Staying Creative // Marissa

Staying Creative

Hello, friends,

I’m happy to share another Staying Creative feature with you this morning. I’ve known Marissa for a few years now (I was blessed to meet her through some creative work). I love her heart for creativity and making a difference in the world. That heart shines through all of the art that she creates. I know you’ll be as inspired by her as I am.

bowers hshot katie

And now, I shall pass over the cursor to Marissa, and let her chat with you all about her creative process and what’s been inspiring her lately. :)

Life has been an intentional process for me for 3 years now. Before that I was a full-time Design Manager for a crafty publishing company. I worked on the coolest books ever. I wasn’t the best manager, and the time came for me to leave those days behind and spread my creative wings. It’s been a series of incredible highs and extreme lows since then, and when people say “You’ll find yourself’ in the in-between,” they weren’t kidding. I’ve had 16 cents to feed my 3 children one night, but then took a trip of a lifetime to document the wedding of a best friend in the amazing country of Costa Rica (her first international trip and destination wedding!) (I’m not kidding when I say that since the moment of leaving the day job, I’ve had highs and lows!)

 But the in-between is where I’ve found myself. The in-between is where I’ve become a better artist, a better wife, and a better mother. I wouldn’t have believed it three years ago had you told me I’d go through all that I have, but I’m here today to tell you that the process is real and the process is promising, and I still don’t know where it ends, but I’m along for the journey.

My current inspirations:

#1 My surroundings

I’ve confidently become one of ‘those’ people who look at everything around them and take it all in where I am at at any given moment. When I’m on a shoot with my Canon (typically photographing an adorable family or someone who needs some amazing headshots) — I’ve noticeably been taking those breaks while doing that to look to the sky that’s setting before me and snap a few, or take note of the bare tree blowing in front of my sightline or to look at the row of historic buildings that line up in perfect visual perspective just around the corner that I’m shooting at. When you forcibly stop and remind yourself to notice these things — trust me — you’ll see colors of the rainbow you’ve never even thought possible or appreciate the texture of a building you’ve driven by a million times before. If I don’t have my fancy camera with me, my iPhone does the same amazing thing. It paints a picture of the world before me.

covington building bw

cov december#2 The written word

I was first a lover of the written word long before I became a designer and then a photographer. I strongly believe that’s how I came to be a designer with a love for photography, too. I loved that a career in graphic design taught me that the visual and the written word have space together, working in tandem to visually communicate what your brain wants to see AND feel. I read blogs that encourage the inner writer I long to find again; I read books like this goodie I must have picked up at an antique store or rummage sale long ago, Painting as a Pastime by none other than Winston Churchill. It is a short essay from Churchill in that he talks about finding art (his in particular, painting) to rid your mind of the other things weighing you down. He quotes an unnamed American psychologist in the book that says, “ ‘Worry is a spasm of the emotion; the mind catches hold of something and will not let it go.’  It is useless to argue with the mind in this condition. The stronger the will, the more futile the task. One can only gently insinuate something else into its convulsive grasp. And if this something else is righty chosen, if it is really attended by the illumination of another field of interest, gradually, and often quite swiftly, the old undue grip relaxes and the process of recuperation and repair begins.” I read these words recently and knew that my process these last few years was certainly a time of recuperation and repair, and that every small creative step I make is a leap towards bigger things that I can’t even put in perspective just yet. That’s what’s so exciting about leading a creative journey!

Churchill goes on to say in the essay that to be really happy and really safe, one ought to have at least two or three hobbies, and they must all be real. My cameras, my computer, and my right-sided-all-the-time creative brain (that loves to write but is buried in fear about it) all make up my hobby list and always have since I can remember.

