23: A MANIFESTO

Girl With Neon

  1. I am much better-equipped to handle life now than I was a year ago. I remind myself of all the ways I am different now, & how this year, I think I can make it.
  2. A year ago I was terrified to even be in the play. I desperately wanted to break out but I was also desperately scared to. I kept deliberating over whether I should or shouldn’t. The whole process terrified me. Now look at me. Going on road trips around the entire state of Florida all by myself. Traveling around the country to go to meaningful concerts. Taking actual strides – big, massive actions – towards those goals I have so desperately loved.
  3. When the Universe speaks to you, you should listen.
  4. I refuse to let others make me feel small. For too long I have shrunk in their presence, packaging myself for them as something easily understood & easily pigeonholed. For much too long I have let them make me feel like I am inferior, in a variety of ways. But I am not easily packaged up, not easily defined, not easily categorized or classified or described. The world wants me to be just like them. THEY want me to be just like them. Therefore, my greatest rebellion is to be  authentically myself & to reinvent myself continually.
  5. “The strong give up & move on, while the weak, the weak give up & stay…”
  6. What do they have that you don’t have? What separates the successful from the unsuccessful? You are made of the same stuff as they are; you have the potential to stand beside them as their equal, just as they did when they were starting to stand next to their heroes as equals. Run to it. You have just as much right to be there as they do. You have just as much right to be there as they do.
  7. Theme of this year :: make life my playground, & love every minute of it. Create that which I know is mine. It is mine.
  8. The sublime moment when you were driving home in the gorgeous afternoon with the perfect lighting & that song was playing. You had never heard it before, but it struck you as being the most beautiful song you had ever heard. When you heard it on the stage, you knew it was.
  9. You listened to the same album three times in the same week. Twice in the same day (funny of him to mention that song). Each time, it became more beautiful. This is where it’s at. You whispered the very first time, & you were right.
  10. “I try my best to be just like I am, but everybody wants you to be just like them.”It doesn’t matter what they think of me. I do not have to answer to them. A number of them will never understand me, & this is something wear proudly every day. I am glad that I am not like them. I am glad that I am not so simplistic & easily understood that they are able to falsely believe I am the same as they are. Alien. Different. Beautiful & strange. Alive. I am completely myself. I will know when I have found my people, because they will understand me without trying to categorize me.
  11. MASSIVE ACTION.
  12. I am the same age now as you were when you first started. This is incredibly inspiring.
  13. I think of all the things that I am creating for myself. All that I have accomplished in a year & all that I will accomplish. How I not only survived, but thrived. Even when I could have I did not break down & I did not give up. How I fought, tooth & nail, for what was mine. Even when it was unpleasant. I did it. All the projects I am working on are exciting to me. The books I have a deep need to write. I am going to be on that show. The music that flows from me. The art that I see in my mind. Training for that race, & the things I will learn there. Investing, in all aspects. Branching out & connecting with people instead of continuing to hide. Finally getting my shit together. All the places I will go. I know now I have the power to make all of this happen for myself. I am determined as hell, & I will make this happen.
  14. I am wealthier now than those who try to bring me down will ever be.
  15. It didn’t have as much value to me as everyone told me it was going to have. This wasn’t to say it lacked value – the value remained in knowing, & in being able to put a name to experiences. It also contained value in the simple subtraction of being able to tell the difference between the things I really liked & wanted, & the things I felt like I was supposed to enjoy but found unnecessary. The value was in knowing myself a little more.
  16. the difference between what I want to do & should be doing / weekends, weekends spent playing / the breeze & sunlight reminded me of when I was a child / I remembered lying under the umbrella on the deck, recording my own radio show with a tape recorder / it was an illusion, the way they told me being grown up had to hurt / they told me happiness was all a scam / all around me I saw adults falling into the depths of the rat race, the rat race they’d created, thought it was the way it had to be / but they were just trying to sell escapes & they were jealous of your dreams / the sign on the wall read happiness was a journey, happiness is an adventure / I thought about how the magic had been missing for quite some time / I needed to carve out a safe space for it to live & make sure I cherished it & welcomed it / whatever it takes, I’ll keep that magic aliveStop Waiting for the Other Shoe to DropThere is No Other Shoe
