Welcome to Ryley Writes, a collection of thoughts, stories, and work from deep in the heart of Texas.

Conversational: Gabe Henderson

I happen to know what seems like an unusual amount of incredibly talented, creative, humble, and hard-working humans.

Throughout 2017, I'll be sharing conversations with some of those friends — the people I ask for advice, find empathy in, bounce ideas off of, look to for inspiration, and hope to collaborate with someday.

This month, I want to introduce you to Gabe Henderson. Gabe and I met initially during a football program interview at Liberty back in the day — I was still writing the cover stories for the athletics department, and Gabe was a star wide receiver. (His hype was well-deserved — clutch on the catch, people. Also a fabulous interviewee! Not usually the case for football players. Bless 'em.)

After completing his undergrad, Gabe ended up taking a job with my gang in the club sports department, producing video and media content and broadcasting for LFSN, as well. Working alongside Gabe gave me a whole new respect for his creativity and career drive. He is ridiculously talented. Like, I would be disgusted by it if he wasn't so nice and equally as hard-working, honestly.

While he still works at Club Sports, Gabe has also started and grown his own media venture, Our Story Lines, into one of the most impressive personal bodies of work I've ever seen. High-quality video — from filming and editing to final production — is no breezy undertaking, guys; and Gabe is constantly churning it out, all on his own. The opportunity to tell the stories you want to tell, the way you want to tell them, is almost never handed to you. I love how Gabe just creates and takes opportunities for himself.

Basically, I learn a lot from Gabe, and hoping you fellow creative frands out there can do the same! Enjoy.

Gabe, you have one of the best personal bodies of work I've ever seen. Seriously. How did Our Story Lines (OSL) come about?

'Preciate it! I feel like Club Sports really helped me envision OSL. In football, there was and is lot of notoriety in the sport. A lot of the guys involved — I mean, including myself — can take it for granted, especially at a big school because of all the media attention football gets. Working at Club Sports at Liberty gave me a new appreciation for storytelling, you know? I started reaching out to these coaches, going to them and doing interviews and stuff, and they've never gotten any kind of media attention before. There was always this amazing response and thanks and it was just overwhelming — I was just like, man, of course the media wants to cover the "big guys," but these other guys have stories, too! And their stories are just as if not more important. I realized I want to shine the light on stories like theirs. We're missing out on the big picture if we just cover the hot topics. Story line... just means part of a story. I feel like we're all a part of a big story, so we should all tell our story line. That's where the idea for OSL came about.

So did you intend for OSL to be sports-focused initially? What would you say is the overall theme?

I feel like OSL is not about sports, although I feel like everybody has a sports background — I mean, everybody grew up playing something. But no, it's all about people who are starting stuff or doing stuff for themselves. So my first OSL was the owner of Joe Beans. That just started as a class project, and I was like, hey, this could be the perfect start for OSL. I asked, "You started your own business — what's your story line? How did you get here?" and asking that is what put the thing over the edge. She was like, "I put my life savings into this business, and if it didn't work out I would be homeless right now." Like, dang, that's her story line! And I feel like that's a very important story that no one wants to tell about themselves, but if I can spread her story line, I can get other people to share their stories as well.

Nice! So all about the under-appreciated, under-told stories. I definitely relate to that — I feel like the best stories are usually where people don't naturally look.

For sure. Like I said before, if it wasn't for Club Sports, I feel like I wouldn't have that appreciation for storytelling. It took being in a setting where no one expects anyone to care about their story or have it told to see that when you do tell their story, it will lead not only to them having confidence, but it kind of gives them importance. It lets them know that hey, somebody cares. Somebody wants to tell their story, and somebody wants to hear it. I feel like me expressing myself creatively is telling other people's stories. That's my self-expression.

So what does your creative process look like for finding and putting together those stories?

Ah, man... I’m probably the most random person that you'd ever meet. Not a lot of people know that, but I’m just a random person. My creative process is like, if I hear music, or see something I like, and it makes me think of something... I don't know, I honestly don't really have a process. My process is just drawing from random stuff. *laughs*

Hey, I love that! Whatever works. Random question, then. I've gotten better about it, but I still always feel weird approaching people for a story on my own, without a publication or assignment or something. But you do it all the time — do you ever feel hesitant or nervous asking to tell peoples' stories?

I have that hesitation still to this day. I feel like everybody in this creative business has that concern. We're so locked in on what we're doing that we're scared — well, maybe not scared, but you know, hesitant or reluctant — to branch out, like I know this is what I want to do but I don't know how to approach this person and explain that. Some days I'm like, I'm just gonna do it, if I get a no I get a no; but yeah, I have those days where I'm hesitant to ask people. But at the end of the day, it's not about me, it's about them. "Do you mind if I tell your story?" As weird as that might sound from my end, from theirs it's like hey, somebody actually cares. So I try to put the shoe on the other foot and then it's not that weird.

Do you think your experience as a football player, on the other side of media and the subject of stories, has helped you in your creative career now?

Oh, yeah. I feel like being on both sides of the spectrum — of the camera lens per say — has helped me appreciate the art of storytelling. Playing the biggest sport on our campus (even though Liberty football is only just now starting to really get big), having that notoriety, being the big guy on campus and not appreciating other peoples' stories; to now being in a place where other peoples' stories are more important to me than mine has helped me realize the true meaning of life, honestly. I feel like until you get to know people, you don't know how simple life is and how simple other people can be.

It makes the world smaller when we really listen to each others' stories, for sure. I love that. So how do you think you've grown creatively and professionally through your creative journey and through OSL?

Oh wow, I mean you should really ask [my girlfriend] Julia. (EDITOR'S NOTE: JULIA IS THE COOLEST AND I LOVE HER. I MISS YOU, JULIA. OKAY, BACK TO THE INTERVIEW.) *laughs* Just ask her — I've grown tremendously in the last few years, and I feel like I've grown most from my mistakes. I'm not a person who — well, like, I tend to focus on the negative, but that's how I grow most. I always like to push myself. Someone else can say something is perfect, but I can find something to improve. Mistakes push me to be better, and I feel like my mistakes and being able to make those mistakes in Club Sports and OSL has helped my creative process throughout this whole thing. You just never know what's going to be valuable. It's crazy how certain concepts that I learned three or four years ago, I never expected I would need to know them now. When I was learning them, I was like, man, this is stupid, I'm never going to use this stuff. *laughs* And now, some of those things I didn't think mattered have pushed me and have been some of the main aspects I've needed for my videos and photography today. It's simple things. I'm sure you can relate — how you approach an article involves stuff you never thought you would need two years ago, but everything you've learned along the way has helped you get to where you are now.

Oh, for sure. Okay, one last question — what's your dream job?

Well, my dream job growing up was to be an analyst on Fox Sports. I'm not going to say that's not still my dream job, but OSL gives me another avenue to pursue, too... I'll put it like this: I feel like OSL, as my personal business, will grow as much as my professional career. So career-wise I feel like working for Fox Sports or something is my dream job, but most of those guys on camera have their own business on the side. Telling the stories that others miss is something I want to continue, and I think each of those career goals can help each can help the other and give credibility to the other. Because my dream job is also to grow OSL to its full potential.

Want to keep up with Gabe and Our Story Lines? Yeah you do. Check out his website, follow him on Instagram and Twitter, and like Our Story Lines on Facebook, while you're at it. Great stuff!

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