Living the Writer's Life:
Busy Mom and Teacher Finds Connection and Fulfillment Through Writing
Artistically inclined Ashley Jonkman found passion through writing early on in her adult life, but other pursuits soon filled her days. Then when the pandemic presented a unique opportunity to write for a nonprofit, her efforts blossomed into a full position, and she’s been in demand ever since. Discover how she overcame self-doubt by jumping at new opportunities and showing a genuine willingness to serve others.
Take me back to life before writing. What was it like?
Before becoming a writer, I was a full-time, stay-at-home mom and had left a fulfilling career as a music teacher and choir director.
When I had my second son about two years after the first, I was looking for a challenge and a way to contribute to our household income, as we had moved for my husband’s job to an extremely expensive area in Southern California, and paying for child care was out of the question. I knew I could hone my skills as a writer during naptimes and weekends, so I pursued it with every free moment that I had.
Now, I’ve gone back to teaching part time, but my passion for writing hasn’t waned. I’m looking for a way to continue my writing career while also giving back to my community and my children’s school by serving as a teacher there.
What got you interested in writing for a living in the first place?
I’ve always been an avid reader and loved working with words. Math was never interesting to me in school, but writing an essay seemed to come naturally. Before I majored in music, I began college as a journalism major. I’d worked on my high school yearbook and college newspaper and seemed to have a knack for writing smart, snappy copy.
What kind of writing do you do now?
Recently I’ve been working for nonprofits to provide their marketing materials and copywriting on their websites. I’ve also done a fair amount of lifestyle and spirituality writing for religious websites. My favorite type of writing is interviewing subjects and making their stories come alive for others to read.
And how did you land that writing job?
I began writing for a choir that I sing in, as a volunteer position. It was Covid lockdown and our ensemble wasn’t meeting to rehearse or perform, so the artistic director had the wonderful idea of sending a newsletter to our singers and supporters, to keep us connected, in a sense. I began interviewing members of the choir and telling bits of their life stories to our audiences. That volunteer position grew into a job as an administrator of the group, where I became responsible for all of the forward-facing communication.
What does freedom as a paid writer mean to you today?
I’m a busy mom of three school-aged kids, so I don’t have a whole lot of free time. I teach music and PE at their small school, which I enjoy, but there’s still something about holing up in my house and making stories come alive from my cozy living room that makes me feel accomplished and connected to others in a very fulfilling way. I love singing and classical music, and I’m still active in my choir, which will always be one activity I can’t live without. I also enjoy gardening, baking, outdoor activities of any kind, and especially, meeting friends for long walks through the high desert, mountainous terrain where I live.
What would you tell yourself if you could go back there and talk with that person you were before you discovered writing?
I’d say that the only thing holding you back is self-doubt! That so many of us writers struggle with impostor syndrome, but the thing that makes us successful is the ability to learn. I’ve come so far since the first time I submitted a finished piece to an editor, and I know that I still have much to learn. I had one very kind editor I worked with early on that was patient and taught me the ropes, so to speak, and I look back now and think about just how green I was, and how she didn’t seem to mind my inexperience. I love that memory because it shows me that if I can just push through some of the discomfort of inexperience, there’s progress and success waiting for me around the bend.
What’s one piece of advice for others who want to enter a creative field like writing but doubt themselves?
There are people in this industry who want you to succeed and are willing to help you get there. If you present yourself as someone who’s willing to be humble, flexible, and teachable, there are jobs and opportunities for you. We all have to start somewhere, and most of us remember that first paycheck we received for writing. If you are friendly and approachable, with the ability to hone your skills, doors will open for you!
Ashley's Living The Writer's Life story was originally published in Barefoot Writer. To learn more about how you can start living your dream writer's life too, click here.
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