Phoenix Poet Shares How Writing Improved His Mental Health

Austin Davis speaking at a recent show. (Photo courtesy of Austin Davis)

By Jessica Swarner

October 13, 2022

Davis is hosting a Halloween-themed poetry workshop at Tempe Public Library on Oct. 15. 

Austin Davis took a creative writing class in middle school that changed his life. 

The Phoenix resident, who has obsessive-compulsive disorder, Tourette Syndrome, and depression, read “OCD” by Neil Hilborn in his class, and he said it helped him process his own conditions. 

“I read that and I was like, ‘Wow, I’ve never heard someone talk about OCD like that,’” Davis said. “And I relate to that so much. I can write about that, too.” 

Davis continued writing through high school and began submitting his work for publication in magazines and literary journals. He graduated from Arizona State University this year with a degree in creative writing. 

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In May he released his fourth book, “Lotus & the Apocalypse,” which explores the last day on Earth. Davis’ next publication, slated to come out in February, focuses on a character with OCD. 

“He’s trying to fight with his compulsions in his mind not to lose himself and the people he loves,” Davis said.

Davis, who also runs AZ Hugs for the Houseless, wants to help other people with their writing, too. He has hosted a number of workshops, including an upcoming Halloween-themed one at Tempe Public Library on Oct. 15. 

Davis said his experience with the poem about OCD made him realize how important it is for kids to be exposed to contemporary poets, who are more relatable than the older poets who tend to be studied more in school. 

Phoenix Poet Shares How Writing Improved His Mental Health
Austin Davis (Photo by Karson Samons)

“That’s kind of my goal with teaching … let’s show kids that it’s OK to make art and it’s OK to be creative and let’s celebrate that,” he said. “Because especially right now, I think it’s been a really tough time for a lot of kids, a lot of people just in general.” 

According to The Conversation, a nonprofit news organization, there are over 200 studies that have found writing has a positive effect on mental health. 

For people who want to get started writing, Davis suggests journaling. 

“At the heart of it, whatever we’re creating is in some ways pulled from something that we’re really feeling, we’ve really been through, a memory, something we’re passionate about, something we’re guilty for, something we’re missing, something we love,” he said. “And journaling in its rawest form is just kind of writing that and getting it out of your head.” 

October is Mental Health Awareness Month. If you or someone you know is struggling, you can reach the free, 24/7 National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing 9-8-8. 

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  • Jessica Swarner

    Jessica Swarner is the community editor for The Copper Courier. She is an ASU alumna and previously worked at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix.

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