  17. STOP WAITING FOR THE OTHER SHOE TO DROP. THERE IS NO OTHER SHOE.
  18. The first time, as they were leaving, I whispered into the deep encompassing warm noise, “thank you, thank you, thank you.” I thanked them specifically. I thanked them for what they had given me. I thanked them for being there. A few days later, I knew I had to go there, if only to thank them. To thank them for helping me through one of the toughest periods of my life. Their art saved me, & it was only right that I had the chance to thank them. To show them I am no longer what I was. To love them, & to feel the love. That type of gratitude can be life-changing. Thank you thank you thank you. I made this happen by myself, for myself.
  19. The real value of it wasn’t even in doing it, but rather in the type of person I would become by doing it. In knowing beyond any shadow of doubt that I am capable.
  20. The things that stress out other people will energize me. Being busy energizes me. Working on my art energizes me. Everything I do energizes me.
  21. Without speaking about it, without having to, I was quietly moving myself towards the sunlight & freedom that belonged to me. The Magician. Strength. 
  22. I think about how good it will feel when I am there. We will be playing music together & I will know then completely free of doubt that I am exactly where I am meant to be. It will feel so damn good. It will be one of the best things I have ever done in my entire life.
  23. What you see here is what contains an infinity of multitudes. It contains all the art, all the ideas, all the energy, all the love. I am made of stardust. I love you so much. I have never been more proud of who I have become than I am right now. You are doing amazingly. You have come such a long way. I cannot even begin to describe my absolute love for you. I love you I love you I love you.
  24. I found the magazines in the closet. I hadn’t gotten rid of them like I had intended to, three years ago. I laughed. It felt like coming home. They were still there. This was the first time in five years that I was finally obsessed with the music again. The knowledge & love that I thought I had lost was still there. I saw things & the names of them popped back into my head & I suddenly knew them again. I finally had something to do again. A mission. A dream. No longer dormant. This time it was for real. It had always been my favorite. It wasn’t something I suddenly developed a longing for even though I hadn’t known if it a month previously. I had always loved it, it had always been a part of me. I reveled in it. It was real, it was transformative, & it was mine. It felt like coming home.
  25. “Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better.” “Be obsessed or be average”. 
  26. On the road I found myself quietly in between the nurturing trees & the radiant city streets at night. Lights on the water. The immensely beautiful coral reef ocean floating quietly. I could see for miles. I touched what had come before me & what was yet to come. When I had to fight for the only thing I had. I have myself & myself has me. Holding that close. I faced what terrified me & emerged the warrior.
  27. It was the kind of change I felt deep in the very center of me. It shook me to my core, & laughed to myself. I finally bought the album & listened to the first two songs off of it. Then I put on the most beautiful song I could think of & danced. I felt the energy shifting as I orchestrated & sculpted the year before my, my fingertips brushing softly past all the beautiful things I am creating. The beautiful things I am creating. It is all mine. All mine. Then it turned to midnight : I hugged myself & put on a different song. My new anthem. Authenticity feels so amazing. You can change, you can change. You can make it.
  28. You are capable of immense happiness. Remember the feeling you had as you drove on the quiet highway with yellow streetlamps & the jazz was playing & you found yourself spontaneously laughing even though you didn’t know why. Remember how fucking powerful that was. Remember the incomprehensibly beautiful transformation where you literally felt the shift inside, literally felt the Phoenix being reborn from the ashes, metamorphosis. Remember how it felt at the end, better than anything else you could have imagined, you were trembling with joy, as the cocoon slowly slipped away & was left behind as you emerged & drank deeply from the rich deep night. Remember the exact color of moonlight on your arm as you drove across the quiet darkened countryside, how the moon vibrated radiantly in the sky & you laughed freely. Remember how free you felt as the chains were finally left behind in a darkened seat by the stage & you were not the same person that had walked in there. Remember how it felt to finally, mysteriously, beautifully heal. You are capable of immense happiness. That is your “RISE”. That is your flame. That is everything you ever needed. Now you know what to do.
  29. “When you realize you lack nothing, the whole world is yours.” “Everything I need is inside me right now.” Remember these. YOU HAVE EVERYTHING YOU NEED.
  30. What an amazing way to beginThis is going to be my best year yet.
  31. “Now it’s up to me, ooh, what will be…”
  32. I am finally becoming the master of my own fate. I am finally HERE. I am fucking unstoppable. I am fucking unstoppable.

