questions answered

hello, sweet friend of mine.

i mentioned yesterday that i would answer 12 questions you send me. thank you so much for all of your incredible, thoughtful questions. i will be doing this periodically, so if you missed this one, you'll get another chance :)

here are just a few of the amazing questions you all sent:

1.   "Is it hard for you to be vulnerable and put yourself out there in both your poetry book and your blog? I struggle with sharing my feelings, thoughts, and struggles sometimes and I'd like to get better at that."

to be honest, it depends on the day. it's something that i've worked on for many years. i've always been an external processor, so from a young age i've wanted to talk through my problems. i am blessed to have parents that are understanding and accepting, so i felt comfortable talking about some of the feelings i was dealing with. i was always worried about what people thought about me, so it wasn't until late in my senior year of high school that i started to really open up. 

a big moment for me was when one of the girls in my class, a cheerleader, always bubbly and laughing and fun, opened up that she had tried to commit suicide. she had done this months before, and decided to share it with a class. i found this so incredibly moving, brave, and powerful. there wasn't a dry eye in the room listening to her share, and everyone responded with love. now, this was an intimate group, and i wouldn't recommend shouting it from the rooftops, but i do think that starting with a person/people you trust and working your way out is a good way to go. 

her sharing her story helped me realize that just because someone is smiling and cheerful on the outside, doesn't mean that's the whole story. and over the years, realizing that everyone hurts in different ways, has empowered me to open up in hopes that others will feel the relief that i felt knowing they're not alone. 

2. "When did you realize that creating was something you had to do? What happened (or didn't happen) that made you realize this?" 

this realization came and went over the years. in high school i was incredibly in touch with my creative side. after  graduation i went to college, undecided on a major, and started exploring more 'practical' options. i was working in healthcare at the time and for awhile pursued a degree in that field. i was nearly failing the math and science classes and feeling incredibly stifled creatively. i wasn't writing, but i felt that this career would be a safe bet after my dad lost his job during the recession. then as the months passed by and he wasn't able to find a job in business (the field he was in for 25 years), he decided to start a new career in something he loved. 

this was incredibly inspiring to me. my dad, a husband and father of four, took the risk to pursue a career that he would truly love. this was a huge factor in me deciding to choose a path with writing. i ended up receiving my bachelor's degree in english and knew in my heart that i would always be writing.

3. "please use a color, a smell and a sound/song to describe the way you feel right now." - cocoi (@bluecocoi)

ooh i love this. i'm going to say grey/blue (misty morning), smell of the forest after a summer rain, & the song at the bottom of this post (i can't stop listening to it). i'm feeling introspective and melancholy, but alive and calm.

4. "Do you have any advice on how to deal with a friend who's always putting you down and being negative towards you? I feel like there's no way out because we've been friends for a year, so thank you for reading this if you see it." - Kailee

to be honest, i've been through quite a few friendships like this. i tend to be a people-pleaser and let people walk all over me until i can't take it anymore. here's what i've learned:

confront them. it's not easy, but this is the only way to have a hope of saving the friendship. be completely honest, but gentle, about how you're feeling. saying things like, "it hurts my feelings when..." instead of directly attacking them. no one will respond well to attack. so if you're gentle and honest, hopefully your friend will listen and make changes. if they do, be patient with them. keep communicating your needs and ask what they need from you. openness is key.

if you have given them a chance to make it right and they continue to treat you poorly, it's perfectly fine to distance yourself. i know the feeling that "there's no way out," but that's simply not true. i can't stress enough that communication is the most important thing. if you feel that you've expressed your needs as clearly as possible, and they are choosing to ignore them, it is best to walk away. you may find yourself in each others' lives again after some time (it's happened to me), but a friendship should be an equal give and take. you deserve to have friends who love you unconditionally.

