Oh, Sheila, I identify with much of what you wrote. I have many of the same issues, including a lack of self-confidence in my own work and the complicated issues around using elements from other designers because everyone seems to have their own TOUs and some of them are mystifying to me.
My favorite things are also learning how to create elements of my own.
I don’t join in many challenges that are scrapbook related because, well, I don’t often do scrapbook pages, so I don’t have much to suggest in that area. I did enjoy the alphabet challenge but that’s because I didn’t try to do a scrapbook page for each one (that would have been more than I could manage). I thought one challenge in the Lab was fun (though I didn’t do anything with it) which was to see how many different ways one could use circles (polka dots included)…..taking a shape and seeing how many ways it can be manipulated is sometimes a good brain storming technique (or taking several shapes and seeing how they can be combined). Sometimes trying to use just a limited number of colors (or shades of a single colors) can be interesting). In one forum, long ago and far away, the moderator would provide three images and the challenge was to blend the three into one image, but I’m not sure that would work for scrapbookers.