The Ashlee Craft Show – Episode 010 – Books – “What Happens When You Choose to Live Authentically”

In the tenth episode of The Ashlee Craft Show, Ashlee reads her article, “This is What Happens When You Choose to Live Life Authentically”, which was originally p& discusses authenticity & loving yourself.

:: Read the original article here ::

Here’s Why Consistency is Much More Important Than Perfection

Save $1. Exercise for one minute. The tiniest step in the right direction is better than doing nothing at all. When done consistently, it can move mountains.

Previously published by Thought Catalog at www.thoughtcatalog.com.

Much too often, perfect becomes the enemy of good. Perfection becomes more important than making progress in the first place. There have been so many times I’ve given up on something because I wasn’t able to do it as often, as devotedly, in the same capacity that I’d originally planned to.

But starting, even with the most seemingly insignificant action, is always better than not starting at all. The smallest action in the right direction, especially when doing it becomes a habit, is incredibly powerful.

The tiniest step in the right direction is better than doing nothing at all. When done consistently, it can move mountains.

Sometimes, it feels like if you can’t commit to exercising an hour a day, if you can’t save 10% of your income, if you can’t write 5,000 words a day, that you might as well not do anything at all. That you should wait until it’s a “better time”.

Don’t wait for the perfect time to do something. Don’t stop & start over because you messed up, or you don’t think you’re ready, or you don’t have the time, the money, the resources. It will never be a better time than it is RIGHT. NOW. No one cares if you cheated at your diet for one day, or if you only start out writing ten words a day in the novel that’s been inside you for a decade.

What matters is that you DO SOMETHING.

Walking for one minute is better than not exercising at all, if that’s all you can do for now.

Practicing playing guitar for two minutes is better than not playing it at all, if that’s all you have time to do.

Eating a tablespoon of canned vegetables along with your burger & fries is better than not eating any vegetables at all, if you’re working on eating healthier.

Flossing one tooth every day is better than not flossing at all, if you don’t have the time to floss all your teeth.

Throwing out one item you no longer need is better than not throwing out anything at all, if you know streamlining your belongings would make your life better.

Opening one window in your house is better than no windows at all, if you want to let fresh air in but only one window has a screen.

Reading one new word in that language you’ve always wanted to learn is better than not learning anything at all, if learning that language seems too challenging.

Writing one line of code is better than not working on your app at all, if you’re working on becoming a programmer & getting your app out there.

Posting something on your blog, at the “worst” time of day, is better than not posting at all if that’s the only thing & the only time you can post it.

Choosing just once today to respond differently is better than staying stuck in the same habits or emotions or beliefs, if you’re trying to reach that next level.

Writing ten words in your novel every day is better than not writing anything at all, if you’ve got a story burning inside you that you know the world needs to see.

Putting $1 in your savings account each week is better than not saving any money at all, if that’s all you have the ability to save right now.

Painting one brush stroke on the canvas is better than not painting anything at all, if you don’t know what to paint, or how to paint it.

Because everything you do eventually adds up. It eventually counts for something. At the end of the year, you will have written 3,650 words more than you’ve written right now. You will have saved $365 more than you have currently. You will have spent 6.08 more hours exercising than you would have otherwise.

Everything you do will compound. Everything you do will leverage every other thing you do. You might be worried that you’re taking the easy way out by only taking one step. But if that’s all you can do right now, your tiny action is as valuable as gold. You will find the time, the motivation, the resources, to get better at it if it’s important to you. You will get to where you’re heading.

Consistency is more important than perfection ever will be.

What you do today to take a step further in the right direction is never a waste of time. You will be that much closer to living the type of life you want to live. The type that you deserve to live.

It’s kind of like the famous “Starfish Story”. You can’t throw all the starfish back into the water. But it will matter, invaluably, for the ones you do.

You can’t always make all the progress you wish you could make. You can’t always win every battle.

But it will matter, invaluably, for the ones you do.