I think I’m following Churchill’s advice quite perfectly, don’t you?

churchill book

churchill book pattern#3 Work that inspires me to inspire others

In 2012, I applied for a photo editor position for a website I had come across called The High Calling. Its purpose is simple — to communicate to the business person that their values, faith, and religion have a spot in the workplace just as their drive and determination do — in fact it should be their faith that calls them to be the best businessperson they can be. I instantly resonated with the message of the website, and one week later saw the position posted for photo editor. It was divine timing, for sure. I’m sad to say that I didn’t get the nod to be photo editor, but even better, they asked me to be a contract designer for them and read their articles, find some photos, and put the two together and submit it for them to share with their own readers. Even more than the photo editor position, this was a calling and a job that came at a perfect time. I love their articles, and in turn, I can create art that reinforces their message. It was truly a win-win for me, and each week, as I comb through the content and my brainlog of what image might work with what words—I am thankful, so very thankful—for an incredible opportunity that I can call work. Work that inspires me to inspire others — there is nothing more perfect to me.

thc brokenness

thc fearfully

thc the prize“We must not be too ambitious. We cannot aspire to masterpieces. We may content ourselves with a joy ride in a paint-box.” I’m definitely along for the ride, are you? And although my paint-box is ever expanding, I continue to fill myself with the goodness of being inspired and staying creative.

thc choose joy

Thanks for sharing your journey + inspirations with us, Marissa! :)

* * *

Marissa is a designer, photographer, and writer. Surrounded by 3 amazingly creative children (she likes to think she has something to do with that!) and a husband who gets annoyed with the red dots on her iPhone (we balance each other perfectly!), she knows she’s been blessed beyond measure. Her website is, but mostly, you can find her spending loads of ample creative time on Instagram and Facebook.

How are you staying creative these days? I’d love to hear about your current inspirations. (You can use this hashtag to share them on Twitter:  #BeInspiredStayCreative.)


Note to Self: Take Courage

I’m currently working through the YouVersion Fearless plan, and the last few days, the plan has focused on Matthew 14: 23-33.

I love that when the disciples cried out, Jesus immediately responded. He tells them to take courage, because He’s right there with them.

I want to be courageous in all things — courageous in my art, my writing, my creating. Courageous in love. Courageous in my pursuit of the life He has planned for me.

And I want to encourage others to do the same.

Take courage, my friends, and pursue the life He has for you. You have what it takes — and He’s right there with you.

Setting Creative Goals

I love to set goals, and I love making lists, so it’s no wonder I like to dream up new creative goals often. A list of motivating goals helps keep my creative life feeling fresh and pushes me to keep growing and learning.

Because setting goals can be so encouraging and rewarding, I thought I’d share a few of the things I do/think about when making my own lists. I hope after reading this, you’re encouraged to set some new goals of your own!

Make it fun. I love to journal, so I’m constantly using my various journals as a place to keep track of dreams and ideas. This is great, because I can record new ideas constantly and quickly (I always have one of my journals at hand), but sometimes, I like to do things that make the process feel special and inspired. I might enjoy a favorite treat while writing and dreaming (like a latte, mug of cider, or some dark chocolate), or I might get out of the house and go somewhere beautiful (like a park).

Pray. This is something I do all throughout my goal-setting process. I ask for inspiration and direction, as I set goals, and I ask God to bless my creative efforts and use them for His glory, as I pursue those goals. I’m so thankful for the creative heart I’ve been blessed with, and praying through my goals and creative dreams is such a beautiful part of my relationship with the Lord.

Be stretched. Don’t be afraid to set goals that scare you a little bit. Goals should push you to try and learn new things, as well as help you refine the skill set you already have. As a creative, I began as a writer, but over the years, I’ve explored collage making, designing, and photography. I’ve discovered so many new things I love to do, and it’s all because I took risks and set goals to try things I’d never done before.

Be flexible. Know that it’s okay to change your mind about certain goals. When I write my 20-something lists (I’ve done 27 Things and 28 Things), I always accept that I probably won’t do every single thing on the list. I also accept that there are probably a few things I haven’t even thought of yet that I’ll decide to do at some point during the year. It’s okay to add/adapt/remove/replace goals. ;)

* Celebrate! I love my 20-something lists, because they allow me to track my goal-setting and pursuing. When I write my recaps at the end of the year, I’m able to see how my goals shaped me. I definitely recommend recording and celebrating your creative adventures in some way, whether it’s through journaling, blogging, Instagramming, whatever! You’ll be so encouraged to see your progress, and your journey might even inspire some new goals!

So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead — start dreaming + goal-setting!

(P.S. If you liked this post, stay tuned, because this a little teaser of the kind of content you’ll find in my eBook!)

Note to Self: Create Honestly & Joyfully

This Note to Self is the result of the reflecting I’ve been doing regarding creative authenticity and originality. After some wonderful encouragement/thoughts from a few creative friends (both online and off), this statement came to mind, and it sums up exactly how I want to approach my creativity.

