Creative Writing Graduate on Building Connections Through Catharsis

April 20, 2022

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

Ever since Austin Davis was young, he has found solace in words. Whether reading the work of some of her favorite authors or writing her own poems, Davis has always used words as a way to process her feelings, connect with others, and understand the world around her.

Austin Davis will be graduating from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing this spring.
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Growing up, he spent time on the Tempe campus of Arizona State University because his mother worked in the psychology department. When it came time for him to decide which college he wanted to go to, he knew ASU was the place he wanted to go to explore his passion for creative writing.

“I’ve kind of been around ASU since I was a kid,” Davis said. “It felt natural. One thing I really liked was that it felt like this really big college atmosphere, but I had a little college experience in the creative writing program, because my classes were small and it was very intimate, so I got to experience both, and that was what I was looking for.

While at ASU, Davis published four books, “Cloudy days, calm nights,” “Second Civil War,” “Celestial night light“, and more recently, “Lotus and the apocalypse”, a poetic novel about the last day on Earth which was published in March. Inspired by some of the challenges he faced during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Davis said writing ‘Lotus & The Apocalypse’ helped him through some of his darkest times. .

“I started writing these poems at the start of the pandemic. It was quite a difficult time for me. My anxiety was really terrible and I really didn’t take care of myself. I felt like I was climbing that mountain with my sanity. I knew that if I kept climbing and working, I would come to a place where I could rest. But I just got too exhausted and just let go and went into free fall for a little while,” he said. “Then I started writing these poems and it helped me turn around and grab a rock and keep climbing and writing this book. I think it saved my life, so I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity and privilege to write and share my writings with others.

Austin Davis reading his book “Lotus & the Apocalypse” in New Jersey.

As he completed his final semester of his undergraduate degree, Davis traveled the country promoting his book.

“We’ve been to the Midwest, New York, New Jersey, and Los Angeles is next. We have all been through difficult times. The past two years have been very difficult for our collective mental health as a community and as a society. I think talking about these things and being open and candid and genuine about the bad sides is kind of liberating. One of my favorite parts of this whole experience has been the response from readers and viewers of the shows.

When Davis wasn’t working on his next book, he was leading the charge at AZ HUGS for the homelessa program he founded in January 2021 that offers unprotected community members in the Phoenix metro area with essential items. The mission of the organization is to spread dignity, respect, understanding, friendship, solidarity, empathy and love to those who experience homelessness. Davis continues to be heavily involved with AZ HUGS for the Houseless and looks forward to expanding the program after graduation.

This spring, Davis will graduate from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing. Here, he shares more about his experiences at ASU and what’s next for him.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

To respond: I have been writing since I was a child. Ever since I was five or six, I knew that was what I wanted to do. I have TOCObsessive Compulsive Disorder and Tourettes and other mental health issues. When I was a child I started writing as a way to process these feelings and as I got older I learned more about how poetry can not only be that tool to help us through whatever we are going through, but also to help us connect with others and show others that they are not alone in what they are going through.

Q: Did you encounter any difficulties? If so, how did you overcome them?

A: Mental health is a constant struggle for me, it’s been part of what I’ve been through all my life. For me, it was just about figuring that out and understanding the tools I needed to help myself. Therapy is really important to me, mindfulness is huge to me, taking the right medication was really important to me. I think setting these boundaries with myself with unhealthy habits and boundaries with work and just reminding myself that it’s OK to prioritize sleep, it’s OK to prioritize family time, c It’s OK to prioritize your time.

Writing is a huge tool for my mental health, and it’s one of my main goals – to create connection through catharsis. When you write something really honest about yourself, it can feel uncomfortable in the moment or it can feel a little weird. But to me, at least I feel like you’re ringing in your brain like a dirty sponge and letting all those bad things get out of your head and putting them on something tangible that you can hold in your hands, you can look through it, you can crumple it, you can split it, you can set it on fire, you can do anything. I think it’s beautiful.

Q: What is the best advice you would give to those still in school?

A: Enjoy each day and take it easy. For everyone right now, it’s been really wasted years. I think it’s important to think about the future, but one thing I’ve learned is that when I’m with someone I love or my friends, I really try to put my all into it. Pay attention to them and live in the present moment. So I think having a balance between those two – working hard and thinking about your future and planning – but also just enjoying the moment and being with the people you love because you don’t know how much time you have or what happens happen in life. The only thing that is certain is uncertainty, so just do your best every day.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I will keep running AZ HUGS for the Houseless for sure. It’s become this statewide love movement and I want to grow it into a national love movement and then a global love movement. But along with that, I will continue to tour. I have a summer tour planned and I’m going to do some shows in the fall and keep writing books. I’m just going to continue to follow my passions and try to spark change and make an impact in any way I can.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in 10 years?

A: My goal each day when I wake up is to be a little better like no one else than I was yesterday. In ten years, I hope I will still wake up every day with this goal. I don’t really know what the future holds. I know that I will continue to do this work with the homeless for the rest of my life. And I know that I will continue to write for the rest of my life. But who knows, maybe I’ll do something else too. Overall, I want to spread this philosophy that kindness heals and kindness is one of the most valuable things you can give to another person. I want to keep changing and growing and going through this crazy thing called life.