Now, go out there & do something.

Here’s What Happens When You Choose to Live Life Authentically

When you live authentically, loving yourself becomes a whole lot easier.

Here's What Happens When You Choose to Live Life Authentically

Previously published by Thought Catalog at www.thoughtcatalog.com.

Living an authentic life, or at least really trying to, is probably one of the most challenging things that I have done. To me, authenticity is living a life that makes you feel good about the person you are becoming.

It’s when you feel like it is both okay and beautiful to be the exact person that you genuinely are and always wanted to be, and when you get closer to a place of acceptance and love towards yourself.

To me, this isn’t a specific end result or level that you one day reach, but an ongoing process of continually reinventing yourself and making adjustments to your life to match your authentic self. In the process of figuring out who I want to be and working on becoming that, I’ve noticed some wonderful changes.

When you start fearlessly reinventing yourself, you will finally feel happier. When you start living authentically, happiness will start coming more naturally to you, and you’ll feel surprisingly good about the person you are. At first, living authentically can feel scary. You may feel guilt that you’re not living the life others think you should, or be afraid that no one will like or understand the new you.

Changing the way other people see you is probably one of the hardest parts of really becoming yourself, but it’s more than worth it. You might find yourself wanting to try new things that you didn’t have the confidence to do before, and life will probably start becoming a hell of a lot more fun.

For a good portion of my teenage years, I felt strongly dissatisfied and unhappy with my life. I couldn’t do anything that I wanted to do without being plagued by the fear that others wouldn’t like my choices, and even the smallest of frowns or negative comment would dissuade me from doing what I really wanted to do.

I felt like everyone’s expectations of who I was supposed to be were things that I had to listen to, no matter how much they conflicted with who I really was.

One day, I came to the realization that most of the things that made me feel overwhelmed were related to me trying to be what others wanted me to be. I also realized that living my life based on what other people wanted was fruitless and would never allow me to be satisfied or at peace with myself.

Immediately, I began making a list of things I needed to do to start feeling more like myself, the version of myself that I was yet to fully embrace. I worked on incorporating goals and changes into my life that felt good to me and matched up with the kind of person I was excited to start being while ruthlessly editing out the things that didn’t make me happy. When I look at my life since then, it feels predominately good, and a whole lot lighter and brighter than before. The best part is, it keeps getting better all the time, and I know that the more I work on becoming more myself, the better my life will feel.

When you live authentically, loving yourself becomes a whole lot easier.

Loving something encourages you to take better care of it, so the more you love yourself, the more you will value whatever self-care activities are important to you. You will look forward to the things you do that make you feel good. I strongly believe that living an authentic life is the best choice you can make for yourself, and the more expressive form of self-care there is. Whether self-care for you means making sure to drink a cup of hot tea every morning, eat better, spend time with your family, pets, or friends, wear an outfit that makes you feel amazing, go out to socialize more, spend time alone, work more, work less, or get enough sleep, you will become more intuitive about what self-care rituals work best when you start figuring out who you are.

Things will connect and come together in beautiful ways that you may never have expected, and you may find sudden clarity regarding situations or things that you previously felt divided about.

The biggest part of becoming your authentic self is being, owning, and loving the person that you are, regardless of how conventional or unconventional a person that may be.

Your confidence will soar when you start making choices that you really connect with. and this confidence will propel you to take the next steps in reinventing yourself. You’ll find that you aren’t so afraid of what others think of you, and when you start living with honesty, you will inspire others to do the same.

That is perhaps the best and more awe-inspiring part about truly being yourself of all — the fact that you will possess the electric power to empower others to take steps to become who they are. When you start to work on living an authentic life, you will realize how much beauty there is in the unique, amazing, one-of-a-kind person that you were born to be.

the problem & the cure

Highway road between forests

from my upcoming book, “Not a Dime a Dozen”

I effortlessly fell into the same coping patterns I always reached for, although they had never served me well. The days started feeling like running through an ocean of mud. It exerts you, but you never get anywhere. The other thing that stood out to me suddenly was the stark white walls of emptiness. It was much too silent, & while the sight of the finish line had given me something to look forward to, it was only a mirage, & it faded when night fell. This sensation grew in the moments when everything was rushed towards the redundancy of another day, & no one spoke, or at least could not be heard over the roaring cacophony of quiet.

