Share Your Story: How Did You Start Your Creative Journey?

26 05 2009

At present, I’m working full-time as a Media/Music Coordinator for House of Joy in Valdosta, GA. I thought I’d share a bit today how I came to be a “graphic designer.”

When I was a teen we used to make newsletters with hand drawn art, a type-writer, a roll of scotch tape, and a copier.

I actually still have some of those newsletters somewhere.

I’ve been a doodler my whole life. But I never thought I’d do it professionally. I’m on my way to working full-time as a designer before the end of this year.

Later in highschool I began to play with the church’s word processing programs (on a Windows 3.1 machine). Continued to put together newsletters and flyers like that.

Fast forward to college where I got my hands on photoshop compliments of my music departments tech lab. I would go in almost every night and do “web design” and photoshop stuff. All the while not really knowing what I was doing. That’s where I started really in the digital world.

Still not owning a computer.

That was almost 15 years ago. That’s also where I learned that Macs pwn windows for creative applications, though I can design on anything with a current.

Still not owning a computer.

The 2 churches I’ve worked for over the years have always provided work machines for me. I’ve worked with everything from photoshop 5.5, to publisher, to cs2,3 and now the complete CS4 Master Collection (LOVE IT).

Still not owning a computer.

I’m by far not the best designer on the block, but by joining the creative groups like this one, I’ve been challenged and a whole new world of design was opened up to me. My eyes for design have gotten better, and I’ve been able to push myself far beyond what I’d have done alone.

Now I do music/design for the church I’m at full-time. The design part includes everything from print, web, motion graphics/videos, etc. I also work 20 hours on top of that doing design for a regional publisher that has markets in Texas and here in Georgia. We do community oriented magazines, so most of that work is ad and article layout.

I share my story to encourage you to really make that decision to pursue it if you’re going to do it. But also know that the tools (owning a computer, owning the latest photoshop, etc) don’t make you a good designer. Technically, that doesn’t make you a designer…it just makes you rich, haha, or lucky.

To this day I still don’t own a computer.

I will be buying towards the end of the year and it will be a great milestone for me, because it will be the culmination of many years of making do with what I had but pushing the boundaries of what “could” be done with “nothing.”

I’m living proof that you don’t have to go through years of school, spend tons of money, or even own a computer to be a good designer.

What’s Your Story?


It’s Worth It When You Finish

21 05 2009

finish_lineHey Everyone!

This is my first “post” here at OurCreativeCommunity.Com.  You’ll find my name over in the sidebar under a few different categories:  Fitness, Songwriting, and Reading Books.

I’m kicking it pretty good in Fitness and Reading Books right now.  I’ve yet to write a new song.

Speaking of Fitness, those of you who follow me on Twitter have heard that I’m committed to a tough, 2x/week outdoor physical regimen training at 6:00 AM.  This morning’s regimen was unique because it was raining on us as we pressed through the pain, fatigue, and the physical, mental, and emotional stress of the routine.

Though we all push and encourage one another, it’s still a “do the best you can at your own pace” environment.  That being said, our trainer said something today that was really inspirational and applies perfectly to our “creative community” goals.  As we were running, pushing, jumping, and whatever-the-heck-else he told us to do, he proclaims to the group “hey, you can quit if you have to …  but finishing is fun“.

I have to tell you, by the 3rd of 4th sets in our exercises, my mind was telling me that I would have to back off and skip the final set.  But I knew that the feeling of victory was way too sweet.  In our case, “victory” doesn’t mean you finished first.  It simply means …


So we are almost five complete months in our journey of goals for 2009.  Many of you are beginning to say “I think I’ll just slack off and quit on these last reps”.  And you can if you want to.

But it’s WORTH IT when you FINISH.

Keep Pressin’ On,
Fred McKinnon

Don’t Lose Focus

6 05 2009

Hey y’all! It’s Mandy here. I just read a fantastic article called “How to Concentrate on Writing.”

Great title, eh? 🙂 Seriously… This article has some great tips on how to focus when we need to. One thing I’ve fought is the discipline of focus. Especially when I use my computer to facilitate my creative process. My computer is also my #1 source of distraction (can I get an amen?!)…

When I’m “in the zone” and the creative sparks are flying, I don’t need this type of discipline. But, let’s face it, how often am I “in the zone?” Not enough. Most of my creativity is expressed through blood, sweat, and tears, which is exactly why I found this article to be helpful.

So, without further ado:

How to Concentrate on Writing

An Our Creative Comunity Collaboration

27 04 2009

The Speed of Life on

The Speed of Life on

Go listen and leave comments on both sites!!