I really believe that when we create something from our hearts—from a place of true honesty and joy—that creation is going to be a beautiful reflection of who we are and what makes us unique.

Note to Self: Rest

Are you remembering to rest? ;)

As a creative, it’s easy to be so filled with ideas and inspiration that it’s go, go, go all of the time.

But it’s good to be intentional about resting, too. So, with that said, I’m off to read the Word. I might be back a little later for just a few minutes to share a verse or two with you… But other than that, I’ll be RESTING. ;)

Inspired living is…

With all of my talk about my new focus, I thought it might be a good idea to share with you what an inspired life means to me. :)

To me, inspired living is:

Bold. Bright. Beautiful. Full of whimsy, charm, sparkle, and creativityCelebrating your story. Having a thankful heart. Finding joy in all seasons. Being who you are, loving who are you, and doing what you love. Having big faith. Taking risks. Trusting. Finding new adventures. Making every moment count. Always growing. And always hoping.

Note to Self: be YOU

You may remember this Note to Self I posted a few months ago. I think we could all use more of these little reminders, so I’m hoping to post them as frequently as I can.

Lately, I’ve been battling a bit with self-doubt, as I continue to discover and refine my style/voice as an artist and blogger. (I wrote a bit about that in my Rebranding post.)

I think that self-doubt can be a natural part of the learning and growing process that every creative faces, BUT even when we’re looking self-doubt right in the face, I think it’s good to stay grounded in who you are and have faith and confidence in being who you were created to be.

At this point, I’m not sure if these Note to Self posts will be daily, weekly, or just every so often, but I look forward to sharing what’s on my heart, in the hopes that you’ll find some encouragement in these little notes, too.

I hope your Monday’s been blessed.


Guess What? Blog Announcement!

{ photo by Max Wanger; typography treatment by me }

Hello, friends!

I’m excited to share a blog update with you all. In the past week or so, I’ve been doing some thinking regarding the main focus of A Place to Dwell. I wanted to really hash out the blog’s identity and purpose, so I could better plan content going forward.

And guess what?! I’m here to reveal that new focus with you now!

A Place to Dwell will still house lovely little things + possibilities, as it always has, but from now on, the main focus will be on living an inspired life, and all content will be created with this mission in mind.

Because I have so much passion for living life fully and creatively, I know this slight refinement is just right for A Place to Dwell, and I’m excited to develop content that keeps this mission at its core.

I’m in the process of developing a bunch of new features that I will share with you soon. So, stay tuned for announcements about those! ;)

In the meantime, thanks for reading and being a part of my little blog community. I so appreciate each one of you.

P.S. How AMAZING is that photo by Max Wanger? I’m super inspired by his photography lately. I’ll be back with a post sometime soon that shares more of his beautiful work.

Inspired by Color

{ photo on left by Seed Factory ; color palette and typography on right by me }

Here’s another moodboard I made for eBook/blog color palette purposes. I fell in love with this photo from Seed Factory and the little quote at the bottom of her photo that says: “I just need some time in a beautiful place to clear my head.” I think weekends are perfect for doing just that. I like to make sure to carve out a little bit of time each weekend to surround myself with what inspires me, appreciate the beauty of the moment, and take some time to clear my head from the clutter that may have ended up there after a hectic week.

Making moodboards is proving helpful for me when it comes to discovering and defining my design style. I’m seeing consistencies develop when it comes to certain type treatments and colors.

I also love having the chance to share inspiring images and artwork I’ve found and promote other artists on my blog. There are so many talented people out there, and it makes me happy to be able to showcase some of that talent.

I hope your weekend has been beautiful + inspiring so far.

Have a blessed Sunday! :)


I’m writing a book!

…an e-book, that is. ;)

I’m super excited about this project and plan to share many more details here on the blog closer to its launch.

Here’s what I can share right now: I’m in the beginning phases of e-book creation, and you can expect to see it for sale right here on the blog sometime this fall. I’m creating a book that will be packed with what I’m most passionate about: inspiration — and beautiful words, artwork, and photography. (Stay tuned for a more detailed post about the content you’ll find in my ebook, as we get closer to the launch date.)

Thanks for sharing in this exciting journey with me!