How a creative block can be the best thing to happen to you

How long does it take for an idea to go from inspiration to a realization? The answer is – as long as it needs to. We start, stop and start again. The roadblocks are a powerful magical part of the act of creation. Eva Fernandes asks, what if you saw all your creative blocks as a momentary pause for rebirth and reincarnation? 

I love visiting churches when I’m a tourist. 

But…this is different.

I’ve seen my fair share of opulent monuments designed for worship around the world. I’ve stood in awe at St Peter’s Square in the Vatican, the Aya Sofia in Istanbul and Wat Phra Chetuphon temple in Bangkok.

 But … this is different.


If a Skyscraper and Chapel had a Baby

The Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona is bizarre. 

Sticking out of pink-red rocks, this chapel is a strange mixture between a skyscraper and a church in the Martian landscape of Sedona, Arizona, USA. Famed for being a hot spot of energy vortexes, thousands regularly flock to Sedona for ‘spiritual healing and psychic enhancement’. 

And a few years ago, I was one of the many tourists visiting this outlandish area. I had heard about a chapel and decided to pay it a visit purely on a whim. Parking the car at the base of the chapel, I slowly hiked up a paved path. I looked around me and saw throngs of tourists, beautiful red rocky mountain-like formations and spikey cacti of every kind. 

And then, I saw it.

Stunning and discreet; striking and chameleon-esque. The chapel is a triumph of architecture. From the outside, the structure is all glass and straight lines; clean, modern and sophisticated. It is the perfect union between the exterior and interior. This chapel is in fluent conversation; speaking to its environment and the people who come to worship.

Once you enter, the chapel itself is very simple. There is a massive crucifix resting against the spine of the building. Intimidating and overbearing, the crucifix is the focal point above a simple altar and a few pews. That’s it. 

How do you create such a good balance between fitting in and standing out? Some may say that might even be the mission of a well-lived life.


The Convoluted Painful Conception Story

At the doors of the chapel are a few framed images. There, the inception story is handwritten in bold calligraphy. Every time I’ve visited the chapel, I go to read the writing on the wall. The twists and turns inspire me and I hope it does the same for you.

Our story starts in 1932. Sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude saw the Empire State Building in New York. Inspired, she was fascinated with the idea of combining a crucifix with a sky skyscraper. 

Staude created a model for this chapel. With the help of an architect and a few nuns in Budapest, Hungary…she found a place for her vision. Ready to start construction on the Danube in Hungary, the plans came to an abrupt halt. World War Two had broken out. Any hopes of building the chapel vanquished. 

But still, the dream lingered. 

Marguerite Staud had a ranch in Oak Creek, Sedona. After the war, she returned to her dream of building the skyscraper chapel. In Sedona, Staude searched for the perfect spot. She searched, searched and searched. Then, she found it. 

But of course, there was resistance. 

After much lobbying, plotting and planning, Staude needed an act of Congress to start construction. The Chapel of The Holy Cross was completed in 1956. Yes. 1956! The Chapel was built more than 24 years after the image first came into her mind.


How long does it take for an idea to be realized?

It has been a while since I’ve been in that beautiful chapel but I am always thinking about it. Standing there tall, magnificent and outrageous; the chapel is a lot of things to me. Above all, it is a poignant reminder of the process of creation. 

Specifically: how long does it take for an idea to go from inspiration to a realization? The answer is – as long as it needs to. 

The Chapel Of the Holy Cross was supposed to be in Budapest overlooking the Danube. Stunning as the Danube is, I’m partial to the Sedona. If everything would have gone according to plan…would we have seen such an outrageous skyscraper in the middle of the high desert?  The beautiful vortexes of Sedona – make me think of a lot of things – but a chapel isn’t one of them. And yet, how perfectly a setting Sedona seems to be. The chapel nestled between extraterrestrial rock formations; overlooking the gorgeous scrubby arid prehistoric valley. 

So, how many times will the road to materialization change? When will there be circumstances out of your control, a world war or a bloody pandemic? No one can know for sure. Still, we must always remember to hold our visions close to our hearts. 

Why? The stumbling blocks are part of the process. Most creation and acts of beauty take wayyyyy longer than we ever ever ever imagine. That project, website, business or book, is going to have a lot of starts, stops and in between. When we hit roadblocks, it is frustrating. 

However, roadblocks are also magic enhancement. 

When a project stalls, we leave it aside. Finally, when we do return, we come back with new eyes. We add layers. We add nuance. We iterate. We add things we would have never ever seen. Isn’t that a powerful reframe? 

What if you saw all your creative blocks as a momentary pause for rebirth and reincarnation? 


The toxic pathologies of productivity

Capitalism will tell you – always be marketing yourself. Always be creating. Creating, creating, creating. If you have an idea – get it out there…yesterday. 

Ew. I don’t believe in hustle culture. Nor do I believe it is possible to be in a perpetual state of inspiration and creation.

It is my life’s ambition to regularly push back against the toxic pathologies of productivity within the art of creation. Art is a much longer conversation. We start, we stop and we start again. The project changes. We change. The world changes. Sometimes we receive inspiration and other times we digest and rest. 

