Name: Ashley Coleman
Business/Blog: Writer and Writing Mentor, WriteLaughDream.com
When did you launch your business/blog?
This always feels like a bit of a trick question for me because it always seems to have two parts. When did I start my blog? 2008. When did I begin taking my blog seriously? Probably about 2013. I laugh all the time because when I first started my blog it was called Music’s Chess: A Pawn’s Story and now it’s evolved into something way better than I ever could have imagined at the time. Started from a blogspot, now I’m here.
What inspired you to pursue your dreams and begin creating the life you want?
Well, I have always been a dreamer. The dream just kind of took a shift for me. I started out wanting to pursue a career in music. Hence the title of the original blog. I loved writing songs and there was nothing like seeing them come to life. I loved making music and hated the music business which created a discomfort that helped me decide that wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life as much anymore. But at the crux of that dream was really just having the ability to impact people with my words. And so, instead of trying to impact them with words jammed into a 3 minute and 30 second song, I began writing more frequently on my blog.
Sometimes it takes digging into something to realize what it really is that you want to do. I realized music wasn’t quite it and I also realized that working a 9 to 5 for the rest of my life won’t be it either.
How does your business line up with your purpose in life?
It is so funny this word purpose. We hear it used so much and it can be really intimidating to some people because it sounds like this finite thing. I’m not sure if it’s the only purpose, but I know part of my purpose is encouraging people. I had no idea that this is actually a spiritual gift, referred to in the Bible as an exhorter. But that’s really a big one for me. I LOVE to encourage people to grow, to be better, to love more and to think a little bit differently about life than they may have before.
The amazing part is, I get to do this through my blog, my book and upcoming books and also through my work as a writing mentor and through my writing course The Writer, The Brand. I think it’s partly because I am in constant need of encouragement to keep going, to keep fighting, to keep believing in myself and I get to pour that out into others.
Funny enough, I had no idea that’s what people were getting out of my blog and business until someone listed me as an inspirational blog in one of those “Top Blogger Lists.” It took someone else to see that what I was doing here was encouraging and trying to inspire other people in their journeys simply by saying, “Hey you’re going through that? Me too.”
What do you enjoy most about living life on your own terms?
I’m still in hot pursuit of living life on my own terms. I’m not quite there yet. I am a part of the side-hustler tribe. Still bound by the work that I thought was the best thing that ever happened to me but no longer fits who I have become. Though it’s an amazing “job” to have, it’s no longer for me and so I’ve been working vigorously to get everything going on the side hustle to be able to make the leap to my own terms.
But if I had to explain what it will mean for me when I get there … Living on my own terms would definitely mean waking up on my own first and foremost. I definitely want to be able to experience the freedom that comes with setting your own schedule, working while traveling and working more task based as opposed to “looking” busy for a certain amount of hours per day.
Describe an a-ha moment.
A recent ah-ha moment for me has been that we waste way too much time doubting ourselves. It was like a revelation a few weeks ago that I am completely done with that. While we waste time thinking about whether we can do something or not, we could just be doing the work. When we get in our hearts that we are worthy, that what we have to offer is valuable and that we can do it, whatever “it” is, that’s when the real work starts. It doesn’t mean that we’ll never be afraid, but it means that we have to believe in ourselves to really get to the good parts of our creativity.
What has been your biggest challenge as a blogger and/or business owner?
I think my biggest challenge both as a business and blogger has really just been reach. It can be really frustrating to know that you have created something amazing, but you just struggle in how to get it to more and more of the right people!
I will often have people tell me that an event I hosted or that a blog I’ve written is amazing and I just think “wow, I wish more people would see this.” Ha! I think many people struggle with that in this stage. There is this moment when you know that you are like right on the brink, but you need that one thing that will push you to the infamous “next level.” Whatever that really means. But I think that’s the biggest struggle currently.
What keeps you motivated on days when you feel overwhelmed?
I’m motivated by the end goal. There are ups and downs in this pursuit of freedom and dreams and all the good things life are made of. But what will keep me up late nights to finish something or wakes me up early in the morning is knowing what I want to accomplish and where I want to be. That’s the motivation. I’ve got to get out of here! Haha. Every time I sit down at my desk, I think to myself, “I have got to get out of this job.” That is such a BIG motivation.
I think about how many people say “If you hate your job, leave it.” And I just want to smack those people in the face. Kidding, I promise I am not violent. But, I just feel like if only they knew that it’s not always that easy. But rest assured, having a job that I really only stay for the paycheck is so disheartening. But it also keeps me going in this weird way. Knowing that I refuse to be that person for the rest of my life.
What’s one thing that you makes you stand out from your peers?
I think one thing that makes me stand out from my peers is that I am an extroverted writer. At the foundation of all of the business and blogging, I am a writer first. And there are lots of great writers, but I think that I also have an outgoing side that a lot of writers don’t have. Writers tend to turn very inward which is partially what makes them great writers because they think and write all day. But I also know that people can connect with me in a different way because I don’t write past their vocabulary awareness or make it too hard to digest.
I also think that the fact that I talk about faith in regard to dream chasing, love and so on stands out as well. I have had people ask me how I am comfortable sharing about faith and if I am afraid to turn some people off and my answer is always, NO. How can I separate who I am from my faith? Everyone who reads my blog may not be Christian, but they should know that’s who I am and so occasionally we will be talking about faith and his plan when it comes to our careers. They’ll know that I’m not talking about what the world says about love, but I am talking about what God says about it. And that’s just that.
