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  • Writer's pictureEric

When the Story Inspires You. And then Conquers You.

I was sharing a short bio of author and poet Jimmy Santiago Baca with my high school students the other day. To give the abbreviated version, Mr. Baca was born "of Chicano and Apache descent ... (was) abandoned by his parents and at 13 ran away from the orphanage where his grandmother had placed him. He was convicted on drug charges in 1973 and spent five years in prison. There he learned to read and began writing poetry." (

Baca, whose life story is like something out of an S. E. Hinton book, is a national award-winning poet. He has published over a dozen books of poetry along with memoirs and essays and the screenplay for the feature-length film Bound by Honor.

An amazing life. Amazing choices. Amazing accomplishments.

I wish I better understood the internal wrestlings that move us one day toward motivation and another day toward defeat. Specifically, I wish I better understood why a story like that of Mr. Baca’s can have me in one moment ready to erupt with creativity while in the next breath convinced I’m a fraud, unable to bring anything worthwhile into the world. Grow! Build! Create! . . . Reflect. Shrink. Retreat. What is that all about anyway? How can we be both inspired and conquered by the same story? More importantly, how can we help others (and here I’m thinking about my students, especially) feel inspired and motivated rather than overwhelmed and defeated by stories of world-changers like Mr. Baca?

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