How Taco Bell Changed My Outlook on Writing

OH HEY, I HAVE A NEW ESSAY PUBLISHED. Let’s just get that very, very important bit o’ news out of the way. That’s right, my creative non-fiction/memoir essay titled “The Bell Rings, or Four Key Life Moments in a Taco Bell” has been included in Volume 2 of Taco Bell Quarterly.

What is TBQ? How did I come to find out about it? And how did this rebellious literary magazine suddenly, after two years, change my whole outlook on writing?

As to what Taco Bell Quarterly is, I invite you to enjoy the words in the Letter from the Editor Grande Supreme. Particularly, these words:

Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs. Some people want to watch the world burn. Some people want to fill the world with Taco Bell writing.

M.M. Carrigan

I found out about Taco Bell Quarterly right after the publication of their first issue, when a former co-worker of mine tweeted about it. Immediately I was hooked, and I kept my eyes peeled for submissions to open up again.

As I waited, I wrote the first draft of the essay you will now find in Volume 2. Yes, I have many, many key life moments that happened in a Taco Bell. These are four of them. These four, in particular, tell a very important part of my own “growing up” arc. Call it a coming-of-age story with extra tomatoes, if you will.

The thing that struck me most about the first volume of TBQ (and it continues in the second!) is the fact that while, yes, these pieces of writing talked about dollar menus and sauce packets and drive-thru windows and polyester uniforms, they also talked about a lot more. They dove into themes of social class warfare, poverty, sex, grief, joy, love, politics, revolution, everyday life…basically, all the stuff truly great writing is made of.

If we can force generation after generation of literature students to spend hours talking about an old vase (yes, Keats, I’m looking at you), why can’t we also celebrate the humble yet magnificent bean burrito?

Here’s the thing that being part of Volume 2 of Taco Bell Quarterly really taught me: good writing comes from the heart. This essay I wrote was personal, yes, but every bit of the writing process came from a place of joy. And of most things I’ve been writing recently, it is one of my absolute favorites. Because I wrote it because I wanted to. I wrote it because I had this specific story to tell, and I wanted to share it.

Two years ago (almost), I left my full-time job in the private sector to write (nearly) full-time. I’ve worked part-time on various freelance and consulting projects and odd-jobs, and I have the extreme privilege of a wonderful spouse who is financially (and emotionally!) supporting us while I pursue this dream of mine. And during those two years, I found myself getting completely bogged down and endlessly questioning if this was the right choice. Every pitch contest, every “tips for writers” article, every agent signing announcement, every conference made me go “WTF am I doing? Should I be writing differently? Is this on trend? Will this be on trend in three years? Is it literary/important/earth-shattering enough?!

Writing this essay reminded me what I really love about writing, and why I really love writing. I love writing that comes from inside my soul. I love writing about things I love, and I love writing things that I would want to read if someone else wrote them. I love writing because I love playing with words, and I love creating something out of thin air, and I love sharing that creation with other people and seeing them react to it. This essay showed me that again.

And, since writing/submitting the essay, I’ve written a handful of other complete short pieces (some of which I’m submitting to contests/journals now) AND I’ve broken through some major writer’s block on larger WIPs.

So, a HUGE thank you to The Day Crew at TBQ for reading this essay and for seeing in it something worth sharing. I’m thrilled to have it listed on my published works page, and I’ve got some more menu items cooking for a future issue…