Sometimes, you put your projects aside because you just want to feel the brilliance of the sun as you sip on a tall amber pint in a beer garden. Other times, you’re swamped with caretaking or parenting responsibilities. Or maybe you are just tired.

The truth is: you’re not supposed to be constantly creating in a linear line from conception to release.  Of course, we don’t hear that enough. 

I used to feel terrible about all my starts, stops and in betweens. The studio that is my laptop used to be scattered with scribbles, thoughts, blogs, essays and articles. Everything seemed to be floating in some scattered form of incompleteness. All the unclosed loops made me feel like a failure. 

Now, I know better. 

Now, I believe in the process. 

The process takes time for a very good reason.

Here’s an example. I first went to the chapel in Sedona in 2019. I scribbled down the idea for this article that very month. Two years passed. I visited the chapel again. This time, I fleshed out the article in 2021. Months passed. Now, in 2022, I’m editing this piece. 

Erm, seriously? Yes. That’s how long I needed to feel the wisdom of the chapel. I needed time to fill in the gaps of the social context, positionality and access that seemed to be skewing this story into a false narrative of meritocracy. See the bottom of this article for that section.


What about YOU? Take a moment to breathe

Can you cut yourself some slack for all the brilliant ideas you’ve been trying to birth? 

This is my hope for you. 

If you are in the middle of some kind of creative project… take a moment to breathe. Does your project seem to be forever in the start-stop phase? Take a moment to breathe. If you are feeling frustration or anger? Take a deep breath with me. 

And while you are breathing deeply…look around you. Delight in the beauty and pleasures of the world. Leave your project aside for a moment. Enjoy some wonderful art, a really good meal or the touch of someone you love. Enjoy the inspiration which got you to this moment. The divinity within you which guides your creation. 

And TRUST. Trust that you will find the way forward, when you need to.

Trust the process, friends. Keep creating.  

Be meticulous with your organization and storage. Don’t worry about the rest.

Get out of this silly binary which says you either have to do it today or chuck it. 

Your chapel on the rocks is twisting and turning. 

If it is meant to be, it will. 

You don’t need to force it.




A note on the finer troubling details

As an Indian who was born Catholic, I have some pretty specific opinions regarding the construction of churches and the expansion of the Catholic Empire in foreign lands. 

While I’m new to the history of North America, I have hesitation about writing such a gratuitous love letter to a Catholic chapel built on this Holy land. I had to ask myself…who was this land first considered to be sacred for? Even though I have spent a fair bit of time in Sedona, I learned very little of the history of the Hakataya, Hohokam and the Sinagua people…who tended this land. Nor did I see or hear much about the Yavapai and the Tonto Apaches who currently reside in the area. Without acknowledging the people of Turtle Island and the horrific erasure, oppression and violence…how can I write about the beauty of this chapel?

Additionally, I have to inquire about the intersections of the identity of the visionary Staude. I was suitably impressed to learn it was a WOMAN in the 1930s who envisioned this structure and was the driving force of this architectural marvel. This certainly was incredible considering the times. 

And still, I have to ask – what background, class and caste of society did she belong to? How is it that Staude and her husband came to ‘own’ land in Sedona? What about her positionality allowed access to an architect, nuns in Hungary and even congressmen? 

[ FYI: Staude was born to ‘wealthy philanthropist and pioneer in the pharmaceutical’ industry, Lucien N. Brunswig. She brought the land in Oak Creek County as a safeguard against a potential attack on the West Coast during World War 2].

Why should we acknowledge the intersectionality and positionality of this fine impressive woman?

Because it matters. Who Staude was played a massive role in her ability to realize her architectural dream. By no means am I taking away from her genius, persistence and vision; not at all. I am enamored by it. And still, it is crucial to highlight how her access and identity influenced her ability to get things done.

The editor in me believes in the strictest economy of words. The editor in me genuinely struggled with this extra section. It is part of the reason this article took so long to materialize. My editor self asked…do we have to add even MORE words to this already lengthy article? Seriously? Are intersectionality and land acknowledgment even part of this article? 

And the activist in me, fights back! How could it not be? When we don’t tell the rest of the story – we miss the point. We miss seeing the systems and access which can help a project move ahead…and others to halt. Simplifying this story into a simple narrative of “she did it and so can you…” well that is doing a disservice to everyone. 

Make no mistake, there is a powerful lesson to be learned from this chapel. Still, I have extremely bitter sentiments for the horrors inflicted by Catholic Church, white settlers and colonizers on my ancestors and our collective ancestors.

And still, the chapel is a wonder.  

Every time I am in Sedona – I find a way to see it. I hike around the area, I go to the chapel. I look out for it from other vista points. It is a special structure AND it sits on a complicated history. I’m here for it. The nuance of beautiful art. The nuance of the systems and structures that shaped it. AND the nuance of the act of creation, too.


Gratitude to Fiona Proctor for edits + revisions


Eva writes about creativity, social justice, spirituality and feminism. She is a Pro-Justice storytelling coach who supports social justice conscious entrepreneurs, leaders & visionaries in speaking up after years of conforming and playing small.

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