For many creative people, it can be hard to know what to focus on. Most of us know we can do whatever we set our minds to, but what if you have multiple dreams and creative endeavours you want to fulfil? How is one lifetime enough?
If you’re anything like me, this can often result in freezing up with overwhelm, not able to complete anything outside of your 9-5. But, while it takes a bit of focus, it is possible.
PEDESTRIAN.TV sat down with actress, writer, host of ‘No Offence, But’ podcast and co-founder of Black Birds production company (phew), Ayeesha Ash, to ask how she balances her many dreams.
PTV: Hi Ayeesha! How do you describe yourself and your work?
Ayeesha: I’m a proud Māori (Tūhoe, Ngati Koura) Grenadian multidisciplinary artist. I make work with Black Birds and solo to share the stories of Women of Colour in Australia, and to bring positive and nuanced representations of the communities I’m part of to the arts and media industries.
You’re an actress, podcaster, producer, and writer. How do you prioritise all of your creative endeavours?
This is something I’m still figuring out! I take on a lot and am always working on multiple projects at once – I’m much better at saying no in my personal life than I am in my professional life.
When I was first starting out, I did what a lot of young artists do and said yes to any opportunity that came my way. I think that’s entwined with a scarcity mindset, especially being a Black woman. You think saying no to one opportunity means saying no to all of them. I’ve learnt the hard way (through a couple of pretty severe burnouts) that that’s not the case! Saying no is self-care and if you’re in it for the long haul, opening your arms to moments of rest is a necessity.
What does an average work day look like for you?
I wake up really early, have a coffee, go for a (very short) run, have more coffee (sometimes I have three before 9am, live laugh love), do my creative admin, head to my 9-5, catch up with creative work when I’m back at home, then spend quality time with my cat, Ira.
How did the podcast, ‘No Offence, But’ begin?
Like many podcasts, it began in COVID. I was looking for a way to continue platforming artists of colour in a digital space. The podcast is going through a rebrand at the moment and I’m working on a new Black Birds podcast with Basjia Almaan (which I’m very excited about) coming soon too.
What does it mean to you to have this space to discuss the core of people’s work and what drives it?
I love listening to people’s stories in the style of long-form interviews. Learning about someone’s background, how they understand themselves and the world around them gives you such insight into the ‘how’ and ‘why’ behind their art.
Everyone has a story to tell, but history – past and present – shows us that stories of Black, First Nations and People of Colour are relegated to the side. If I can provide a space for community to have open, honest and authentic conversations – for community to be heard – then that’s what I’m going to do.
You’re working on Seen; a television series based on your sold out stage show, Brown Skin Girl. What’s it been like switching the story’s medium?
Emily Havea, Angela Nica Sullen and I have been working on this for a few years now. It’s a huge learning experience for all of us and we’re taking our time to ensure that whatever liberties we take with the plot, whatever age or stage we show ourselves and our characters at, the themes for Brown Skin Girl remain in Seen and the heart of the story remains truthful. Our sisterhood and our show have come a long way since our first Brown Skin Girl performance in 2016 and we’re ready to keep going.
You’ve also co-written an episode of Year Of, Stan’s new show. How did you get into script writing?
I started script writing out of necessity with Black Birds. We wanted to share stories that were authentic to our experience and the best way to do that was to write them ourselves. Writing for screen is different to writing for stage and I’ve got a lot to learn but I’m very much enjoying the process.
What advice do you have for others looking to make their dreams a reality?
1. Believe in yourself! If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will.
2. ‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.’ – Maya Angelou.
3. Be at peace and see a clear path running through your life.
What does ‘living the dream’ look like to you?
It looks like living in a world where all my loved ones are safe, heard, equal and secure.
Do you set any boundaries around your creativity to protect it?
I’m at the tail end of a big self-imposed creative break. Creating your own work is fulfilling but it’s also exhausting; emotionally, physically, and mentally. I feel lucky that I had space to let my ideas rest and work in creative projects led by others. It gave me the distance I needed to find my way back to my ‘why’ and now I feel moved to produce new work again.