What inspires you to keep pursuing your dreams? Nature inspires me. Art, too. Stories also inspire me. Since I like reading about real-life experiences, I read memoirs.
A few years ago, my book club read Burro Genius by Victor Villaseñor, a memoir about a boy who failed in school.
Villaseñor came from one of the richest families in North San Diego County. And he could do many things well: ride horses, hunt, win at marbles and chess, solve complex math problems. But he couldn’t learn to read.
So every day at school his teachers and classmates abused him.
One day he couldn’t take it any more. He loaded his gun, got into his truck, and started to drive. As he drove he thought about how his actions would affect the people left behind, including his own family.
Love stopped Villaseñor from murdering his tormentors.
When Villaseñor was a junior, he dropped out of high school and started wandering. He went to Mexico, where he met a woman from La Jolla. In spite of his reading problem, she got him hooked on books and writing. He then wrote and wrote and wrote until he became a successful author.
Later in life, when he had his own kid tested for learning disabilities, he found out he has both visual and aural dyslexia.
Building a small business, becoming a successful writer, or achieving any goal requires the same stuff that permeates Villaseñor’s being—the internal drive to succeed in spite of known or unknown obstacles.
How did Villaseñor overcome his obstacles?
Once Villaseñor got the word bug, he couldn’t stop writing. But he knew he needed help to become a good writer. So he found mentors at UCSD Extension and at UCLA’s creative writing department.
Write by Hand
According to research, handwriting aids both learning and the creative process. Although Villasenor didn’t know about this research, he would hand copy words to help him memorize. He still writes extensively on yellow notepads.
Make Mistakes, Then Rewrite
Villaseñor says, “I’m a rewriter. That’s what I am.”
So he doesn’t worry about spelling, punctuation, and grammar until his third draft. And since his process requires a lot of cutting, pasting, adding, and subtracting, his third draft might be the umpteenth draft.
A good story inspires you in some way to take an action. Villasenor’s website is filled with testimonials about how he inspires others to tell their stories.
Giving up is not in Villaseñor’s vocabulary. In 10 years he wrote 8 books, 65 short stories, and 4 plays. He also received 265 rejections before publishing his first book, Macho.
So to achieve anything, you have to persist. You may make mistakes and have set backs. You may even change your plans or change directions.
But no matter what—even if you have unseen obstacles and limitations—you keep moving forward until you achieve your goal.
Villaseñor, Victor, Burro Genius, Harper Collins, 2004
UCSD Guest Book, Show ID 6049, November 2001
Victor Villaseñor’s: The Polished Word, Author Learning Center, September 20, 2011
Bounds, Gwendolyn, How Handwriting Trains the Brain: Forming Letters Is Key to Learning, Memory, Ideas, Wall Street Journal, October 5, 2010.