I wondered why I always found myself at the same crossroad at night, with the familiar darkened road & the street signs impossible to make out in the darkness. The road forked off into multiple pathways, & the pressure of choosing the right one felt as random as having to pick the door the magician’s assistant is really behind. I had made choices that I thought would make things better, but the porthole door in the sky scooped me up & deposited me in the same place, week after week, & the same feelings always found me again.

It reminded me of the memory album I’d looked through a thousand times, even though each time I asked myself why I romanticized my own pain so greatly. Was there really anything beautiful about acting as the tragic figure I’d written myself to be, but never really wanted to become? I wondered what my childhood self would think of me if she’d met me now, & if she’d be pleased by the accomplishments I’d achieved, or discouraged & fearing the inevitability of often sunless days & starless nights that were ahead . I had worn these feelings like a comfortable coat, returning to them when the expanse of everything else I could do instead of this seemed too much. I resorted to it & then reveled in it, sometimes feeling as if even in the darkness, my so-called vulnerability was nothing more than another part of my facade, put on for the show of it in an attempt to control the ways others saw me.

I felt the cool waves of an infinite ocean washing up over my feet. The sun rested upon the horizon, neon-pink & hazily vibrating like a mirage. In these moments, there was no yesterday, no tomorrow, no more haunting Mondays. She told me I was getting the same way that I was the last time this had happened; what was that supposed to mean, & how was I supposed to feel about something I couldn’t help myself from feeling? At least I was trying to dig myself out from under the rubble of the fire, & didn’t that count for something?

When I saw my reflection in the mirror of her face, I reeled back. The crystal ball on the mahogany desk informed me of the shrouded sunlessness that the road I had chosen contained, & provided a glimpse of the person I would one day become if I did not turn around. The papers on the walls clearly spelled LEAVE NOW, & the flapping curtain by the open window communicated in Morse Code TURN BACK. I suddenly knew that it didn’t matter where I went or which road I chose, as long as it was different than the one I was on. I fled from the office & slammed the door behind me, vowing I would never go back.

Instead of admitting that I am afraid of courage required to step into my own self & create the kind of life I want to live, I use my own sorrow as an excuse. Wearing it & melting into its folds is easier than becoming someone new. Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like to disappear & reappear somewhere else, my slate cleaned & my future open. To do that would be the easy way out; it is not necessary for my freedom, & I do not need to wait for the bells to sound with the validation that I am allowed to liberate myself.

Palm trees under the sky

It was only on the forbidden drive to the city that I felt the shifting of soil. I felt acutely the changes blossoming & fading into existence, & the rubble on top of me finally being cleared away by my own doing. Beams of sunlight fell around me on the ground, & in the breeze with the music & the effortless swaying of trees, it was the first time in a long time that I finally felt normal. A preview of what is to come. Freedom was that essential code by which I knew I needed to live by, if I were to ever fully realize what things like happiness hope meant. What I had been doing was the exact opposite, & I was growing tired of my old patterns & sorrows & habits. What had once been a darkness I relished & lovingly extracted every ounce of pain from now became a song I’d never liked but heard play too many times on the radio. My old standby patterns weren’t beautiful & tragic – they were just boring, & didn’t allow half enough time for me to merely exist & simply be. Too much of it was shrouded in routine & in monotonous pandering to the politics touted by over-idolized figures I wanted nothing to do with.

If I were to have more days like this, where I felt the pure, unadulterated & fluttering joy of existing in the world of my exact choosing, I would have to summon the bravery to brush myself off & keep trying until I made it. This time, I would stand at the darkened crossroads in the night & I would not be afraid. I would pick the road leading in the direction of the same breeze I’d felt on the beach & in the city, one which wordlessly murmurs of home. When I find all the good feelings I thought I’d forgotten, waiting for me somewhere along the path, I will be able to trust once more in my ability to prevail, to create this for myself, & to thrive.

101 Ways to Love Yourself: How to Feel Better, Be Happier, & Start Living a Super-Awesome Life Now

Cover for self-help book 101 Ways to Love Yourself: How to Feel Better, Be Happier, & Start Living a Super-Awesome Life Now by Ashlee Craft

Happiness is hard. Authenticity is hard. I know this very, very well.

