Ashley Hefnawy, Shine
I’m Ashley Hefnawy, an Egyptian American creative writer who works in tech. I work as a copywriter, journalist, UX writer, and content strategist. I’ve worked with clients like Snapchat, Google, Nanit, Furry Puppets, Food52, and Audible. When I’m not writing, I enjoy DJing and working as a music supervisor for TV and film. I’m based in Brooklyn.
How did you get into UX writing?
I didn’t really have a choice. The need for writers who explain how things work, not just in a marketing capacity, was one that’s come about quickly and steadily in my work. I realized if I wanted to continue servicing creative tech clients, I’d need to be versed in the psychology of a product. A user’s positive experience with a product often falls on the quality (and efficacy) of UX design and communication. It felt like a natural extension of my skills which made it easy for me to adapt.
What are the top 3 apps you use?
I’m going to answer this based on the 3 apps I like most, though the 3 that I use most are probably not much different from anyone else. Mail, Instagram and Spotify.
The 3 apps I like using the most, are Insight Timer (a meditation app), Clue (my menstrual cycle tracker) and Spotify because I am always listening to music.
Where do you go and what do you do for inspiration?
I recently got a membership at the MoMA and that has really changed my life for the better. On slow days or days off I like to pop in and see what’s new (or old) – I recently went there with my mother and saw Bodys Isek Kingelez’s City Dreams exhibit which was such a joy to experience. All of the cities he created actually felt like cities I could only see in my imagination
and felt even more so when I got to experience them in VR.
Are there any books or blogs you’d recommend?
Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull is a book that pretty much defined my career as a writer and one that I pick up regularly for inspiration and direction when I’m feeling a bit lost. It helped me understand what it means to work with honesty and transparency.
I don’t read a lot of blogs but I like newsletters that keep me connected with my community. Words of Mouth is a good one for job opportunities, grants, and residencies. I love the Catapult slingshot, which is a newsletter that identifies some of the new stories that have come out on the site. It’s always inspiring for me to read other people’s work.
What’s the best thing about your job?
I love helping people articulate themselves in a way that encourages better communication. I also really appreciate getting to work with tech because it allows me to stay up to date on all kinds of innovation, on a global scale.
What have you worked on that you’re most proud of?
Getting my first piece of fiction published on Catapult this year was honestly a huge achievement for me. It’s a story I’ve been trying to write for years but haven’t figured out exactly how to until this year. Since a lot of my work is geared towards providing a service and helping others, it was really nice to write something that was just for me, from my mind, to share with the world.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a UX writer?
I think early on I tried to apply logic to a lot of my work. Like, this feels logical so it should be right. But then I realized that user flows aren’t always logical, which means I have to account for any scenario and think creatively on the spot. Not a huge challenge so much as a constant reminder to be thinking holistically, rather than from a preferential or personal place.
What’s your biggest content pet peeve?
To be honest, something I’m thinking about a lot right now is the idea of conflating trauma with one’s career as a writer (or any type of content creator). On the one hand, I think the transparency is really important and powerful – it’s so great that people are able to easily share stories thanks to social media. But on the other hand, I think there’s a danger in re-packaging our traumas as bite-sized bits of fleeting content that people are experiencing alongside photos of sunny beach vacations and brunch. It almost devalues the trauma, if that makes sense? Which is not the intention of the person who shares the story, and probably not the intention of the person reading or engaging.
What I’ve been really trying to work on is using my experiences and perspectives to create something new, when it comes to telling stories. So instead of just sharing the story about a bully or about my anxieties, maybe I’m working on a way to have that experience play into a larger narrative that isn’t just about the bully or about my anxieties. I don’t think of this so much as a pet peeve, but as something that sort of makes me sad when I see that other POC or folks in marginalized communities are only getting exposure because they’ve been willing to share difficult moments of their lives.
What principles do you try to stick to when writing?
I think that my clients know that I write with an honest, conversational voice. I try to consistently keep that tone throughout my work, because I want people to feel like they’re reading the work of a human, not a robot haha.
Do you have any advice for aspiring UX writers?
Talk to people you admire. Ask questions. Talk to people that are in your field (or the field you want to be in) and take them out to coffee. I say this a lot, but it really is so helpful and something that I continue to practice myself. There’s so much you can learn from a conversation, and connecting with another human. I find that I learn not only from the other person, but that I learn a lot about myself. Human connection is such a powerful tool in education.
Is there anything you want to promote?
I write for a wellness app called Shine, which sends daily wellness reminders. It’s work I’m really proud of and work that I enjoy doing. I think everyone could benefit from a daily reminder to check in with ourselves.
I also recently started DJing and made an Instagram to keep folks up to date on gigs/what I’m listening to. You can find me there as @sweatybynature and you can also listen to some of my recent mixes on my Soundcloud.
Where can people find and follow you?
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every word matters is curated by Dominic Warren.
Thanks again to Ashley Hefnawy for taking the time to answer these questions.