“Where, When, How, Did Free Writing The Way You Do, Become A Thing For You?“
This is where it started for me. A lot of my influence comes from John Hughs’s films. Pump up the Volume, Sixteen Candles, all the stories of the 80s and 90s that talked about youth being disenfranchised, alone, left out, and broken because adults thought they were doing the best, when in reality what all these stories have in common is the youth who were, or are being continually ignored, and very little has changed.
Check any blog or Medium post on the planet and they will tell you that you should speak up, speak out, stand up, and be the destructor of all things comfortable and common.
But in order to do that, we have to break some eggs, shatter some dreams, and raise our voices so loud the Gods can hear us, and the only way to do that is to write shamelessly.
Okay, But What Turned You into a Writer?
My mom was working at Critter Care, when this aired, and because of whatever reason she needed to be there the next day, so I was home alone when I saw it. this episode is for the first time. By the time the credits started to roll, I was in tears. “I want to write like THAT.” That’s what I wanted, I wanted to be able to say something so powerful people would cry reading my writing, and I’ve made myself cry reading my own writing, so I know that I can do it, but it’s not just that they cry. It’s “do they get it?“*
That’s the part, the part where someone who maybe made some bad choices, or who had their choices stolen from them, has the chance to rectify some wrongs. The Love Letter section is all about that, it’s all about the idea that people who “were the biggest worst people on the planet,” can also be people who actually want to change their ways, but maybe don’t always know how or where to start.
*(you get Angel’s entire existence is a metaphor for women raping men right, and men raping women? Driving their victims crazy with their gaslighting behaviour? and his fight against demons is all about him fighting his shame/guilt/fear/anger/anxiety/PTSD…right? Go watch it again student.)
“Dear Devon, I love your writing, how do I write like you?“
In a now infamous interview with Much Music’s George Stephanopoulos, Amy Lee from Evanescence responded to a similar question about the way she dresses. The exact question was “how do I cultivate your style,” and her response was “Don’t.”
She wanted her fans who love her, to dress in their own style, I want you to write in your own style. Be unafraid if you can be, but remember that the very act of sharing your work with the public, be it a blog, a Facebook post, or even a Twitter thread, means that you are writing shamelessly and putting yourself out there, that’s huge, and it matters.
“Okay, but how is that shamelessly?“
Honestly, if you really cared what people thought about your writing or your artwork, you wouldn’t put it out there, because if you really, REALLY cared what people thought, you’d be too afraid to put it out there. You put your work out there, and you do it because YOU need it to be said, YOU need it to be created, and YOU need it to be seen, heard, and known about.
YOU are speaking NOT to your audience, but to the little boy, girl, or non-binary person inside of you, who needs you to become the adult you’re becoming, so that they don’t give up, so you can exist.
Does that make sense? You’re creating for YOURSELF, everything else is secondary, how other people think, what they feel about your work? The fire that it might inspire, is all secondary to you showing hte world who you are, just so you can say “I did it.” Don’t ever, ever forget that.
Once You Become Comfortable Showing The World Who You Are, it’s Hard To Stop
Starting a blog, with the intention of turning it into something that forces change, and embraces the idea that change is possible after the kind of lives we’ve lived, isn’t easy. That’s the first step off the ladder of protection that we’ve wrapped around ourselves after we’ve been traumatized. The hardest part isn’t pressing “publish,” on the blog.
The hardest part of creating, building, and posting on the website or in the online diary is the choice actually post it publically. That’s the hard part, because other people will see, and other people will comment, either on your website, on social media, or on some other form of communication.
In my case they cross the street, sneer, shake their heads in disgust, smile, laugh, say hello, and offer me letters and gifts, it just depends on the day of the week, but every time I’m out and around people find ways to let me know they know I exist. It’s weird. That’s the end of it. It’s fucking weird.
How Do You Respond to Audience in The Wild?
I laugh, not to their faces, but privately because it’s weird. I’ve read other bloggers and writers who have met their fans, and their erm, trolls in real life before and I always laugh when they say it’s weird, but it’s completely weird.