5. "When you're going through a writers block, and you can't find inspiration though anything, how do you find your voice again?" - Meredith

this has happened to me many times over the years. the difficult thing is, it can be quite different for every person. for some people it helps to just push through and continue writing every single day, and one day it'll just click. for others, a small break can be extremely helpful. but you can't know what you need until you try. so i would say go the trial-and-error route.

an easy way to start is by journaling. this doesn't have to be pen and paper, you can have a private account where you write in online, even if it's just a sentence or two about how you're feeling. or go on to describe in length your entire day as if to a close friend. journaling often helps to connect your mind to your emotions and the words will come more naturally.

that has always helped me. i started there, and eventually went on to write a poem a day for about 6 months. this was three years ago and i haven't had writers' block since.

6. "I would absolutely love to know any history and emotions that you would be willing to share about poem 17." (from Smoke Signals)

here is the poem:


your voice is like
dripping down
my throat
but your words like
daggers make me
so stop
calling my name
in your sleep
each cut is curing my
disease of you
draining the illness
of needing you
despite the condition of my
cardiac muscle
every time you
tell me that you
love me because
lord knows
these letters are
lies and
lord knows
I need more
than vows from vowels so please
forgive me and
forget me
while we
sway to the dance of the
while we
weep with each breath

i always feel the need to apologize when i give anyone my book. the poems are mostly dark & sad, a glimpse into the arena where i wrestle my demons.

as i sort of mentioned previously, i've spent most of my life as a self-hating people-pleaser, so this drew me to the manipulative type. as long as i felt needed i would be okay. i found my worth in people appreciating me, 'needing' me, being 'changed' by me. this came in the forms of friendships and dating relationships and all of them rolled together fill a huge, dark, messy place in my heart. although some of the hurt was many years ago, i can still recall it as though it were yesterday. and it rears its head once in awhile, so i dig into the grime and hold it in my hands, roll it around and mold it into a hopeful resemblance of art.

& that's what this is.

7. "What has been the hardest part of your process of dealing with mental illness and how did you get through it/what is your advice for others to get through it?" - Hailey

i think of mental illness more like rain clouds, it comes and goes and i don't have an incredible amount of control over it. maybe that sounds like bad news, but it's honestly been a relief to come to terms with. i think the lack of control has been the most difficult part. but realizing that it's an illness, a chemical, biological issue - something that happened to me and that i didn't do to myself - makes it much more manageable. when the rain clouds come i ask for help. that's the first and best thing you can do. i find someone i trust and we talk about it and maybe cry together. if the rain clouds stick around for awhile, i talk to a doctor and a counselor - someone who is trained to help me work through to the sunny days. it's an ongoing process, but i believe that i continue to get stronger, and the joys of life are worth fighting for.

8. "What's your way of showing love?"

honestly, for the longest time, i thought that i showed/wanted to be shown love one way, but was completely wrong. taking well-established personality tests such as the meyers-briggs test and the 5 love languages test has helped me learn a lot about myself, and in turn, given me healthier relationships. i actually plan to do a post on this in the near future. that being said, my love language is 'acts of service.' i love being there for people when they need me. i love for people to know that i'll drop anything at any time if they need help, and i'm always here to listen with a nonjudgemental heart.

9.   "Any tips for thrift shopping? i'm starting to get more into it but find it hard to find things that are my style!"

i would say go often! over the years it's become a hobby of mine (and fortunately an inexpensive one). i've found a handful of thrift shops in my city that i can usually find some incredible gems. you have to look very thoroughly, find the aisles that you like, and pick through each piece of clothing one-by-one. i'm a fairly visual person, so i love looking through pinterest and tumblr. i save fashion ideas that inspire me and try and recreate them with clothes i find at the thrift shop. it usually helps to have an idea of some things you're looking for, like a vintage denim jacket, or a short red dress, etc. that way it'll stand out to you more easily :) it's such a fun adventure, and so rewarding when you find amazing deals.

10. "Do you believe you're born with, I guess, a gift, to write? Or can anyone do it?"

personally, i believe it's a little bit of both - nature & nurture. i think that some people are born with certain tendencies and giftings, some of them having to do with the side of your brain that's stronger. some people naturally gravitate toward numbers and formulas, while others love colors and shapes. so maybe the numbers person isn't drawn to paint, but i believe with time and practice, this person could be an amazing painter. i think that it's never too late to start, and you'll be so glad you did.

