filled up quite quickly.

The far end became our makeshift ‘classroom’ for the sit-down-and write part of homeschooling. The dress-up trunk was within easy reach. The fireplace mantle and hearth held all manner of essentials. And the bar became a perfect place to display Amazing Lego Creations.

Years passed.

All the upstairs and outdoors renovations were finally completed and we turned our focus to the basement. My sweet, little boys had become teenagers (still sweet, but with a bit of a sour edge from time to time), they were both in school, and many of their toys had been passed on or packed away as their interests had changed.

Stephen built bedrooms for the boys at either end of the rec room. We repainted the walls from yellow to green, put in some cork flooring, and, finally, turned our attention to the fireplace.

We hadn’t had a fire downstairs in nine years, so we changed the fireplace from wood burning to natural gas (ha! I say we, but we all know it’s Stephen who did all the grunt work). We enjoyed the fireplace’s warmth right from the first day it was installed, but beyond that, we were stymied for a good, long time.

I had no idea how I wanted the fireplace to look.

I had no vision.

And then, ever so slowly, the final pieces fell into place.

And in the most unlikely of places.

I took Gabriel to a ball game in Innisfail one balmy May evening and, while the team warmed up, I went for a walk. Leaning against a fence in the back alley was an oak fireplace mantle. I studied it, circled the block, and studied it again.

In Calgary, when a family was upgrading something (like a barbeque, for example) and the old one was not quite dump material, they would put it in the back alley with a “Free” sign on it and it would disappear in the night – hopefully, to someone who would get a little more use out of it.


I took another walk around the block and then finally walked around to the front door and rang the doorbell.

“Yes,” said the little, old lady who answered the door, “it’s yours for the taking, sweetie. I don’t want it.”

I carried it (somewhat inelegantly) across the vast expanse of park to the ball diamond and managed to find a ride home for it in the back of a fellow ball-parent’s truck.

And then it sat, leaning against the wall in the downstairs hallway, for a very long time.

Every time I walked by, the same litany of questions went through my mind.

‘What are you going to do with this, Maxine? Sand it? Revarnish it? Paint it?’

I wanted to paint it a warm cream color, but I don’t always have the best of luck picking paint and, even if I did choose the perfect whitish-cream, what if it looked horrible once it was done? Or just plain stupid in the middle of that huge rec room wall?

Luckily, I was able to let my questions percolate for awhile because we still hadn’t picked out the hearth tiles. And then one day – again, on a mission to do something else – I found the perfect tiles.


I just couldn’t picture how these different elements would work together.

I had come to the part, in the creative process, when I just had to stop with the second-guessing and trust those little instinctual moments of ‘yes’ my body had been whispering to me.

‘Yes!’ my heart did a little leap when I first saw the tiles glowing like jewels in the Lowe’s aisle.

The same ‘yes’ had prompted me to push through my usual reticence and do what I needed to do to bring that mantle home.

And then there was the ‘yes’ that bubbled up whenever I closed my eyes and envisioned the mantle painted white . . . er, cream.

It came together in surprisingly short order after that.

Thanks to a lengthy Easter holiday, Stephen was able to focus on the tile work while I painted the mantle and, by the end of the weekend, voilà!

Some moments when I round the corner, I love it.

Other times, I think the white is too bright.

But I’ve let my creative subterranean self know that I’m looking for beautiful things to enhance the overall look and I know they’ll pop up in the most unexpected of places.

Actually, a couple of pieces already have.

See that object on the sawhorses just in front of the double doors leading to Jacob’s bedroom? Between the piece of exercise equipment on the left and the drum set on the right? (See, I told you their interests had changed as they grew and changed.) That (and another, similar piece) are attractive and very clever pieces of storage furniture that I found, by accident (ha!) while I was looking for something else. And, amazingly enough, their design echoes the lines of the mantle.

And they were On Clearance.

75% off.

Both pieces for under $50.

I love it!

I’m going to paint them the same color as the mantle. I have some vague idea that having that creamy-white color in other places in the room will help to soften the mantle’s sometimes overwhelming presence.

I have no idea if it will work, but something inside me is saying ‘yes’ so I’m going to go for it.

That creative ‘yes’-girl has a pretty good track record so far.

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