Ashley Franklin

Intentional Joy

I was hanging out on Clubhouse a few weeks ago with a group of writers, and this question was brought up:

“How has the pandemic affected your writing?”

[Needless to say, there aren’t many of us who HAVEN’T been affected by the pandemic. Some of us have suffered great personal losses, and many of us have struggled to maintain our mental health.]

As far as writing goes, I think it’s likely the same as anyone else who has had to work from home. It hasn’t been the easiest to establish clear and effective boundaries when it comes to friendships, work, and more. Yet, we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do. What’s the alternative?

What’s amazing is that there are some who have really found a focus and thrived over the past year. I have friends who have loved the transition to working from home. They wish it had always been an option. I also have friends who feel like they are drowning on a daily basis.

Me? I’m all over the place. I’ve worked online as an adjunct for about a decade. No change there. My boys are doing virtual school. My routine of writing could have come to a screeching halt (my pre-pandemic writing happened while they were at school), but it didn’t. At the same time, I still get the nagging feeling that I should be doing more.

How did I keep my writing life from coming to a screeching halt due to the pandemic?

-I stopped waiting for the perfect circumstances to write.

-I did writing tasks in bursts. Example: 30 minutes? I’ll search for wordiness or revise with voice in mind.

-I started 30 minutes of solitary creative time as a family. Example: “Hey, kids! Everyone use your imagination to make something, but you have to do it quietly & in your own section of the room.”

-I was intentional about keeping the joy of writing. I kept in mind that the words would come. Stressing about the how’s and when’s didn’t make them come any faster.

I must be intentional in choosing joy (at least once a day). No matter how my day is going, if I can choose joy just once, it has been a day worth living and not merely existing. It is now a day full of possibilities. When those days add up, it’s much easier for me to be creative.

How will you be intentional with your joy? Think about what this choice will help you to accomplish.

Writing has always brought me joy. I refuse to lose that.

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Butt in Chair (BIC) & Why it Vexes Me So

“STOP TELLING ME TO SIT DOWN!” is what I internally rage scream whenever I see this bit of writerly advice. Don’t get me wrong. I get it. Of course you need to get your butt in gear in order to actually write.

But, follow me with this, what if with the way my life is set up, those butt-in-chair moments are few and far between? Does that mean I’m not a serious writer? Does that make me a writer of a lesser caliber?

The way my anxiety is set up, I find BIC unnerving. If the words aren’t manifesting on the page (or in my brain for that matter), I may freewrite, doodle, wrestle with other works in progress, or let my mind wander for a bit. If nothing of great magnitude is happening, you best believe my butt is getting up.

Actually sitting my butt in a chair to get some writing done is a luxury I have maybe a handful of times a month. For this reason, I value it immensely. However, it’s just not something that I can regularly do. And before you roll your eyes at me, I do know that I’m being SUPER literal. You do have to put the time in. There’s no getting around that. However, I feel like BIC makes making time to write seem a lot easier than what it is.

My writing time is more WIM—writing in the moment. This consists of making voice notes on my phone, drafting in Google Docs on whichever device is closest, scribbling on scraps of paper, and later assembling everything when I have time (usually when my kids have FINALLY fallen asleep).

At the end of the day, no matter how it gets done, all I hope is that whatever time I have put into writing has made me feel one step closer to achieving my writing goals.

That’s all we can do—do what works best for us. What works best for you?

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Living with the “What-ifs”

Previously, we discussed acknowledging the what-ifs–acknowledging their existence without letting them ruin your day (or peace of mind for that matter).

But what if, no matter what you do, you can’t shake them? Live with them! As a creative, your work will never please everyone:

  • Different strokes for different folk.
  • Everything ain’t for everybody.
  • You can’t please everyone.

I’m sure that at least of those resonates because they are absolutely true!

If no one has told you this yet today, let me be the first: “You are an amazing creator. I admire your determination to fine-tune your craft and see its success no matter what.” 

Now that that’s out of the way, let me also say this: You’re human, and it’s okay to feel. Your feelings are valid. You’re not being sensitive. You’re not being silly. You are entitled to feel how you feel about your creative process and your journey. I do have this one request: Don’t dwell on feelings that hinder your creative output. 

Jealous? Sad? Overwhelmed? Cautiously excited? Hunny, have ALL the feels. You’re not plastic, and you shouldn’t be expected to behave like you are. Find your trusted friends and companions, and vent away. Just don’t let social media make a fool out of you. (That’s a topic for another day.)

Personally, I’m living my best creative life when I’ve allowed myself to just live–feel all the feelings, have all the experiences, be the me who I need to be at that moment–sad Ashley, happy Ashley, silly Ashley, hopeful Ashley, etc.

Sometimes, it is easier to acknowledge the what-ifs and let them go than others. During those times when those nagging questions of validation and success aren’t easily shaken, live with them. Make small goals that you can check off as you work towards maintaining your creativity.

What if nobody comes to my book signing?

(What can I do to build a buzz? All I can do is my part.)

What if my book doesn’t make it on to any lists?

(My work is #1 to someone. All I can do is keep creating.)

Don’t let the what-ifs keep you from being your best creative self. If you can’t brush them off with a “whatever,” acknowledge the core of what they’re getting at and use that as fuel to continue on your journey. Always forward.

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