Something reminiscent of a weekend trip with your playcousins, talking with Wallace Mack is as easy as a lowcountry Saturday morning. A budding creative exploring writing and visual storytelling in the dream city of New York, Asiah and I were enthused to meet another South Carolina native making a name for themselves in the concrete jungle. With publications on platforms such as Blavity and Artistic Manifesto already under his belt, up on The Writer’s Block is the charming and talented Wallace Mack.
Willie Kinard: We don’t ask where are you from or where’s home for you. Instead, we like to ask where are you a local (word to Taiye Selasi)?
Wallace Mack: Greeleyville, South Carolina. That’s where I am a local. The lowcountry of South Carolina is everything to me. When I go home, I can’t get over just how beautiful it is. It’s like everything. So, Greeleyville, South Carolina.
WK: The fact that I both know where that it is and that you don’t claim a larger area or county, and being from a small place myself, we really appreciate you keeping it real.
AsiahMae: Right. Being from Dixiana, South Carolina, we know that it’s a very different experience to rep the actual place that you’re from and to say it proudly without embarassment.
Mack: [Laughs] It’s like no need to be embarrassed by. When I was there, I didn’t wanna tell nobody that. But, once I moved to New York and I realized that everybody from here was from somewhere else and that that was one of the things that made me stand out, I was made to see that everything about me is based on where I’m from.
I know, often times, that I’m not always the first person to have a perspective on [something]. I want to be mindful of not neglecting other people that have laid down things before me.
AM: We did a little research on you and found some interesting things. You have a background in communications and advertising, have been a part of a regional podcast, have been featured on Blavity and Artistic Manifesto and have a brand of your own called playinitcool. As a writer specifically, how does a writing session typically go for you?
Mack: I’m the most scatter-brained person that you will ever meet. By nature, I’m extremely lazy and I have to be pushed to do things sometimes because I will legit walk away from some stuff and leave it. But, one thing that I’m really big on is stationery. Ever since I was a kid, having the right pens and the notebook that I want, it’s kind of superficial, but it starts there for me. If I can’t find my favorite pens or something, ain’t shit about to happen.
AM: [Laughs] I call that being ‘aesthetically motivated’ because that’s my life.
Mack: I like that, I like that. [Laughs] I have a really obsessive journaling habit so I write down everything and living in New York has given me a lot of free time. This is my writer’s notebook. [Pulls out yellow notebook] It’s by Leuchtturn 1917, ordered it online. It’s essentially like a moleskin, except the pages hold themselves open. I cannot write on lined paper at all, my pages have to be blank. I write with a Micron .08. And from there, I start with writing down things that come to my mind. I throw everything on the page, like when I wrote the KAYTRANADA piece, for as long as I need to, no organization. I write down little notes from other writers on the matter. When I’m writing, I know, often times, that I’m not always the first person to have a perspective on [something]. I want to be mindful of not neglecting other people that have laid down things before me, so I’m not jocking what they said. And if they have said something, I want to build on it, not repeat it. From there, I literally type everything into a Google Doc and I start fleshing out a of thoughts from what’s written in my journal. A writing session might take 3 or 4 hours, with me not going anywhere. I might take a break, or come back the next day and then hash things out with my editor.
You should be reading more than you’re writing.
AM: I don’t know if people know wholly of all those things that can go into someone’s writing process. To know of yours, it’s quite thorough. I feel like the KAYTRANADA review, aside from the piece about your grandmother on Blavity, and the one on Trap Karaoke, those solidified me as a fan of your writing. A lot of writers put out a lot of fluff, but it doesn’t really mean anything to them. You can tell that those pieces you really care about and we really appreciate your authenticity.
Mack: Well, thank you! I try, I try.
WK: As a young writer, who motivated or influenced you? And who are some folks that you look up to?
Mack: I was hoping that you were gonna ask this question. In terms of overall influences, of the people that I’m trying to either pay tribute to or make proud, I’d say James Baldwin. I used to read of him all the time. Anyone that knows me knows that I live for that man. Baldwin changed my life. I would be lying if I said it was him that motivated me to be a writer, but I will say that revisiting Baldwin as a writer motivates me to be a better writer. Twitter also motivates me. One thing that I don’t think that it gets enough credit for is that if you curate your timeline appropriately, you’ll find that Twitter is like the library of young and up-and-coming writers. A few people that I am influenced by and completely stan for are Jamilah Lemieux–every time that she opens her mouth or uses her pen, she’s always deliberate about it and I really admire it. Vann R. Newkirk II taught me that as a young writer, you should be reading more than you’re writing. You should only be writing when you’re honestly so inspired.
WK: I love you how you said that. It definitely makes sure that you’re doing the necessary work to back up your stuff. I was looking over your site playinitcool and your work. What do you feel like is your purpose, if you’ve found it? And then, where do you see yourself and your brand in the future?
