Interview with Dawn Bevier
This article was first published on Coffee Times Substack
Hey readers! We’re quickly approaching the end of June, and that’s more than half a year gone! Time flies. Anyway, Dawn Bevier’s our guest today for another issue of the interview series. She writes about various topics and is an editor with The Partnered Pen.
Hi Dawn! Welcome to Coffee Times. Would you like to say something to our readers on Substack?
Shall I throw out a shameless plug? I’m an underpaid teacher, so I’m afraid I can’t resist. I would love for you guys to look at some of my writings on Medium or Twitter. I’d also love it if you gave me some ideas on topics you’re interested in reading. I’m always up for a challenge.
You know I really love and admire your writing! You share your personal stories often on Medium. What are the biggest challenges for you as you publish them online, and how do you overcome them?
The biggest challenge for me as a writer is to get out of my own way. I’m a perfectionist with severe anxiety. I can’t make myself carelessly throw some words down in an article and hit publish. I know many writers say quantity over quality will make you more successful, but my creativity does not work on a production line. I wish it did. However, I would rather put out two quality articles a week than five poorly written ones. Maybe I won’t make as much money, but I can feel proud of what I write. I also have to work a little harder on overcoming imposter syndrome. I have to remind myself that even though I’m just a mother and lowly teacher living an “average” life, I still have something valuable to give readers.
You share many heartfelt stories to inspire growth in others very beautifully, Dawn. How successfully do you think you have been doing with this?
When it comes to writing, I’ve finally come to understand you have to work with the gifts you’ve been given. I fought the truth of this for quite a while. For example, many people write on controversial issues because they sell. Others write about making money or side hustles. Even though I know these topics are profitable, I’ve come to see that I can’t speak on these things. My gift is my insight into and compassion for other people’s struggles, namely because I struggle with the same things they do. I want to let readers know the demons they fight are not theirs alone. More than that, I want to inspire them to keep fighting. My ultimate goal is to help readers find peace, and I consider my stories successful if they move the reader closer to this.
Have you ever had any moments that have made you really proud of the writer that you are?
Just yesterday, a reader commented on an article I wrote. I’ll share it here. His comment was so heartfelt it spurred me to re-read my piece. When I did, I felt something I rarely feel in my writings. I felt magic. I felt pride. I’m usually tough on myself when it comes to my writing, but in that small moment, I felt like a real writer. Like a good writer. For me, times like these for me are few and far between.
What are some of your writing inspirations, and how do you think each of these reflects in the way you write, what you write about, and the different sides of you as a writer?
Even as a child, I was an overachiever. I used to go to the library with my father in elementary school and check out extremely difficult classics to challenge myself. I’d check them out, read until I got lost, and then use Sparknotes to help me fill in the blanks. Then I’d continue the process. The most beautiful part of this habit is that I discovered that between the long sentences and complex language of classics lay wisdom beyond compare.
My favorite writer is Emerson, and my favorite essay is “Self Reliance.” It speaks of nonconformity and of following your own heart. Here’s one quote from the reading that I find particularly inspiring: “There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.” Emerson’s words on self-acceptance and determination are what the majority of my writings also revolve around.
I understand you write from both your experience and from the experience of others as well. How often do you get inspired by your own experiences, compared to the experiences of others?
What’s the difference between writing from the two approaches, in your experience?
Even the most seemingly insignificant experiences in my life have been food for my writing. For example, a simple trip to the eye doctor inspired an article on self-perception. A clogged bathtub drain turned into an article on dealing with my demons. Everywhere I look, there’s a lesson to be found. For example, I frequently find inspiration from my experiences as a parent and teacher. There’s no one particular source that is most fruitful for my writing.True inspiration comes when an experience touches us emotionally, and for a highly sensitive person such as myself, I often feel others’ experiences and pain as if were my own.
Given that the literature that you love and teach is very different from the writing style you write and publish on Medium, how does that affect the way you write?
When I first started writing online, the writing teacher in me was often a devil on my shoulder. Could I start a sentence with “and” and live with myself? Could I end my sentences with a preposition and still be proud of what I published? I discovered not only could I do these things, but I should do them.
Contrary to what many believe, the most evocative writing is usually not grammatically correct. For example, if you’re trying to increase suspense in a piece of writing, you don’t say, “He stepped fearfully into the hall and heard muffled voices in the corridor.” Instead, you say, “His own footsteps. He heard them echo in the hall. Then, voices. Muffled voices springing from the corridor. His blood ran cold.” The first version is grammatically correct, but the second is not. However, the fragments in the second version make it more powerful. We think in fragments. We speak in fragments. These truths should be embraced if a writer wants to capture a reader emotionally.
Are there any ‘must reads’ on your list that you’d like to recommend?
I have a vast knowledge of the craft of writing, and there are many articles I’ve written on techniques writers can use to improve their writing. I have many of these skills outlined in one article. However, I’m most proud of the two pieces of writing I did for a Medium competition. The topics were space and reentry. These writings allowed the poet in me to run wild. For example, writing these articles freed me to move into the world of metaphor and abstraction, something very different from the concise, fact-oriented writing online writers are recommended to embrace.
How do you personally define success as a writer, and do you think you have yet to succeed? What other writing projects do you eventually wish to tackle?
When I look at my low earnings, I often feel like a failure. I’m nowhere where I want to be as far as readers and followers. However, I’m stubborn. I refuse to put out mediocre writing. I refuse to put out writing that makes promises I can’t deliver, and I refuse to make dollar signs more important than helping others through my words. I define success as holding myself to these standards and never giving up. As for other projects, I hope to create online courses on the art of writing. For example, I’m in the process of creating a Patreon account where I intend to put up videos to help writers improve their craft.
I understand! And I hope this interview has given you food for thought too. I’m really honoured to interview yet another favourite writer of mine on Medium. I’d love to thank Dawn again for making time to do this interview with Coffee Times again! It’s been interesting so far.