Seven life lessons from writer Ashley C. Ford

Words by Madeleine Dore
Art by Amelia Goss featuring photo by image by Christine Han 

If you have read even a snippet of one of Ashley C. Ford’s personal essays, you’d know first hand her penchant for being insightful without prescriptive, personal yet universal, comforting yet challenging.

In conversation, she makes poignant observation after poignant observation, and here is just a small selection from our day in the life interview with the inimitable New York based writer.

  1. On setting daily intentions…

“I’ll try to focus on certain intentions for an amount of time until I feel that I've taken it in and it’s become part of me. The best example of that is not say no to myself before other people say no to me. I would get it in my head that there was an opportunity that I wasn't good enough for, or I wasn't ready for, even though it was something that I really wanted and probably very capable of doing well. I was holding myself back.

“Once something sinks in like that I change the intentions. I feel like it's an evolution. I'm not really ever trying to be done – I'm trying in to get better all the time.”

2. On how you keep the routines you need…

“I would say you keep the routines you need. At certain times in your life you need a routine, but also that might change. You have to let that change. I know people who have routines that they needed for all of their lives and that's fine, but I have also seen people try to hold on to routines that they don’t need and it’s really easy also to see how it doesn’t serve the person. I am always open to routines but I'm also constantly shedding routines.”

3. On not using high expectations as a cop out…

“I tell people all the time that the book that changed my life was The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. One of the things that I learned by reading that book was that I was the queen of setting unrealistic expectations for myself. When I inevitably failed, I would internalise that as meaning I wasn't the kind of person who could do certain things or who could meet certain goals or expectations.

“But it was essentially an excuse. It was a way for me to convince myself I’m not the kind of person who can do a certain thing, when the truth is, well, yeah, maybe you're not the kind of person who over a weekend can decide to give up sugar, start waking up at 6:00 AM, start meditating, start learning calligraphy, and all this other stuff. But maybe you are the person who could wake up a half-hour earlier tomorrow, and then maybe try that for the rest of the week.”

4. On letting go of perfection…

“I think I spent a lot of my life wanting to jump over progression straight into perfection. I didn't want to have to go through the part where you only get incrementally better and it was crushing my self-esteem. It was crushing my self-esteem and really messing with my self-confidence, too. I just got to a point where I was like, why be your own bully?"

5. On how the key to self love is compassion…

“The best part is that when you start being compassionate with yourself, truly compassionate, it is so much easier to be compassionate with everybody else.”

6. On setting up email boundaries…

“I have an automatic email responder that explains I check my email at ten, two, and six each day. I check it more than that, but the point is really to manage the expectations of the people who email me. I'm shocked by how many people email and tell me that they know I'm busy, but also could I respond to some very complicated email by the end of the day. 

“I am not an email machine, I'm a writer. There are a lot of things that I want to do and a lot of things that I want to make and I can't devote what is essentially half of my creative energy in a day to answering emails. That is not my number one focus and it never will be. Yes, I am happy that you reached out, whatever you wanted to tell me, whatever you wanted to ask me, whatever you wanted to offer me, whatever it is, thank you for reaching out, but your patience is required.” 

7. On how we reject ourselves before others reject us…

“I had a bad habit of not pursuing something if I couldn’t imagine myself in a certain position, in a certain industry, whatever it was. Truthfully, I was afraid to imagine being a writer in case it didn't come true. I was afraid to have a real dream and real motivation, only to find that I am not wanted."

Read more: A day in the life of Ashley C. Ford

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