Out on a Limb

In the past three months I have been conducting a sort of "self-experiment".

Essentially I have realllly been putting myself out there. Each day I try to do something that scares me. I took an improv class, acting classes, messaged people who I never would normally message, talked to strangers in public, said yes to just about everything, as well as "no" to things I hate, auditioned even when I knew I wouldn't get the part, sent sub-par video auditions, and have been going to some social events entirely by myself.

Basically I've just been chillin on a limb all month long.

And it is very scary. It is. But each time I ask myself, "what's the worst that can happen?" And if the answer is something like, "they'll say no" or "someone might think I'm weird" then I just DO IT. I don't question myself, I don't think of every possible scenario, I just put on my big-girl pants and go for it. I have made the decision to give myself the best fighting chance, even if it means I look silly or nothing happens. If I don't get the part in a film, but I auditioned and tried my best, then it simply was not meant to be. I can't be mad about something that is not at all in my control.

That said, a lot of things have not worked out. I haven't been cast in the majority of things I've auditioned for...but I have gotten cast for a few. I never would have gotten those few if I hadn't put myself out there. Sometimes I try to be social and literally end up feeling like an outcast troll. And other times I'm Grace Kelly incarnate! People cancel, things don't work out.

I have very high highs and very low lows.

Each time something doesn't work out I think, what's the point? Why did I even try?

But then a new opportunity springs up. Sometimes it's even better than the first one. God and the universe tend to work like that. One door closes and another one opens.

I can't tell you how to live, but if you're feeling stuck in the mud, try this "experiment". Even if only one cool thing comes of it, you've basically succeeded because it wouldn't have happened on its own.

"You can't cross the sea merely by staring at the water" -Rabindranath Tagore


Letting Life Happen

Life has been moving 1000 miles a minute. And it's taking some random path that I never even knew existed.

I apologize for being so silent this past month and not posting very much or blogging! A lot of things have been happening, good and not-so-good, and I am just trying to catch up with myself here. Someone I knew passed away in December and it really put life into perspective for me. I thought I knew what I was doing, where I was going, what I wanted in life...but boy how things have changed. It seems like every week I am changing my goals and expectations. I can't really keep up anymore!

So now I'm just going with the flow. It's like I've been trying to swim upstream all my life, making goals and action plans. And now instead of fighting, I'm just letting myself float wherever the current would like to take me. Just letting life happen as it happens. And it's actually been really good.

Out of nowhere, in December, I got a job at a coffee shop without applying or even really interviewing. The stars aligned and now I am working there a few days a week and I LOVE it so far. It's a beautiful, quiet, minimalist shop. I love the regulars who come in and our products. And I don't dread going to work each day, which is fantastic. I was so excited before to be doing photography full-time without the need for a part-time job, but I ended up feeling a little lonely and secluded. As much as I love the freedom of only working freelance, I missed the daily human interaction that comes with being a barista. I have met SO many new friends and acquaintances just in the two months I have been working here, it's crazy. It's got me questioning what "success" really is. From an outsiders perspective, I may look like I'm struggling. Nate and I are not making a whole lot of money, I got a second job, I don't have any Atlanta photography jobs lined up...but...I feel happy. And isn't that what success is? That's not to say I'm not trying to get some new photo jobs or that I don't want more money...haha, I definitely do. But for now I'm happy meeting new people, going with the flow, and making beautiful lattes along the way.

As far as photography, I have gotten some work, but nothing like I've expected to get down here. I took some photos for a marketing company and some baby photos for friends, but I haven't found work like I had in Minnesota such as engagement, senior shoots, or fashion. I should probably feel disappointed about this...but I'm not... And I'm not scared or worried about it either, which is the important thing. If things are meant to be, they will be. Work will come if it's meant to come. I'm shooting 5 Minnesota weddings this year, so I'm not totally out of the game. In a way, it's just a whole different game.

And the unexpected new side-gig in my life is being an extra! Since December I have been doing a few background acting gigs, applying to them with a completely open mind and no expectations...and I am actually loving it. I've now been a part of two TV shows, a web-series, and one big-budget film! Granted I am only a tiny blur in the background, on set 8-14 hours each day, and usually have to walk back and forth in heels a thousand times in a row....But I'm getting paid, I get to watch the actors and crew do their thing (my favorite part), I get to meet lots of new people, and I have a lot of fun doing it. And now that I'm in a city saturated with acting jobs, I am thinking about taking a swing at it myself just to see what happens.

