Monday, June 6, 2011

The Big "What Next?"

Will you be a postcard, or will you be a work of art?  So asked the great punk-rock songwriter Frankie Stubbs (he of Leatherface infamy) back in 1993.  It’s a brilliant one-liner on an album that’s chock full of ‘em.  In fact, it’s a question that I’ve been haunted by ever since Stubbs first asked it of me over headphones, back in the long hot summer of 1997.

I sense a bit of further explanation is in order; first off, please forgive me for not dropping in around here very much in the last couple of weeks.  My excuse is a noble one: I’m trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.  You’ve got to admit that it’s a bit better than “the dog ate my blog-work”, but I do understand that it’s a bit vague.  Believe me, I understand, so let’s try to hammer it down a bit, shall we?

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned in this post that I was contemplating returning to school in the fall.  The reasons I cited there remain valid: I’m tired of being paper-unqualified for jobs that I firmly believe would be within my capacities right this very minute.  I hate the idea of spending the rest of my life bouncing from one retail job to another, constantly trying to stay two steps ahead of someone else’s Chapter Eleven.  Whether it’s fair or not, you need your diploma to flash in order to enter the cool kids club in this case.  I’m settled on getting my bachelors degree at long last; five minutes thought about doing some job I hate for the next forty years with no real light at the end of the tunnel is frankly enough to quell any arguments about it.

With that settled, the next two questions become a bit more difficult: where, and for what?  When I was in college in my twenties, I was majoring in the very generic “writing arts”.  Given that the question of what one can do with a B.A. in English has been raised by folks who can carry a tune far better than I, I’ve got to admit that I’m a bit at a loss for an answer.  I am certain that my future lies with language and the written word; it’s the one thing I’ve always been completely confident about and at home with.  That’s not to suggest that there isn’t more I can learn about writing; there is always more to learn.  Still, I think that if I’m going to take on the burden of furthering my education, I’d like it to have a sharper focus than before.

So far, the closest fits for more specific majors I can seem to find are journalism and editing.  Neither one is a precise match: speaking of Journalism, I’m much more of an op-ed guy than a “just the facts, ma’am” article writer; more critic-at-large than Jimmy Olsen.  It seems to me that opinion-based writing falls under the journalism umbrella, but it also seems to me that I’d be spending a lot of time learning things I don’t intend to pursue.  Editing has always attracted me to some extent; I’m the kind of asshole who always notices the wrong use of “you’re” vs. “your” and things of that nature, but I feel like I need a little more creativity to be a part of whatever it is I end up being paid to do with words.  I keep looking at classes and programs, but have yet to stumble across the right one.  Here’s hoping that tomorrow might bring a good fit to my attention, whenever tomorrow happens to be that I still haven’t found it.

The other big question is how to finance such an endeavor.  I didn’t exactly leave college as an ace of a student back in my twenties; “erratic” would be on the generous end of a fair description.  That doesn’t worry me so much: I know that, given how much I’ve learned about life in the time between, I’ll excel this time around.  I’ll have to find a program to give me a shot, perhaps as a continuing education student at first, but I don’t sweat that too much either; I’m a good talker when the chips are down.  What it does mean is that financial aid might not immediately be available for the taking.  Given that the types of jobs one can usually get without a degree (i.e., retail) generally don’t offer the sort of scheduling flexibility one would need to better themselves, I may have to invent a gig for myself, or maybe a couple of gigs.  I’ve got some vague ideas about offering an everyday copy editing service: make your eBay/Craigslist ads not look like they were written by a four-year-old!  I need to spend some time this week fleshing it out a bit: watch this space.

It’s frustrating sometimes.  I’m ready to work as hard as is humanly possible to make writing a viable career for myself, the kind that can guarantee a safe and secure future for Rhea and our family to come.  I’m willing to start climbing that hill two minutes from now should the opportunity arise quickly.  Right now, though, I feel a bit like a cat desperately searching for the end of a ball of yarn to claw my way on to.  As lame as this sounds, I sometimes wish someone could just hand me a list of dates, times, and activities.  It’s lame because, generally speaking, I like figuring out my own path.  I’m daunted by this because I should be – nay, need to be – smarter than it.  And I am; I just need to push the cobwebs in front of me aside in favor of some clarity; as weird and Hallmark-y as it sounds, I think this post may well have been the beginning of that process.  That’s the thing about writing, friends: it creates and solves problems with equal force.

At any rate, thank you all for reading this “a bit more ‘real’ than the other stuff” post.  Should you have any suggestions or wisdom to impart, the comments section is open, and email finds me through the “about me” link on the bottom-right of this page.  Should I continue to be erratic in my posting schedule, trust me that it’s only because I’m trying to sort out how to keep doing this for years to come, in a way that will provide for me and mine.  I will promise that, at the very least, Trick Tuesday will continue as scheduled.  Deadlines are good practice, no?

On the other hand, it may prove just as likely that my attempts to figure all of this out may see me posting more, who knows?  The future is unwritten, as a different great punk-rock songwriter once put it.

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