I’m not going to give you some fluffy sermon about how if you just take a bubble bath, smile three times a day at yourself in the mirror, & think happy thoughts constantly that your life will magically be better. These things might help you, but they also might not.

But the thing is, you have all the power in the world to change your life.

Hating yourself is boring. Feeling ugly & unloved is boring. Living someone else’s plans for you is boring. Being depressed & feeling hopeless about your future is boring.

You deserve better than that. You were born to live an awesome life. It’s your duty to yourself to pursue that, as vibrantly & lovingly as you can.

What do you have to lose in learning to love yourself? Or in trying to be happy, & starting to live a life that genuinely makes you feel good? There is nothing to lose.

Change is hard. But the ability to adapt is the thing which separates the winners from the losers. You are trying to make your life better. That puts you in the category of the winners, right now. You’re strong enough, & smart enough, & determined enough to win.

Think about this. You have made it through everything that’s happened to you in your life so far. You have made it. If you can do that, you can do this. You can do anything.

You can love yourself. You can feel better. You can be happy.

You can start living any super-awesome amazing life of your choosing.

And you can start today. Right now.

The key to having all this starts when you start loving yourself. Self-love is the backbone to everything else available to you. It’s the ship that you’re sailing on, & the wind that fills your sails & your lungs. It’s the star you see up ahead in the dark of night. It’s the start of everything else. The first brick on the yellow brick road.

When you start loving yourself, everything else falls into place. You become stronger & more resilient. You start respecting yourself & knowing your worth & only accepting the things you deserve. You start realizing that you can create whatever life you want for yourself, & start empowering yourself to go out there, & go get it.

Happiness is hard. Authenticity is hard.

But when you start loving yourself, that’s when these things become easy.

Here’s how…

Check it out on Kindle

It’s Okay That You’re Not There Yet. A Gentle Reminder

It's okay that you're not there yet. You're working towards it & that's what matters.

from the zine Ashlee Craft / Assemblage, Issue 12

Be gentle with yourself as you work towards the changes & beautiful transformations you’re going through. You’re stepping into the things you’re supposed to be, & you’re getting closer to the things that you’re creating for yourself. Not every step you take will lead you to where it hoped it would, but all of it is leading you closer to the things you ultimately want, even if they don’t seem like they are. The doors you open may lead you to strange, indefinable places, but place a little more trust in the instinctive knowledge you have inside you. You are not as lost as you sometimes feel you are.

Reflection Upon Five Years of Creative Courage

Strange Occurrences by Ashlee Craft - Cover

Five years ago, I did one of the most frightening, brilliant things I had done in my 16-year existence : hit the “publish” button on Amazon’s Kindle Publishing page, and in that moment, released my first book to the world.

The journey had started long, long before then, when I was 13 years old. I had been coming up with stories & working on a variety of books, mostly about children/teens & their pets, since I was about ten years old. I had completed several books prior to writing Strange Occurrences, each one somewhere around 50 – 70 typed pages. Strange Occurrences originally started as a screenplay I was going to write, but when I realized that to turn it into a film would be an challenging, expensive endeavor, I decided to write a book about the idea instead. My book was going to be about a young teenage girl who got sucked into another dimension, one which would allow her to see other people’s points of view, & understand how her actions fit into the grander scheme of things. This was inspired by watching the movie It’s a Wonderful Life for the first time, & being awed by the end portion of the film, where George Bailey sees what things would have been like if he’d never been born.

I remember a distinct moment from when I was 13, and walking on the treadmill stationed in my parents’ bedroom. My grandmother had died recently. I decided to incorporate this element into my story, & have the main character’s dying grandmother warn her about the “Strange Occurrences”, something the grandmother had experienced when she was the main character’s age. Originally, the main character’s name was going to be Carol, inspired by the name of Jack Ryan’s wife in the film Hunt for Red October, which I must note, I was OBSESSED with at the time, but eventually decided on Cathy. As I walked on the treadmill, I decided that Cathy would “use walking as a means of escaping from her problems” and traverse her neighborhood with her dog.

