Donna Ashworth is a thrice Sunday Times Bestselling Poet whose words you will often find flying around the internet, widely shared daily, by her 1.5 million plus followers. Donna’s writing came to spotlight during the lockdown period where she saw her purpose as building a place to find hope, calm and comfort amidst the collective chaos. She quickly became an internet favourite with one viral post after another and a list of celebrity endorsements.
Having published 7 books since spanning three ‘self-published’ successful titles and four with Bonnier Books/Black & White Publishing, her newest collection of words ‘WILD HOPE’ flew straight into the Sunday Times bestsellers list when it was released last month.
Priding herself on being ‘imperfectly human’ and, ‘sharing the dark with the light to harness hope’, Donna constantly engages with her followers in a bid to find comfort in numbers as we, ‘walk each other home’ on this journey of life.
Her mission, is,’To use words, simply, to remind everyone everyday, that leading with kindness changes everything – much like magic. And if there is magic in this world – then surely that is it. To remind everyone, that the only way to combat the losses of this life is to love, harder. And to ensure no one leaves my page, or my book, without a perspective shift, or a grain of hope and comfort. This life is not easy, for anyone. But hope spreads like butter on hot toast. And it tastes just as good’.
It’s a joy to interview Donna on the blog.
Describe a typical day for you?
The alarm goes at 6am every day in our house but I don’t jump up, I’m not a morning person, in fact, I write about spreading light and hope because I am someone who needs that to simply survive. I naturally run quite dark and often feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders.
My husband Robert (luckily), is a morning person. He lets our dogs (Dave & Brian) out and brings me a coffee – something I am very grateful for (although he reminds me daily how fortunate I am, lest I may forget!)
Then I get to writing…I wake up full of words. They have likely spent the day before orbiting my mind and seem to form themselves into a nice orderly queue as I sleep, ready to be shared with the social media world, or saved for a more appropriate day. After that, it’s normal school preparation chaos before settling in to work in my office.
What do you feel are your greatest achievements?
It may sound cheesy (I have that tendency) but my greatest achievement is the courage I have found through writing about my difficulties. I used to hide all my faults but now I display them proudly for all to see, and even judge. It took some doing to demolish the facade of perfection I had hidden behind.
I’m also proud of how I believed in this little dream I had and ran with it. It’s not easy changing your career/life in your 40s, we can tend to believe we are done transforming, if we listen to what society tells us. But I had this little feeling and I let myself chase it, it makes me emotional really because you would do that for a friend, no problem, but for yourself, it’s hard to be the cheerleader you need.
What’s in your handbag/ satchel?
A lipstick I’ve been using the same brand of for 30 years, a diary (must be paper because surely my phone will lie?), a pen, a hairbrush, my phone, my bank cards and my iPad Pro. I never go anywhere without that in case inspiration strikes, as it often does.
I usually have chewing gum and some vitamins too. Now that I am nearing the big 50 I am trying to manage my menopause symptoms and health as best I can, so you’ll regularly find me popping capsules or sprinkling concoctions into my food. I’m a sucker for a supplement!
What are your ambitions in life?
More of the same. I love writing, I love books, I love bookstores, I love women who share and over-share and reach out to each other in this life. I love meeting them! I actually love social media and all of the aspects my job brings to me – more of the same, pretty please.
I get to live in this sleepy little village in the hills of Scotland with all my family nearby, occasionally making ‘big city’ visits, to add the excitement and glamour. It feels pretty much like a life I once imagined was impossible – the work-life-balance holy grail!
What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career you now know?
Trying to be what you think the world needs, won’t work in this life, not really. Something will suffer. You must be you and believe in it. If you want to make a success out of something you have to be its biggest fan. You have to be it already, before it’s created, and let the world catch up.
Nobody wakes up one day and thinks, ‘ah poetry is a great business to get into’, but it was what my heart wanted to do and despite a million quizzical looks at the start, I had a feeling good things would come out of it, if I gave it my all.
So, trust yourself. Learn something new about your business every day and listen to others who are there, but let your inner voice be the loudest, always.
You’ve pivoted into different careers at various points in your life, particularly when you became a mother, can you share those periods, the impact they had and how you started writing poetry?
I was a magazine business owner when I became pregnant. It was beyond busy and we lived abroad, in Azerbaijan. I knew immediately that I could not be the calm nurturing mum I envisaged (I run rather anxious and stressy as it is), if I had titles going to deadline every few days. So we sold up. Sounds easy but it wasn’t! We had three business in total, an apartment to sell and an animal charity to sort, plus 4 cats we had adopted whilst there.
We moved to Spain for a year to rethink, regroup and have my son safely and then headed back to where we began as a couple, in Manchester.
We then decided to buy a ‘family friendly’ soft-play business and that truly was a great plan. Our boys pretty much lived there and their friends loved it! Ten years later, the pandemic hit and we sold up again, moved location again and now here we are back in my hometown in Scotland. Somewhere along the way I became bored running the day-to-day business and started my facebook page to help my ‘creative side’ stay alive. The rest is history!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
My boys will be reaching for adulthood, my eldest is heading there now. He will be 20 then. I hope my life will be pretty much as it is but with the added bittersweet pain/joy of them flying the nest just a little, to test the waters of this life but without feeling they are in a rush. I’m already writing about this to cushion the blows when they come.
Ideally, I would love them to take their sweet time to ‘grow up’. This rush we put on our kids to fly, has always confused me. We are adults for a lifetime, there is much to be learned in the ‘in-between’ and it’s the place I struggled with most. I hope to be the springboard they need to jump and the cushion for coming back down.
What advice would you give a budding writer?
Self-publish. It is rare for an unknown author to simply send off manuscripts and be offered a deal. It does happen but not to many. I self-published and sold my book to the audience I had, and things spiralled from there.
Again, it’s about being what you want to be, before you have made it, you can still be it. It will attract those you need into your life and the snowball will gather its snow.
What advice would you give to a new parent?
There is so much advice and confusion at that time. And your hormones will make your mind a scary place if you let them. I would calm everything down by half, no matter what. Slow life down by half and take all the ‘guidelines’ by half too.
It’s not a business you are running, it’s life, and it should flow as it will, for the person you are and the person you have given birth to. We are not robots. And it’s not a competition to get our babies sleeping, eating and speaking. Slow down mama, slow it all down.
Finally, happiness is…
A blanket, a pet or two, warm little bodies snuggled in (even when they are grown), fairy lights, TV and tasty treats to share. Perfection.