Twitter is like a moodboard of thoughts.
Mack: I think I’m still struggling to find a purpose per se, but what I will say is that I want to write from a very specific voice. Like I always want it to be for colored boys that grew up in a very hypermasculine world and found their way out that. Like to those that got exposed to new things and new ideas and are looking to reach other black boys that are still stuck there, but may not know how to get out, if that makes any sense. I always want to use my platform to shine light on issues that adversely effect my brothers and sisters that are apart of different struggles that aren’t mainstream. Folks that struggle with sexuality, women that consistently get shat on by men all the time because our voices are so loud (and wrong)–every time I write something, I want to always shine light. And for the guys that are like me, I want to emphasize that we should all be doing that and we shouldn’t be afraid to. Something in that vein. I didn’t want to be a writer at first. I started off designing in college, got into photography and wanted to start telling digital stories. I fucked around trying to tell that story about my grandma and realized I couldn’t do it without words. So, I’m writing now, finding that people are liking it and being receptive to it, and I’m ready to combine them. If anything, I want to start making films. I don’t know where to start exactly, but I want to start making films.
AM: We appreciate that you’re honest enough to say that you’re still figuring it out. Film was my major in school, so I completely understand. I’m a writer first, but directing is my heart. Going back a bit, you mentioned curating your timeline as a Twitter user. It’s always interesting to see how different first shift Twitter is from second and third shift Twitter. That being said, what’s your level of engagement and do you ever take breaks from social media?
Mack: I’ve reached a point where now that I’m older and writing and exploring more that Twitter has exposed me to so much stuff. I didn’t know anything of feminism or the fluidity to sexuality, things of the LGBT community, or of mental health. Since I’ve witnessed that, I’ve noted that it might not be bad to probably go see somebody. I’m reminded that having a psychologist or psychiatrist is not a world-ending thing. I’m recognizing that I have some mental health issues, mainly understanding that pretty much my entire life I’ve had anxiety, but didn’t know what to call it. I realized that one of the ways that I coped was being on Twitter, trying to instigate things occasionally, and I understood that it wasn’t healthy. What I do now is block off entire periods of the day where I don’t look at Twitter. I’ll force myself to deal with the reality of where I am and what I’m currently doing. What that has made me do now is use my time on Twitter more efficiently. I hit up certain people’s timelines to find out what’s going on, put my input in as it’s appropriate, and then it’s back to real life. There’s so much to consume and one of my favorite things to go through my likes and see how strong my curation game is. That’s kind of where I am with social media right now.
WK: I know that’s something that I know I could be better at, but I feel you. Your Twitter likes list is like a big vision board, arguably better than Pinterest.
Mack: Definitely. Twitter is like a moodboard of thoughts.
Pay attention to everything and be willing to learn from anyone trying to teach you something.
WK: We have arrived to our lightning round segment. I’m going to fire a few questions at you and you answer as quickly as you can. Sound alright?
Mack: [Laughs] Cool.
WK: What fictitious character would be your best friend?
Mack: Doug from Doug or Arnold from Hey Arnold.
AM: Handwritten or typed?
WK: Early morning writer or night owl scribe?
Mack: Night owl.
WK: Who are you listening to right now?
Mack: SZA, currently anticipating A.
WK: Dream job or dream collaboration?
Mack: It sounds really random, but an architect.
WK: Top thing on your bucket list?
Mack: Get in shape. I wanna be one of those people that’s just healthy as fuck.
WK: Last lightning round question: What are three words to describe Wallace?
Mack: Eclectic, but boring, and curious.
AM: Noting the climate of social equality and police brutality and things of the sort, there is a large increase amongst millennials in social activism. Here at FTS, we support movements like Black Lives Matter and the LGBT Rights movement, but we also note that everyone’s role may not always be best served on the front lines. Given that context, where do you feel is your best fit in the movement?
Mack: As far as the movement goes, I want to use my platform and space as a man of color as a way of showing to others like me that we have played a part in injustice, in some ways, to women and queer and trans folks and folks that are already suffering injustices. That we have helped in extending the pain to them, but how it’s not too late to turn things around. I think we can work in tandem with them. If all of us aren’t free, none of us are free.
WK: That is a word and it has been great talking to you. Thank you so much for your time. Before we close, what words of advice or wisdom do you have for younger writers or children that are watching you and those of us creating spaces and doing the work we do?
Mack: I think the words of advice that I have are best said as two things. 1.) Don’t be afraid to create stories in a way that are authentic to you. Always be sure that you’re being true to yourself. Don’t try to create things that aren’t comfortable or authentic to you. And, 2.) Be a student of everything. Learn from everything, pay attention to the visual content you consume, study color, things like that. Go to places that make you happy, but while you’re doing that, be a student of everything. Pay attention to everything and be willing to learn from anyone trying to teach you something.