Strange Occurrences really began months later, as I sat on the bed in a cheap hotel room, holding the old Dell laptop on my lap, & leaning back on the made bed against a wall of stiff hotel pillows. We were moving to a different house & staying in the hotel while we looked for houses. I described the hotel as being “oppressive, like a dungeon”, & wanted to do something to take my mind off this fact. I remember sitting on the bed, typing the opening lines, looking over at my sister & explaining what I was writing, & my parents coming back inside from retrieving something from the car. This was where I typed those first few pages.

★★★★★

Over the next few months, even as I attended college as a dual-enrollment student, I worked on Strange Occurrences in my spare time. The story took shape, and changed multiple times. After a long, arduous editing process which spanned several months and included both me & my family (including my relatives) reading through my book several times, I finally worked up the courage to start sending off samples to a variety of big-name publishers. Eagerly, I awaited a response, & imagined the perfect-movie-moment in which I would open their letter with trembling hands, & read, “we are interested in publishing your book, and would like you to send us the rest of it”. One day, a letter arrived in the mail, & I opened it. I was both terrified & elated that after weeks of waiting, I’d finally received a response. When I opened it though, I saw the dreaded words, & my spirit temporarily fell : “unfortunately, we are not interested in your manuscript at this time.”  I was temporarily surprised and disappointed by this, but being a confident optimist, I kept thinking, “Maybe the next letter will be a ‘yes’.”. After receiving several rejection letters, I realized that the best course of action would be to take matters into my own hands.

For a long time, I hadn’t been open to the idea of self-publishing a book. This was mostly because I was in love with the fantasy of having an actual publishing house send me a letter telling me they liked what they’d written. Looking back, I was firmly set on having this because I felt like getting a deal with a big publishing house was a very prestigious thing. Furthermore, achieving this would not only prove to myself that I was indeed good at writing, but it would prove to those around me that writing was a legitimate career, & would be the thing which would make me a “real” writer.

a "real" writer

 

Thankfully, two things happened around this time. (1) My father repeatedly told me about how he thought self-publishing, especially ebooks, was a good idea, & sent me multiple articles about successful authors on Kindle. (2) I was starting to get fed up with waiting for people to give me approval about my books, & I started wondering why I was letting someone else hold me back from doing what I wanted to do. I came to the conclusion that I might as well try self-publishing, & began researching how to make this happen.

To be honest, I procrastinated publishing Strange Occurrences by endlessly editing it. “I just want it to be perfect.” I thought. I kept finding things about it that I could change or improve. “Just one more edit, then it will be done.” I kept saying that, for a few months. Eventually, I realized that I could edit it a thousand times & always find things about it that could be made better, but if I did that, my book would never get published. “You’re afraid of success.” My dad told me. So I got to work on painting the cover, & wrote the book description.

I remember sitting in a kitchen chair one afternoon, sunlight streaming in, & I sketched out the cover for Strange Occurrences on a piece of paper taken from a sketchpad of mine. Once the sketch was perfected, I filled it in with paint. I wanted my sister to photograph me painting it, “to document this moment.”, I told her. A while later, the cover was done. I painted the title words on another piece of paper & added them to the cover image in Photoshop.

After learning about how to format a book, making multiple formatting errors, & finally getting it right, then came the moment when I was on the Kindle publishing page, filling out the information about my book, & uploading my files.

April 4, 2011. It was finally time. I put my cursor over the “Publish” button, took a few deep breaths, & looked around at my family gathered there on the couch. “I’m going to publish it now.” I told them. All my hard work & all the effort I had put into this book was finally coming to life. I didn’t know where I was going by doing this, or what would happen, and even though I didn’t feel entirely ready, I knew inside that I really was. I hit the publish button. A feeling of relief, & of nervousness, filled me, but mostly, it was a feeling of accomplishment. I’d done something awesome, especially for a 16-year-old. I was really doing this. By doing this, I was saying to the world that I believed in myself & in the things I created, & in my opinion, there are few statements as powerful as that.