(a couple of my own head shots, taken by me of course, lol)

Overall I've just realized that life is short. If you don't put yourself out there, nothing will happen. Apply to stuff, talk to people you wouldn't normally talk to, try something new just because. Leave your job if you hate it, try that hobby you've always wanted to try. Share your art, share your thoughts. Nothing is stopping you.

I've been thinking of it like I'm making my future self proud. I want to give "Grandma Ashley Washburn" some cool stories to tell someday. I don't want to turn 80 realizing that I only ever worked in one place that I actually hated. I want to say that I was a fashion photographer, a movie star, that I painted, went dancing, helped people, tried new things, failed big, made a fool out of myself but got back up, that I traveled, and lived a big juicy life!

I wrote down a goal for myself last year in my notebook. It was simply :
To live a lifetime full of creative projects and endeavors. 

And that's what I want to try to fill my time on earth with. It's going well so far and I can't wait to see what the rest of the year has in store. If anything, it will at least give me a story to tell.



How I find Inspiration

I am looking for inspiration constantly and when I'm in a rut, I've found that taking a step back and viewing something from a fresh perspective can make all the difference.

Here are 3 things I gain inspiration from.

1. Taking a walk

The easiest and most surefire way of finding inspiration, for me, is to simply take a walk. I like to leave my phone at home most of the time, so I can stay present. I'll walk around my neighborhood and soak up everything I possibly can. Look at the little things like a flower pushing through concrete, newspapers left out in the rain, a bug strolling along, birds congregating, bare trees, full trees, a leaf that looks like a skirt, textures. I look for teeny tiny details as well as the big picture.

2. Impressing mySELF

Sometimes when generating ideas or creating, I'm only thinking of how I'm going to impress someone else. I worry that if I present something out of my ordinary that I'll be judged or someone will think I've made a mistake. And this hinders my whole process.

This is especially true for me when I'm creating something that is meant to be thought-provoking or moody. I'll take these out of focus, grainy photos and I'll think they're beautiful...but then I won't post them because I'm worried someone will think I don't know how to take a good photograph. And because of this fear of judgement, I sometimes end up posting boring content, a photograph with no soul.

BUT I find that when I step back and ask myself, "what kind of photos do I like seeing?" or "what type of photos make me feel something?" these imperfect, blurry, emotional photos come to mind. And I don't judge the artist at all! One of my favorite photographers, for example, is Olivia Bee. She unapologetically makes work that makes you feel something. It may be framed in an odd way, it may be extremely grainy, it might be totally out of focus. And I never question her photos! So why am I so worried that someone will question mine?

Once I stop trying to impress people and I just photograph what I find beautiful, I realize that my range gets so much wider. I am inspired by so many new things. I quit censoring and limiting myself. And alas, the photos I take for mood are some of my favorites!

Here's a photo of Olivia's I love : Olivia Bee, "Pulling You Closer", 2014. And below that, two of my photos expressing mood.

3. Other Passionate People

I am always inspired by other people who are passionate about what they do. I love seeing people working hard for their dreams.

So if I'm in an inspiration rut, I'll turn on a documentary or a reality TV show. For example, I LOVE the show "Kell on Earth". Some people dislike it because it seems stressful or they think Kelly is mean. But when I watch it, all I see is a woman who has become an icon from working hard and creating her own empire. She raises a child on her own, runs her company, and is still always such a fabulous badass! It always inspires me to keep working on my business, to take pride in what I do, and to straight-up hustle. It always kicks me into gear.

I'll also watch Project Runway or a documentary like "Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel", "In Vogue : The Editor's Eye", or "Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present".

Photo : Getty Images

Those are a few of the ways I gain inspiration. I have plenty of others, of course, such as browsing Pinterest, reading magazines, going to a museum. Inspiration is all around. It's just about putting yourself in a learning mindset and keeping your eyes, ears, and mind open.



How to Edit when...

We've all been in this situation. You have a shoot that needs to be edited, but have no motivation to do work on it. Maybe it wasn't a creative project or the lighting is weird or annoying to fix. Or perhaps you are just feeling mega lazy. But someone out there is twiddling their thumbs waiting for these photos and you're needing to muster up the energy to get 'em done. As an avid procrastinator, I've been in this scenario many times. Many, many times. And it can be done! It needs to get done. Here's my method to buckling down and editing.

It's going to be a long, tiring road. Know this before you get started and prepare accordingly. If I'm settling in to power through some photos, I prepare as if I'm about to go on a looong car ride.

The essentials :
- Plenty of coffee
- Water bottle
- A healthy snack
- Warm socks
- Cozy blanket

Then I'll clear my work area of clutter and turn my keyboard and mouse to accommodate my editing habits (one finger on the "P" key and one on the "Next" arrow when I'm choosing photos. I'll show you my editing workflow in a future post and you'll see what I mean). I'll even go to the bathroom before I sit down to start. Seriously. Let the road trip begin.

