Follow the Endless Dirt Road, or, Why I am Awesome: My So-Called Plan for World Domination
March 16, 2021 § 12 Comments
On Goofy Titles, or Why I Use Cultural References Almost Nobody Remembers.
I grew up loving Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. I remember that every episode ended with the announcement of the next episode’s title, which was always in two parts. So there you have it.
On Reflection, or What the Heck Just Happened?
The workshop provided a safe space and insight that carried me into profoundly personal and valuable work. Even though I had been writing for a long time and have had a few previous workshop experiences, I was still uncertain I had what it takes to make art. I am full of gratitude toward my fellow workshop participants. Their feedback was consistently enlightening and generous, and, for the first time in my life, I was able to post the words “I am a writer” where others could see them.
Most of all, I am profoundly grateful to Terese, who was the best teacher I could have hoped for. She is, without question, everything she is cracked up to be, and more.
Twelve Baskets Full, or Manna from Mailhot.
Here are just a few of the many things I gleaned during our four weeks together.
- Center yourself in the work. Honor the work and believe that it is important.
- I am not just what happened to me; I am much more.
- My survival is sacred. I don’t judge myself for how I survived.
- Self-care matters. I will give myself continued support.
- Drink more Margaritas.
- I am a dynamic person. (Margaritas help with this)
For the work:
- Keep making more work; eventually, I will get better.
- Trust the reader.
- Don’t be afraid to be direct.
- Not every sentence has to be art. It’s okay to call a hallway a hallway; it doesn’t have to be a vestibule.
- I have talent and voice.
- My art is important.
- Writing is not thankless work.
How Shall I Celebrate? Or, the Pandemic Is a Party Pooper.
We were encouraged during the workshop to celebrate our work, but in a pandemic, opportunities are severely limited. I did, however, treat myself to an excursion to my local indie bookstore. It felt good to wander amongst the shelves and see live people in three-dimensional forms.
The Endless Dusty Road, or, Nevertheless, I Persist.
Looking forward gives me pause. The road ahead of me is a lot shorter than it used to be. The end is now much closer than the beginning. My history of failures and false starts makes me hesitant to give voice to my dreams. I grew up believing that lofty aspirations were either beyond me or likely tainted by the ego and not to be trusted. While it is clear to me now that these ideas are false, they are still hard to shake.
Nevertheless, I persist. The best way to celebrate my accomplishments and honor them going forward is to choose to embrace the generosity I have received in the context of my workshop journey and to carry it with me going forward. To choose to believe that I have a measure of talent and voice. To choose to believe that I have a story to tell.
But talent, a voice, a story to tell, and encouraging words, are meaningless without continuing to do the work. For now, my primary focus is to do more and better work.
My best shot at a plan for the future:
- Keep doing work that moves beyond testimony to art. I don’t know any other way to do this but to read a lot, write a lot, and pay careful attention along the way. Read, write, pay attention, repeat.
- Never stop learning. Keep my eyes open for organized opportunities to grow as a writer. Don’t ignore the disorganized ones either, as they are often the best.
- Give myself time, space, and permission to work.
- Finish stuff.
- Take a shot at publication; I’ll survive. And, it just might work! I want to publish a couple of essays this year while I’m working on a collection. I’d secretly like to do a book tour someday. Uh oh, I guess it’s not a secret anymore. I suppose that means I have to finish a book first. It seems like there’s always a catch.
- Remember, writing is not thankless work; there are rewards as well.
- Make friends along the way; I’ll need them. They’ll need me too.
- Fight for my work. Both to get my work done and to get it seen because no one else will do it for me. It might be exhausting, but the battle is in my hands alone.
I only hope that when I achieve world domination and Oprah finally interviews me, I can still make time to hang out with Moose and Squirrel.
Ray T. Hernandez is an emerging writer living in Port Hueneme, California. He is currently working on a memoir in essays. He can be found on Twitter @RayTBlue.