Hip Hop Collaboration by Mandy Thompson (lyrics) and Russ Hutto (music/raps the lyrics)

Decompressing After A Writer’s Conference: Connection [Part 3]

16 04 2009

Part 1 (Blogging to Writing) | Part 2 (Story) | Part 3 (Connection)

What I pay for at a writer’s conference: Good food (5 days without doing dishes), Amazing speakers (the time to sit still and listen), and knowledge I could never get elsewhere.

What I don’t pay for at a writer’s conference (but still got anyway): connection, community and unbelievable friendships.

Nowhere else would I be able to find people with the same passion, the same belief foundation and the ability to make me feel as included and loved as I did. This year at Mount Hermon I both renewed relationships that I begun last year and made new ones.

Writers need writer friends. We can be lonely souls so knowing others who love the same craft is invaluable. Writers also need communities for both encouragement and critique. We simply need each other.

And nowhere else than a writer’s conference would I be drinking coffee with literary agents, eating meals with editors of major publishing houses and laughing at 11:30 at night with other writers from all over the country.

What sets something like this apart from something else is that we share passion. It isn’t like we are all in town because of a shared hobby. Golfing, knitting and fishing aside, writing for us is who we are. It is what we do. It helps define us.

And being in community with other people like this is worth every penny.

Sarah Markley blogs at She is the wife of Chad and the mother to two little girls and is convinced that she is living in the BEST DAYS of her life thus far. She runs, she writes and she works for her husband’s business, usually for free.

Decompressing After a Writer’s Conference: Story [Part 2]

13 04 2009

Part 1 (Blogging to Writing) | Part 2 (Story) | Part 3 (Connection)

My genre is memoir. So at Mount Hermon this year, I decided to take the non-fiction morning workshop track.

I ended up getting stuck in room full of writers working on eschatology books, how-to’s teaching high school from a Christian worldview, and guides to working through the aftermath of divorce.  Not what I had in mind.

I just barely fit into the category of non-fiction because even though memoir is technically non-fiction, it should be written more with fiction elements in mind.  Story arc, climax, resolution, character development – all of these are almost as important as anything else.

Story.  On the first day of class, our instructor, Kay Marshall Strom, author of over 20 books, told us that my story is not the story.  My story is only an illustration of a universal truth.

Whatever story I am going to tell is not only a part of the monumental story of humanity, but it is just a vehicle for truths that God wants to tell through me.

Among other things, Kay writes about international issues in the Sudan, India and Indonesia.  She inspired me.  She makes me want to be a part of the community who is saying something.

My truths?  Hope.  Redemption.  Restoration.  My story?  You’ll have to wait for the book.

Sarah Markley blogs at She is the wife of Chad and the mother to two little girls and is convinced that she is living in the BEST DAYS of her life thus far. She runs, she writes and she works for her husband’s business, usually for free.

Decompressing After a Writer’s Conference: Blogging to Writing

9 04 2009

Part 1 (Blogging to Writing) | Part 2 (Story) | Part 3 (Connection)

Last spring I was a virgin writer’s conference attendee

In 2008, I came green and nervous with only one friend.  When someone asked me what I wrote (as everyone does at a writer’s conference) I stared back and said something like, “Uhhh, I blog.”  I was unfocused and worried and tried to defend myself.  I just needed to relax and admit I just wanted to learn.

Most grey-haired, legal pad-toting, old-school writers just stared back at me and either asked me what a blog was or asked me how having one would help launch their historical fiction romance book.  The idea of a blog having relevance or value in itself was foreign to them.

So much has changed since last spring.

I still blog.  It’s the 300-word-a-day discipline that Anne Lamott asks writers to do.  Sometimes my blog posts are much shorter or longer than 300 words, but since last year’s conference, I’ve learned so much about writing and about friendship.

The blogging has become less of my PRIMARY writing and more of my PRACTICE writing.

In the year between I’ve entered some writing contests, submitted several articles for publication, and gotten paid to write some website copy for a friend.  I took what I learned last year, swirled it in with the chaos and busyness of my life as a mother and tried to do as much as I could.  Aside from the website copy, I have yet to get a byline, but I am convinced I am a better writer today because of the discipline of blogging.

I’m not a virgin anymore.

I found myself at Mount Hermon this year with a collection of friends from last year and in between, with a new confidence and new answers for the “What do you write” questions at every meal.

I write.  I love to write.  And I know why I’m here:  to hone the gift God has given me.

Sarah Markley blogs at She is the wife of Chad and the mother to two little girls and is convinced that she is living in the BEST DAYS of her life thus far. She runs, she writes and she works for her husband’s business, usually for free.