It’s awkward, and it’s rarely fun, (except for Dave and Darlin, they were fucking Awesome and Fancy Pants and a few others who have been sooo cool about me and my story,) but some people are just…finiky. Especially the ones that hate me locally for speaking out, that’s weird too, because it’s like, “umm hi, trying to protect your kids here,” but also “oh so weird that you’re like fighting child pedophilia, kinda by yourself, can you stop?” can be a reaction too, and that’s just…I want to get violent sometimes, I don’t, but man is it tempting.
Part of it though is that I get nervous, “do I measure up to the person you thought I would be?” I’m not overly beautiful, I’m only as smart as people credit me with being, and I’m only as talented as I’m free to be, so it’s not like I’m succeeding in the highest echelons of society, I’m just a regular, degular girl trying to do my part…so yeah I spend a GREAT deal of time, wondering if this matters. It’s cool to hear from strangers that it does. It helps a lot more than I thought it might.
Coolest Part of Meeting Readers
The love letters are spreading! Dave and Darlin helped me put together the Love Letters section of this website, I struggled with it for a lot of years. Mainly because many of the letters come from the voices of old-time gangsters or people that were accused of being gangsters, and they are so beautiful, but people think that I’m sometimes using the letters to make excuses for bad behaviour.
The truth is, that we’re all just trying to explain that a lot of us have changed, and meeting Dave and Darlin really helped me to figure out how to functionalize the love letter section so that it makes sense and honours the purpose behind the letters, in a way that makes it more special than it used to be.
It’s a lot easier for me to write the love letters – or rather transcribe them, for the many of us who write them together, and even though I sign them all myself, it’s only because it protects the actually innocent, but there are more coming, that won’t be signed by me, because the letters are spreading. SO! Yes, that’s definitely the best part.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
I really struggle with fiction, because so much of what I write comes from dreams that I have, which creeps me the fuck out. I write what I see in my dreams, but where the fuck are these dreams coming from and what are they trying to tell me? “Okay let’s write it out and see what happens, OH MY GOD SOMEONE DIES IS THAT A WARNING? IF I WRITE THIS WILL IT BECOME REAL? AM I INKHEART?“
Yeah, it’s that fucking bad. I don’t write fiction for this reason.
“If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?“
This is a good question. Some of us are born to BE writers, one day, but NONE of us are born writers. We have to learn how to write or communicate in the language of those who surround us, and it’s hard because we’re born with our own language, we learn to adapt sure, but not all of us forget that we had a language before we were born.
It was touch, sound, sight, smell, taste, and all of it came from inside our mothers, or an incubator, but either way, we have to learn all these things about the world we live in, or that we’re raised to live in, before we get the chance to actually write about it, so be patient with yourself. The writing will come when it’s meant to, and not one moment before.
Yes, it’s true, folks with eidetic memories like myself, rarely forget anything, including our baby speak, and when we remember it (which we do often) it’s hard to speak in JUST English when our language is so much deeper and richer, and so erasing that from our writing is a byproduct of being conditioned to only speak 1 language instead of as many as possible.
Remember that, and fold it into your writing, remember the language you were born WITH, not the languages you were conditioned to speak, and you’ll understand fearlessness.
James Cameron was made fun of repeatedly because the Navi language is very close to Russian or German (I can’t remember which,) whose to say that the legend isn’t born from these people? Or that these people were not Russian or German? Anyone not paying attention to the fact that James Cameron didn’t choose that language by accident.
I want to stop this essay by thanking Hal Harris of Writers and Editors Of Color. Hal Harris in particular is a fearless Black writer, who writes on racism, and men’s rights issues, and speaks with the kind of freedom that I wish all women everywhere had. He is powerful, wise, and honestly one of the most inspiring men of colour I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. You can visit him here.
If anything has helped you become a better writer, if anything I’ve said has inspired you to release the inner whatever you’re hiding, then thank you. Thank you for showing me that I matter.
Sending all my love,
Devon J Hall
Some of these questions were my own, but others came from The John Fox. Check them out here if you want to write your own question post.