Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What's Next?

Almost as soon as I had the diploma in my hands, the thought hit me: what's next?

Others echoed that. "What are you going to do now?" asked my stepmother.

The truth?

I don't know. I have considered more school. I love college. I enjoy learning. I like the atmosphere. I like big ideas. I like being able to discuss books, theories, and facts with logical passion. I find the young people stimulating, the professors exhilarating.

Hollins offers other advanced degrees - MFAs in creative writing or children's literature, and something called a Certificate of Advanced Studies. That is 10 more classes - or over $13,000 - for a higher degree.

The children's literature MFA is offered during the summer only. The creative writing MFA is quite competitive, but to be honest I've never really wanted the creative writing MFA. That sounds odd, perhaps, coming from someone who considers herself to be a writer, but the truth is as a Hollins undergraduate I had many writing classes, and many of my recent Hollins MA classes were writing classes. I don't know that either of these MFAs would offer me anything more.

That leaves a degree from some other university. Locally, Virginia Tech and UVA are the closest with PhD programs. Radford University has a number of masters programs and one PhD program in psychology.

When I was a very young girl, I wanted to be many things. Those I can remember include geologist, archaeologist, investigator, newspaper reporter, psychologist, rock star, historian, lawyer, and writer of mysteries a la Nancy Drew. Somewhere along the way I realized that writing gave me the opportunity to explore any career I wanted. It also allowed me the freedom to take part in things without actually being a part of them. The anonymity of being a newspaper reporter was something I quickly embraced. As a reporter (at least the way I have always been a reporter) I sat in the back, I observed, and I wrote the facts of what I saw. I seldom embellished - I had no need to - because the words of others generally speak for themselves. I didn't see a need to explain what was so obviously already said.

I know that other reporters thrust themselves into the stories - they became a part of it, rather than an observer. That was not - is not - my style. But it slipped into the industry, and soon became the rule. My way became antiquated. I still think it is better.

In the last two decades the landscape has changed. Newspaper writing is not what it was - the industry has shot itself in the foot by giving away its news on the Internet and by allowing greed to run amok among the upper levels of management. Newspapers were never meant to be for-profit businesses and those who wanted more than a decent salary and breaking even should have looked elsewhere for their dollar bills.

For me, it has never been about the money. It's been about the story, the self-satisfaction, and what I could live with.

Which brings me back to today. I look at the current landscape and it looks like something from another galaxy. Self-publishing looms large and I suspect that is the way of the future, though it scares me. I am not big on the self-marketing aspect of that - the social networking, the push to sell.

I have read a few self-published ebooks on my Nook, and all of them have suffered from a lack of editing. They had typos, places where they repeated themselves, trains of thought that went on and then ended nowhere, or gave too much information. Every single one of them would have been a better story if the author had taken the time to review the work with a critical eye, or had someone else do that for them. Sometimes stories need to sit for years before they see the light of day. But now it is easy to put something up, place a price on it, and hope it sells. Few people have the patience to wait for perfection.

Putting up something for sale that is less than it could be scares me. I suppose in that regard I am anal, a perfectionist, a book snob. Just last night I was in Barnes and Noble. I picked up a book on writing that looked interesting. I turned to a random page. There was a misplaced period and a poorly written sentence. I put the book back and didn't buy it. It might have had the greatest advice ever but if the author, editor, and publisher couldn't figure out that a sentence needs a noun and verb and that periods do not belong in between clauses, then it wasn't advice I wanted to read.

So what's next? I don't know. I don't know where I am going. I can look back at where I have been. I have made mistakes, of course. I wouldn't be human if I hadn't. And I will make mistakes in the future. We all do.

For now, I am going to take a little time to enjoy life. It is almost June, and in a few weeks I will be adding another year to the chronicle of my life. I will be 49 years old. I am at an age when finding work, changing careers, and reinventing yourself is not as easy as it was at 20, or even 40. My hair is graying, my face is wrinkling, and parts are wearing out. I'm solidly middle-aged. And I am okay with that.

I'm even okay with not knowing what is next.

For surely, something will come.

5 comments:

  1. Why not teach? You thrive in the academic atmosphere and you enjoy sharing knowledge. Is it possible to dip your toes in the water by taking on only a single class?
    I think you would be a wonderful professor and age definitely has the advantage there : )

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  2. I frequently wonder what I want to be when I grow up. I fear it is too late for me. Both the figuring it out part and the growing up part! I also think teaching might fit the bill for you. Good luck!

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  3. I agree with the others that teaching would suit you. Whatever you decide, I hope the future holds good things for you, Anita. All the best to you.

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  4. I say teach. You would be excellent at it and it would put you amongst both young students and other teachers. I think you would thrive in such a position and be happy. Just my humble opinion.

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  5. Why don't you write a book? Take the time you would spend getting another degree and use that time sitting down and writing your book. You won't make any money while you're doing it but you won't have to spend $13,000 either. I know you have it in you.

    Did you see Dan Rather on The View? He was talking about how the news is not real news anymore because all the news agencies are owned by corporations who care more about money than real reporting. He was a real newsman who reminds me of you because he also didn't inflict his opinions into his reporting. He observed and reported. Maybe you should review his book next?

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