What’s your biggest fear? And how do you overcome your fears?
For a long time my biggest fear was being ordinary. Since I was a little girl I just imagined a big life for myself. I probably had no idea how I was going to get to this extraordinary life, but I knew that it was what I wanted. As I’ve grown, I realize that maybe this extravagant life I originally was thinking of may not be in the cards. But I do know that my life has purpose and meaning. I know that if I die tomorrow I have affected the lives of others. And really that’s been one of my most valuable lessons. I have learned that my life is not even really about ME. It’s about the people who will look at what I’ve done and say, “I can try that too.” It’s about the people who will say, “I didn’t know God, but when I met Ashley, I wanted to learn more about him.” That in itself is extraordinary. It won’t be about the material things I can say that I have collected, but the hearts that I can say I have changed and the people that I have encouraged to never give up through my words.
Overcoming fear is an interesting thing. I don’t think we ever overcome it. We live with it. We will always experience fear. But we have to learn how to live courageously which means doing it even when you’re afraid. I have been fearful of so many things. I’ve been afraid to sing in front of producers to write, I was afraid to put out my first book Dear Love, I was afraid to create my writing course. But I have mastered feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Because the end goal of this extraordinary life has always outweighed the fear.
What’s one lesson that you’ve learned on your journey to being free?
An important lesson that I’ve learned is that preparation is the evidence of faith. Some people don’t like to plan because they feel that sometimes life throws you curve balls. I would agree that life is definitely unpredictable, but I’ve just come to know that planning is still important, you just have to learn to be flexible with the plan.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my ability to try. I will try, even if I am not sure how well received something will be. I am proud of that because most people will spend a lifetime turning their wheels and NEVER take the first step. And I know because I was one of those people. Always thinking that something was going to fall out of the sky for me to be good at or for me to pursue. I tell people all the time that I never thought that writing was a talent. I always wanted something better to be good at. But at some point I had to realize that it was a talent and that I had to make the decision to step out on it and try it and nurture it. No one was going to do it for me.
How do you support other women?
I love supporting other women. I hate the narrative that we don’t support one another because I just don’t think it’s true. I know so many amazing writers and bloggers that support each other. I like to support other women through my Bold, Brown & Beautiful campaign. We host an annual event in Philadelphia and DC that focuses on encouraging our own narratives of beauty and has even begun to include a writing workshop portion. I love being able to bring other great women into the fold and have them spotlight their expertise. My last event featured stylist Kim Jackson, writer and coach GG Renee, writer Tyece Wilkins and the ladies of Zyn Beauty.
I also actually attend events and buy people’s books and all that good stuff. There is nothing like showing support by actually putting money behind the things that we say we believe in and enjoy. I also love to share other writers’ work that inspires me through my social media channels and through my resource gem piece in my newsletter.
For the new year I even reached out to a few of my fave women and business owners to create a mastermind group because I realize that none of us can get to our next levels without the help of others. I love community and I try to encourage them in any way that I can. There is too much in this world that pits people against one another and will try to make you believe that there is not enough of anything for everyone to thrive. That is FALSE. We can all thrive and succeed and the best way to do that is to support one another.
What does being free mean to you?
Being free means abundant life to me. It’s a life of passion and purpose and all the things that dreams are made of. It’s being able to spend time with your family. It’s not being locked into one place or one dream or one way of thinking. It’s the ability to change your mind and your ability to adjust because nothing about life is predictable.
What is your favorite affirmation or quote?
I’m such a quote and affirmation girl that it’s so hard to pick just one. But at this particular moment I would have to say … “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” – Dr. Maya Angelou
What book would you highly recommend the BeFree Community read?
I feel like I burn through so many books it’s hard to keep track. But I know a book that was a turning point for me this year was Breakout! By Joel Osteen. I randomly purchased the book some time ago just because it was on sale. But I started incorporating reading a Chapter a day into my morning routine and decided to pick it up and it couldn’t have been at a better time. It was just the boost that I needed. Sometimes you can think to yourself, “Am I really going to be able to do this or to achieve that?” And it was like Joel’s book was right there saying YES! Stop thinking negatively, trust your faith and believe the BEST of life and all that is to come. It was like my own little personal pep talk and it really helped launch me into gear.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Believe in yourself more than anyone else. So often we are looking for approval to do the things that we know are our passions. You don’t need anyone’s approval but God’s. He loves us not because we deserve it or because we can do anything in particular for Him. The best thing that we can do to show God our love for Him is to actually utilize the gifts and talents that he has given us and to have faith that His plan is greater than anything we could have imagined for ourselves.
Share a fun fact about yourself.
A fun fact may definitely be that I am an ice cream fiend. I love ice cream. HAHA. Some of my favorite moments have been when my fiancé and I venture out for ice cream either at a gas station to grab ice cream Twix or heading to Capogiro for gelato and stumbling upon a rooftop party.
What exciting things do you have planned for 2016?
2016 feels like the year that myself and everyone else I know is going to take over the world. Okay, maybe not complete world domination, but I definitely feel like great things are in the works. This year I will continue to host my quarterly Dear Love Brunch where women get together to discuss life, love & relationships in a safe environment. I am planning to branch out to New York and DC. I will also be returning to DC for Bold, Brown & Beautiful in September. There are more writing courses in the works as well as my in-person workshop The Writer’s Muse. And most importantly, in 2016, book number two is coming. Stay tuned!