Shine, Success

In the five years since then, I have written more than 45 books & started a monthly zine which currently includes 10 issues, as well as a variety of albums, blogs, & videos. I’ve written a novel in three days, participated in multiple NaNoWriMo challenges, & been featured on a TV interview with Fox News. These are things that I never would have thought were possible five years ago, but by the mere fact of them happening, it proved to me that I was dedicated and confident enough to make this happen for me. To be a writer. To make my goals happen, without waiting for anyone else to tell me that I was good enough.

Here’s to the five years since then, & the next five years. Here’s to all the people who are just starting out as writers & trying to get people to read their books. Here’s to those who came before me & set the stage, & the ones that encouraged me to go farther. Here’s to the people questioning if their books, their writing, their music, their art, their dreams, are good enough. Here’s to the people tired of waiting for others to tell them it’s okay to take the next step, those who take their goals into their own hands & nurture them & turn them into absolute brilliance, even if it feels messy or amateur.

Here’s to scared, ambitious teen hitting the “Publish” button on her first book & seeing that her dream of being this was possible.

Here’s to courage, in whatever form for you it may take.

 

Here’s Why Happiness is the Best Revenge

Happiness is the Best Revenge // From Ashlee Craft / Assemblage, Issue 10(image from Ashlee Craft / Assemblage, Issue 10)

Happiness is the best revenge. Or, as I also love stating frequently : haters gonna hate. The people who don’t like you don’t like you because they feel like you’re above them, or because they’re afraid of you being better than they are, because they are jealous of you. Because they are made uncomfortable by your vastness, your talent, your personality, your brilliance. If they really were above you, they wouldn’t see a point in bringing you down. Down is the key word in that. People who are vast, successful, happy, wealthy (in things more than just money), etc, have what they need, & don’t need to hinder or hold back or quell or block out or squash or shadow or disrespect anyone in any way, ever. They don’t have to do that in order to feel better about themselves. Because they are BIG. Because they are bright + brilliant. Without having to take light away from others in order to feel powerful.

The people who don’t like you aren’t really above you at all. For a minute, they might seem like they do – they might make more money, or have a better car, or more “friends”, or have an attractive & charming significant other, or an important sounding job. But trust me – if they’re that hell-bent on causing pain & sadness to you, they probably lead bitter, sad lives, or at the very least, have doubts about their confidence or their choices. People who are comfortable with themselves build people up & are excited when they do well.

So, if you’re dealing with someone who makes you feel bad about who you are or the choices that you make, or anything else, let your happiness, & your success, be your revenge to them. It will annoy them to see you doing well in the ways they thought you never could. No matter what you do, they still won’t like you, so you might as well do what makes you happy & pursue happiness like the wealth that it is. Be so damn happy that they shake their heads in absolute & utter confusion about how someone they think is as fill-in-the-blank as you can be so happy. Be so successful in your endeavors, so dedicated in your hard work + pursuit of a really really good life, that the people who don’t like you may find themselves desperately wishing that their lives resembled yours, and that they were as happy as you.

But in the end, it never really was about them anyways. This whole process was never about how your actions affect them, because there are so many more worthwhile things to do than caring what someone who doesn’t respect you thinks. It’s all about proving yourself & your beliefs about what’s possible wrong by providing the best life possible for yourself & reaching a higher level of self-love. It’s about asserting your own belief in yourself & confidence in your opinions. Your happiness being “revenge” is the one type of revenge which is about building someone up rather than tearing someone down. All their efforts to tear you down & make you feel bad about yourself are exceeded by you pushing back against them, rising up higher again & again, overcoming their darkness by you shouting you from rooftops “I AM GOOD ENOUGH. I DESERVE BETTER.” It is the one thing you can do in response to all their darkness which reasserts that you are free from them, they never owned you at all, that you are your very-own person which their choices and words do not influence, that you will not be broken by them. That you will keep marching right on forward & becoming positively radiant in the face of all that lies ahead for you. And in succeeding where others would love to see you fall, by continuing to try even when they try to tell you that you’ll never make it, I think this is when you start to know what it means to be your own hero.

Remember that you’re rad, & you’re so deserving of love + respect, & so deserving of an absolutely magical, epic, badass, beautiful, & awesome life filled with great experiences, dreams coming true, & complete happiness so brilliant it makes your haters need sunglasses. You deserve it.