I first met Sam at the Studio688 Open House earlier this year. When I found out the type of blogging and writing she’d been doing in the last few years, I jumped at the chance to have her blog for one of my projects, Memphis Type History. She eventually joined us at the studio, and now serves as our in-house blogger. I thought it was high time that we introduced her to you more formally since you’ve been reading her posts for a few weeks now.

Sam is the “The American Picker” of storytellers. In the way that I use branding to help someone tell their business story, or Lisa uses photography to capture someone’s core being, Sam does all of this with words. She can paint a picture of a person or place, or explain a concept in a way that’s just perfect for business’ wanting to take their blogs to the next level with valuable content for their audience.

So without further ado, these are the fun, and perhaps slightly random, questions I asked Sam in order to get to know her a bit better!

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Sam Finley, photo by Lisa Mac

Why do you do what you do?

I guess I could simply say I do what I do because I love writing. However, that’s not the only reason I do this. Besides, I’m incapable of answering a question with so little detail.

I do this because, it seems, all roads led to this. I’ve enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember. Even when I decided to major in other disciplines, I ended up back here. When I chose other career paths (public relations and, later, education), I ended up here. After a time, I realized this is where I am supposed to be.

Writing can be really tough. Also, as many writers will likely tell you, it’s not the easiest field to break into. Writing for public consumption can make one feel vulnerable. Putting your work out there for the world to see takes courage. It took me a couple decades to muster that courage. There simply came a time in my life (for me, that was after my father’s passing) when I said to myself, “To heck with it. Here’s what I do.”

Sam in Studio_At Desk

Sam Finley putting words to page in her space at Studio688, photo by Keegan Eyler

How do you get inspired to sit down and do the work?

I have what is now a pretty fine tuned process that puts in me in working order. A lot of my process comes from what I learned from many hours of “reading” audiobooks and researching what works for others. Thanks to Audible, I’m blessed to have mentors like David Sedaris, Tim Ferris, Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, and Amy Poehler. Most recently, I read a book called, Manage Your Day to Day,” by Jocelyn Glei. This short book goes into detail about daily routines and is targeted directly at us creative types. I highly encourage anyone working in the creative realm to give this book a go.

Beyond maintaining morning “focus blocks,” where I refrain from engaging in email, text, and social media, I also take advantage of the great workspace I have here at Studio688. As someone who worked from bed for years, I now feel a designated workspace is essential for me to produce..

Music inspires me. Books inspire me. Mostly, however cliché it may sound, people inspire me. I didn’t realize how fascinating people were until fairly recently. Then, I thought, “Wow, what complex, multi-layered creatures we are!”

I love learning about people. I love hearing their stories. In turn, I love telling their stories. I cannot think of a more interesting, fulfilling way to make a living than to spend my life telling other peoples’ stories.

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“My Dad’s life and his passing (in 2013) motivated and continue to motivate me to do what I do. I keep my Dad’s suitcase from his days in the Army with me here at the Studio.” Photo by Keegan Eyler

What books are on your nightstand/in your earbuds right now?

The time I spend writing is really the only waking time I spend sitting still. For that reason, audiobooks have increased my reading productivity by about 95%.

Right now, I’m “reading” two books: A non-fiction, professional development book, Leap First, by Seth Godin and a novel, Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel. So far, Wolf Hall seems like an interesting blend of “Game of Thrones” and “Breaking Bad.” These are two of my all-time favorite series. Needless to say, I’m pretty psyched to see how this 24-hour long audiobook turns out.

There’s also one hard-copy, nightly wind-down book that I’m currently reading before bed, Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh. It’s a smart but silly autobiographical book of short stories. It’s illustrated with childlike drawings of the author, her family, and her dogs. I like to have a lighter read for my evenings, something that calms but engages me. This incredibly original book fits the bill perfectly.

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Sam Finley, photo by Lisa Mac

If you could only have one book to read for the rest of your life, what would it be?

With this question, I anticipate some sort of Armageddon-like event occurred; that, or I’m imprisoned. Either way, it appears I’m in serious need of guidance. Beyond the Bible, Henry David Thoreau’s Walden would be my first go-to.

I’m a bit hesitant to admit I’ve yet to read it all the way through. I mean, it’s quite long. Also, HDT’s got that whole 1800-speak thing going on. For the sake of efficiency and my short attention span, I’ve deferred to Spark Notes and synopses up to this point.

In that awful dystopia where I’m allowed only one book for the rest of my life, my guess is that I’ll finally have the free time to devote to reading Thoreau’s timeless “declaration of independence, social experiment, voyage of spiritual discovery, satire, and manual for self-reliance.” In the spirit of efficiency and abiding by the tenants of my process, that last quote comes directly from Wikipedia.

Sam Desk Setup

Sam’s space at the Studio, featuring a few books, a 1961 photo of her mom, and a recent indulgence; a pencil case modeled after Ernest Hemingway’s typewriter. Photo courtesy of Sam Finley

What’s your get to work jam?

It’s different every day. A couple days ago, thanks to the HBO documentary series “Sonic Highways,” I truly discovered The Blues. I listened to B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, and the incomparably soulful, Nina Simone.

I prefer instrumental music when writing. I guess you’d say, words get in the way. For the last two days I’ve immersed myself in the soundtracks from each season of “Game of Thrones.” I just binge-watched the show last month. So, listening to the soundtracks fills a bit of a void for me. Also, the music (much like The Blues) is highly emotional. The music tells a story. I can envision the show as I listen to it. I nearly teared-up when listening to “The Rains of Castamere,” the song played during season three’s “Red Wedding.” So many feels. You will always reign in our hearts, The King in the North!

Sam Recycled Newspaper Box

Also in Sam’s Studio space, a recycled newspaper “nik nak” box. Photo by Keegan Eyler

What’s your spirit animal and why?

Though I love cats, I like to think I differ from them in that I’m certainly not quiet and am increasingly less physically and socially awkward as I age. I adore them but must admit they are odd little creatures.

Given some thought on this matter, my answer to your question is… an alpaca!

Alpacas are lovely animals. They stand there as if they are literally asking for a warm embrace. Their mere presence is an invitation to engage with them. At the same time, they’re quite eccentric – not quite llama, not quite sheep. They cannot be categorized or put in “a box.”

I like to think the same things of myself – that I’m both un-categorically interesting, yet warm and approachable.

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Sam Finley, photo by Lisa Mac

Studio688, 688 South Cox Street, Midtown Memphis, 38014

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Entrepreneurs and community builders work with me to do great things through design and marketing. Creative strategist and accidental author are job titles I go by sometimes.

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