Hardship & Creativity with Ashley C. Ford


Ashley C. Ford is a writer, editor, and speaker who has written and guest-edited for publications like The Guardian, ELLE, BuzzFeed, Slate, and many more. But only a few years ago, she had a very different story. After getting fired from all her part-time jobs at once and hitting rock bottom, she found the drive to move forward again after reading a self-help book...

Soon after she became friends with Lena Dunham, started writing for BuzzFeed, and is now a senior writer at Refinery29 while also working on a personal memoir. As a survivor of sexual assault, Ashley talks about letting go of shame and the relationship between personal hardships and creativity. She also shares her perspective on Black Girl Magic and what she’s reclaimed on her heroine’s journey.

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Highlighted Excerpt

Majo: In this podcast, we’re obviously delving into a lot of personal stuff. We’re talking about family, sexual assault, a lot of deeply personal stuff. How does that relate to you as a creative woman? What’s the connection between all these things that have happened in your life and your creativity?

Ashley: Well, I think the key word is connection. My creativity has always been about connection and the desire to connect to other people on some level. And of course we’re not all going to have the same experiences or the same thoughts – that’s impossible. But I do think that generally, we’re all experiencing a lot of things that are on the same plane.

When we talk about “human interest”, what we’re actually talking about is the fact that we can all have varied experiences, but somewhere they intersect. And I’m obsessed with those intersections, and with the gray area around those intersections. So I write to connect as much as I read to connect. It’s a way for me to get certain ideas and thoughts into the world that I had originally assumed were just me [laughs].

It took me a really long time to realize that a lot of what I was feeling and thinking and going through... I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t so special. And I found that out through reading. When I couldn’t find stories or books about things that were happening in my life, at some point I decided to write about them and try to connect my experience with the page. And then hope that other people could see elements of their own lives, experiences, and feelings in my words and in my life.

Majo: In reading up about you – it took you a while to figure out what you really wanted to do…

Ashley: Oh, absolutely.

Majo: I think a lot of our listeners are going to be able to relate to this. Can we talk a little bit about what you studied and how you ended up becoming a writer?  

Ashley: I had six different majors. I ended up settling on English, and I’m still finishing that degree. Like, I’m registering now to finish up my last two classes this summer for my Bachelor’s degree. And I started college in 2005.

I spent a lot of time going back and forth for multiple reasons. I come from a very working-class to living in poverty in some cases within my family. I guess it was older-sister syndrome. I just always assumed that I would have to have the job that took care of everybody.

I kept changing my major because none of them seemed like something I actually wanted to do. There was no pleasure in being a part of them, so I stopped. I finally realized that if I didn’t stop majoring in things that I didn’t want to do, I was never ever going to graduate.

Show Notes:

  • Ashley as a little girl: A precocious, early reader who asked a lot of questions and was highly skeptical of adult authority. [2:57]
  • On hitting puberty as a young woman – “It’s not about us, it’s about the way the world starts to react to us.” [10:11]
  • Ashley talks about her father, who was in prison for most of her life, and how their relationship was further complicated after learning what his crime had been. [17:46]
  • On personal experiences relating to creativity, why Ashley struggled so long to figure out what she wanted to do, and how she ended up becoming a writer. [21:04]
  • Diving into Ashley’s transition to becoming a writer – from surviving on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches...to checking out all the self-help books at the library...to getting a job at Buzzfeed. [26:57]
  • Some of the beliefs she had to let go of in order to lead, plus her beautiful perspective on “black girl magic”. [32:05]
  • Ashley’s advice for making yourself more visible and vulnerable, her wisdom on shame, and what she’s in the process of reclaiming for herself. [38:25]

Subscribe and listen to the full episode here (you must subscribe to receive latest episode).


Ashley's website


by Lucia Lilikoi

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