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Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.
Chinese Proverb

Today I’m pleased to be talking with fellow Write It Sideways Blogging Contest winner, Ashley Prince. Ashley is following her childhood writing dream while balancing the demands of college, work and the joys of being a newlywed…

Beyond the Gray: Thanks for joining us, Ashley! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Ashley Prince: Well, let’s see. I am 20 years old, newly married, and currently living in San Antonio, Texas. I work part time at The Children’s Place and go to school full time. I am majoring in Anthropology and Religious Studies. Writing plays a huge role in both fields and I am thrilled to be able to incorporate my dream into my passion for these fields.

BTG: Tell us about your writing dream.

AP: As far back as I can remember I’ve always dreamed of writing. I believe it stems from my crazed passion for reading. My mom always told me when I couldn’t find a book to read, to write the story myself. In sixth grade, I took her up on that and wrote a short story called The Royal Spies, think Spy Kids set in medieval times.  Since then, I have been writing poems, songs, short stories, mock articles; anything really.

As simple as it may sound, I work towards my dream by writing and sharing my work with people who are willing to read what I have to say. The Write It Sideways Blogging Contest was the first writing contest I’ve ever done, aside from National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). When the contest was announced I said, “I’m doing it. No excuses. I am doing this.” And I am so glad I did!

BTG: Your article, “4 Places to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing” was selected as a winner of the Write It Sideways Blogging Contest. Tell us about your blogging activities. 

AP: I write two blogs and co-write another with my husband. Byron’s Curse is a more personal and very random blog. I post on everything from the 7 Deadly Sins, pictures when I can’t think of things to write, serious topics and not-so-serious topics. My inspiration for creating that blog was Lord Byron’s quote: “If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.” I don’t know about you, but that is exactly how I feel and the main reason I continue to write.

My second blog, Open Eyes and Open Mind, started as a response to a Cultures of the Middle East class I took a couple semesters ago and turned into a comparative religion blog. It’s not exactly what I want it to be, but I don’t want to give it up. I find religion awareness to be very lacking in America today and it truly saddens me.

BTG: What else do you like to write about?

AP: Honestly, it depends on my mood. I love everything but I think I write non-fiction best because I don’t’ have to make up anything. I just write from the heart and from my experiences. But the idea of creating my own stories is so appealing that I try to do it as often as I can.  I am currently working on a novel called Pearl that I started writing during NaNoWriMo last year and didn’t finish.

BTG: Tell us about Pearl.

AP: Pearl is a teen fiction book that is based on a real life relationship; my sister in-law’s, to be specific. She is a junior in high school and got involved in a very serious relationship. In the span of six months, her boyfriend told her he loved her (on the third date), proposed to her, and was physically and emotionally abusive. I am so proud of my sister in-law for being able to get out of it.

Here is a synopsis of Pearl:

Evelyn is just starting her senior year of high school. Heavily involved in the student body, she is president of her senior class, and almost everyone knows her name. Teachers love her, parents treat her as an adult, and she knows who she is in life.

Cole, the town’s wrestling star, begins to notice Evelyn and immediately decides to pursue her. Having never had a serious boyfriend, Evelyn soon becomes captivated by his charm and protective presence.

But their relationship quickly takes a turn for the worse. Cole’s charm hides his true self from Evelyn’s family and friends, and his once protective nature turns into a tyrannical nightmare.

BTG: What is your biggest fear as a writer?

Imperfection. I am scared of having imperfection in my writing, in my stories, in my career, dreams or anywhere for that matter. It terrifies me. I haven’t worked past it as much as I would like, but I constantly remind myself that imperfections are what make people so interesting.

BTG: What inspires you?

AP: My inspiration for writing comes from years of reading, experiencing life and, most importantly, my mom. Without her, I don’t know what I would have done with myself. She has always encouraged me to follow my dreams no matter how big or impossible they seem.

BTG: If you could give one piece of advice to someone else who is struggling to follow a dream, what would it be?

AP: Never give up. Never surrender. Yes, I stole this quote from Galaxy Quest, but seriously. I know people hear this all the time, but I cannot stress how important it is. Every dream is perfectly attainable; somehow, some way.  Everything is within your reach.

And don’t confuse taking a break from your dream with giving up. I have taken many breaks from writing because there were things in my life that needed more attention before I could move on with my dreams.

Dreams are a funny thing; even if you try to hide from them they always have a way of finding you.

To learn more about Ashley Prince, visit her at her at Byron’s Curse:

Are you following a dream? If so, I’d love to hear from you.
E-mail me at Erika (dot) Liodice (at sign) hotmail (dot) com

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of articles about how to be happy at work even if you hate your job, like this one: 9 Ways to Be Happy with a Job You Don’t Like. Perhaps this influx is a response to the increasing number of employees finding themselves in survival mode, subscribing to the “just be thankful to have a job” mantra. Whatever the reason, when it comes to career, more and more people are feeling just plain “stuck”. And while the advice given in these articles is helpful and easy to apply, I think it’s worth pointing out that if your job really makes you feel like you’re “serving time for a crime you didn’t commit”, then you probably need to change more than your attitude and extracurricular activities.

This article, Finding a New Youlooks at several people who had to professionally reinvent themselves after being laid off – a former Hewlett Packard exec who started a coffee roasting business; a former ad agency employee who became a yoga instructor and nutritional counselor; a paralegal who now owns a dance school; a Wall Street trader who became a teacher, and others.

The point is, if you’re truly unhappy at work, you don’t have to wait for freedom to come in the form of a pink slip. If these people can reinvent themselves, so can you.

Of course, one of the biggest challenges is deciding on a new direction. I like to think of career reinvention as a mashup of passion and skill.

Ask yourself two questions – What do you love? And what do you know? – then think about how your answers could translate into a new career or business idea.

The article, Entrepreneurs’ Advice: Follow Your Passion, looks at two creative entrepreneurs who have experienced great success through combining their passions and skills. The first, David Morrow combined his passion (field hockey and lacrosse) with what he knows (manufacturing, from exposure to his father’s company). The result? Warrior Sports, a multi-million dollar enterprise that began by making titanium hockey and lacrosse sticks.

The other is Aaron Dworking, who combined his passion for classical music with what he knows: diversity (he has a white, Irish Catholic birth mother and a black Jehovah’s Witness birth father — along with white Jewish adopted parents). His great mashup was the creation of The Sphinx Organization, which works to increase diversity in classical music. Not only has it helped make music education programs available in underserved areas of the country, but The Sphix Chamber Orchestra performed at Carnegie Hall and now tours nationally.

I love this observation Morrow makes: “When you’re young you have dreams, you say, ‘I would love to make a living doing this.’ But somewhere along the way, … we go in a different direction and we start to compromise.”

Why do we do this? Why do we hang up our cleats, put down our pens, close the door on the things that fire us up and decide that it’s time “get serious” and pursue a “real” path? How is working towards someone else’s vision any more real than working towards your own?

What’s your mashup?

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