A few months ago I created a playlist that is strictly for editing. So once it starts playing I know it's time to get down to business! I have some upbeat songs mixed in with slow and steady songs. I am prettttty proud of this playlist, so here's a link to it and a screenshot of most of it, and maybe some songs will work for your playlist too.


You're setting yourself up for failure if you force yourself to work on a single task for an entire day or until completion. I usually start to fade about 2 hours in. So, since Nate and I eat lunch at around 2pm each day, I've made it a habit to start working at noon. That way, 2 hours in I'm having a lunch break. Then after lunch I'll get back to editing for another 2 hours. If you're on a roll don't stop yourself, but if you feel yourself lagging, take a break.

That's my general method for tackling projects. Obviously these specific things won't work for everyone. I think finding your own flow is super important. Figure out what time of day you're most productive, the environment that's most comfortable for you, and soon you'll have your own no-fail process.




The day goes something like this

I wake up, light peeking in through the window, fan blowing, and several blankets snuggled around. Lately I've been sleeping in a little too long, so hopefully I can fix this habit soon and get back to my early-bird self.

Roll out of bed, wash face, brush teeth, get some coffee brewing.
Now, I know that this is probably blasphemous to many of my coffee industry friends since I used to work in specialty coffee but...Nate and I have simply been drinking Trader Joe's "Joe"...drip brewed. We're poor these days and we drink many cups, so this is just efficient OKAY? ;)

Anyways, next I get dressed in something cozy and easy to work in.

If the weather is nice enough, I'll pour myself a mug and sit outside on our patio. I'll grab my phone, a notebook and I'll check Instagram, write a list or two, brainstorm, etc. We don't have patio furniture yet, so I've just been bringing these two little Ikea pieces outside.

Then I'll come inside, wrap myself in a throw blanket, and settle into my desk chair at the workspace in our bedroom. I go over my to-do list and start plugging away. I'll edit photos for about 2-4 hours, email people back, post something perhaps, and then basically go on Pinterest until my wrists ache. Fig lays on the her "bed" all day (aka a trunk covered in a blanket in front of the window).

Needless to say, life is very serene right now and I'm appreciating every second. I've been smiling a lot to myself, just wondering how I wound up here.

Granted, I'm making no money at this time...but I'm making progress. I'm working hard every day, looking into opportunities, catching up on past shoots, being mindful of my actions and presence.

Still, not sure what's next for me. But while I wait, I'll soak up these gentle mornings.



A Life Filled

"In order to lead a fascinating life 
- one brimming with art, music, intrigue, and romance - 
you must surround yourself with precisely those things"

This is what I'm spending my time doing in this new city.

Since we've moved in I haven't had any real responsibilities aside from editing past shoots and making our house look cool. That's all fine and swell until we run out of money. I'm at a total loss for what I'm going to do to for a living here. Should I get a coffee shop job? Should I market my photography to random people? How would I even do that? Should I just plow into the blogging world? Try out for plays? Work at an office again? Sell my soul?

I do have plenty of creative ideas, but the execution of those is really difficult when you don't know many people and don't know your way around.


Instead of fretting about it, I'm taking this time to soak up the environment. With all this gloomy weather, I'm making art again. And with all this free time, I'm learning a little more about myself. This is a unique time of my life and I don't want it to go to complete waste. 

Nate and I went for a 2.5 hour walk the other day and I felt so incredibly serene. It was a dream. It was rainy, no one was around, the air was damp, and we had absolutely nowhere to be. We were just there, fully present. I took photos for fun again. Georgia, as it turns out, is filled with colors and creatures I had never even seen in nature before. Blues and purples, fantastical berries, weird ducks, leaves the size of my head. There were some great art installments along the way as well. 

We got back home and I felt so invigorated. I wanted to draw and paint. I wanted to write. I bought some new acrylics, brushes, canvas. And I made a decision to make more art again. To fill my life with pretty things.

I went to college for art and I remember that first semester I was so inspired by everything. I would walk around campus and breathe in the crisp fall air. I would go into the city and photograph bricks and ivy. I would attend artist talks and read thought-provoking articles. I felt like anything was possible. And damn I think I'm finally feeling that feeling again.

Maybe if I just keep creating and keep surrounding myself with art and beauty, things will continue to work out. Even if I do end up needing a soul-sucking job again, I can always get back to this wonderland. 

Here are the photos from my (apparently life-changing) walk in the park.