11. What inspires you to create?" - Vanessa

this is probably the question i am asked most often. and unfortunately, i don't have the perfect answer. or maybe there just isn't one. i think inspiration is found within each person, that it takes a trained eye to look at the tapestry of your life and find the threads that stick out and shine in the sunlight. i think it's been years of feeling things very deeply and letting them wash over me, reaching out and touching them, accepting them as parts of my story. the more i run my fingers through them, the more closely i understand them and can describe their intricacies. but i am also just so incredibly aware of them, that if i don't reach in, they fill me up until i can't breathe. so creating is a way that i take these feelings that flood me and put them in fish bowls and wells and frog-hopped puddles. it's a necessary release. 

12. Do you have a PO Box (I believe that's what it's called) so we can send things? I'd love to send you gifts for being an amazing human"

you're the sweetest. yes! jesse & i share one and absolutely love hearing from friends :)

PO Box 14831
Columbus OH 43214

i'd love to hear an interesting fact about you! :)



Listening to:

Lorde - Liability


  1. Oh glad to see that you have a PO Box ^^ I'm a spanish photographer and I want to send you a couple of my favorite pics <3
    Stay strang :*

  2. I am making a drawing for Smoke Signals so I'm as I happy to hear that you have a PO box so I could send it when I'm done

  3. Thank you for taking the time out of your day to answer these questions. All of your answers where so inspiring in every way

  4. I feel like i'm not a very interesting person but something that's a bit different about me is that i love sign language! I'm not currently learning it at school but i'm transferring so that one of my majors can be ASL interpreting. But i really just have a love for languages in general! I think each one is so intricate and special which is why i'm also going to be teaching myself french over the summer. Thanks for the post Ashley i always love hearing a little more about yourself :) i've never met you but i already feel like i know you. Can't wait till you come to Chicago ❤

  5. thank you so much for answering one of my questions! it means the world to me. although I don't think I am a very interesting person, something unique about me is that I am a triplet. on a more individual level, I love working with people with disabilities.

  6. hey!! I'm so glad you loved my question, I really enjoyed this post, I love relating to some of the things/ideas you write and I would absolutely love to hear about love languages!!

    a quite interesting fact about me is I really enjoy buying presents, I enjoy trying to find the perfect thing for that specific person, there's something magical about that look in their faces when you get it right.

    hope you have a lovely rest of the week x

  7. You truly have a way with words, thank you for opening up and sharing your emotions. I think your rain clouds analogy is perfect. I was also a self-hating people pleaser with toxic friendships. Luckily I was able to distance myself from my 'friends' who only affected me negatively. It's taken years but I've finally started to accept and love myself for who I am. I still struggle sometimes but overall I've been doing so much better in recent years. Still a people pleaser but hopefully in a more healthy way. Thank you again for sharing your writing talents with us and for letting us know we're not alone. <3

  8. "so maybe the numbers person isn't drawn to paint, but i believe with time and practice, this person could be an amazing painter" hehe it felt as if this one was just for me (': because I'm a numbers person, I know all the plate numbers of my family members by heart :S and stuff like that. I loved chemistry in highschool because I was good at it. and for a while I thought, well my analytical brain halve is stronger. so I should not create anything at all because I'm not made to create. turns out, I was wrong. maybe because I'm a numbers person I can create something that non-numbers persons can't create, and maybe I can just use my brain to create something that's completely mine and be proud of it. it was really a switch in my brain that I had to pull, it's such a relive to believe that I can be artistic too, despite the fact that I'm all in to science <3.

    oh and I've been reading your book and you prolly heard this before, but it's amazing <3 thanks for sharing, even the dark parts. it's not easy to share these things, but it's a good thing, it's a good thing to recognize pieces of yourself in someone else. thank you so so much.

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