Creative Thinking: Thank you, readers, for 15 years

January 12, 2014 

The other day we were rearranging the top shelf of a closet. Standing on the ladder and reaching up high, I came upon a large stack of yellowed and old newspapers that contained my columns.

Included in them was my very first column. I smiled as I read it. The first column I wrote for The Telegraph was published Jan. 14, 1999. This week will mark my 15th year writing for the newspaper.

Much has changed since then. I have long since stopped keeping the actual papers in which my columns appear but I still wasn’t willing to part with the ones I had. Also on the shelf was row after row of stacked VHS cassettes in black cases. I had to look twice to remember what they were.

Looking at one of the labels on the edge of the case, I realized they contained many of my television segments and shows recorded during the years. As a little dust blew down past my face, I couldn’t believe how many there were.

“I can’t believe all these videos,” I said to my wife, wondering to myself why I was keeping every one of them. “Christmas with The Artist” was written on one label. “Shows from January-April 1996” was on another. It took me a moment to soak in the fact that these bulky black cases housed more than a decade of my television shows and demonstrations.

Reading each label, I clearly remembered why I wasn’t willing to part with them. I stacked the faded newspapers next to the rows of videos. Right there on that ladder, I realized that together they are a very important part of my past that helped me become who I am today.

I remembered all the way back to December 1995 when I was approached about being a guest on WMAZ’s “Weekend Mornin’ Show.” I was given two whole minutes of airtime to demonstrate how to wrap a beautiful package. Of course, I didn’t get finished because the time just flew by. But I had so much fun!

I was immediately invited back for the next Saturday and, before I knew it, “The Artist” segment was aired every Saturday for more than a decade.

“The Artist” has stuck with me until this day. I smile each time I’m called by that name. In fact, there’s hardly a day that goes by that I don’t get at least one, “You’re The Artist, aren’t you?” It’s funny how it began.

The Saturday show producer at the time had simply written “the artist” on the show schedule the first day I was there because she didn’t know my name. Little did she know all these years later it would still be my nickname!

After several years, my creative segments had grown quite popular. There was certainly an audience in the Middle Georgia area who loved to create and many of them contacted me after the shows to ask questions about certain projects or products I had used. Many of them used “The Artist Hotline” I had set up for calls. More and more questions came in and one day I had an idea. What if I could have a weekly column in the newspaper that would allow me to answer questions “Dear Abby” style?

I approached The Telegraph with my idea. They were skeptical. I refused to give up. “Give me a shot,” I begged. “If it doesn’t work out, we can stop at any time.” I decided to call my new column “Ask the Artist.” It started appearing in the paper every other Thursday and quickly became a weekly column.

All kinds of questions came in and, for years, I answered them. Everything from what color paint I suggested for a kitchen wall to when to use Mod Podge instead of regular glue and everything in between. After about five years, I started adding a brief personal message at the beginning of each column. Many of them commented on things I’d experienced the week before. My paragraphs about life’s events were slowly taking over the question and answer portion of the column.

I decided I enjoyed writing more about life than just where to go purchase a certain kind of paint. I again went to the newspaper editors and asked if I could change my column from a question and answer format to what is now called “Creative Thinking with Mark Ballard.”

The re-created column continued weekly in the Thursday newspaper. I kept most of my regular readers but this column also attracted an entirely different group of readers who weren’t just interested in arts and crafts. I began to hear from all kinds of people who enjoyed reading about my adventures in life and the lessons I learned along the way.

After another year, my editor suggested my column be moved from Thursday to the Sunday edition of The Telegraph. With that move came more and more readers.

I wanted to share this bit of my past with you as a way of saying thank you for being loyal readers during the last 15 years. It hardly seems possible but the dates on the old newspapers do not lie. I appreciate all your wonderful comments, Facebook posts, telephone calls, handwritten letters and e-mails about my “Creative Thinking” column.

There is something I always say to those who comment about the columns and what they mean to them. I explain that I write to help me get through this thing called life. The fact they mean so much to the readers is both a bonus and a blessing for me.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

More with Mark

• In celebration of 15 years of columns, “Lessons Learned,” a compilation of Mark’s recent favorite columns is available for purchase at www.markballard.com or by calling 478-757-6877.

• Visit www.markballard.com for current projects, recipes and lots of other fun stuff including Mark’s tees, prints, cards and his collectible porcelain plates.

• Mark is on www.macon.com 24 hours a day. Videos, columns and articles are featured.

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email markballard@cox.net; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.

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