Before the phrase “what’s next” was made popular by the series The West Wing, it was popular in my household growing up. When my brother, sister and I were very young, that question meant there were more chores and more work to do. As we got older, that question morphed into setting goals, reaching for them, assessing, and asking that very question while moving on to the next item on our to-do list.
During this week leading up to the Emerson graduation festivities where I will receive my MFA hood and degree, I’ve been thinking a lot about that age-old question of what’s next.
My 33-year corporate career is over—has been for a few years now. The last two of those years has been spent studying, reading and writing. Yet I haven’t published (other than episodes of The Word Count Podcast) since 2016.
I have three rejections for short stories in that time—all from people I know putting together anthologies. These were token submissions, at best. I have 20 short stories that I’ve written during the Emerson program that I should start shopping around a bit more aggressively.
I know I need to spend the summer finishing Bayou Whispers—my supernatural thriller set in New Orleans. And I have a couple of ideas for another novel and a few novelettes after that.
Reading, of course, is on the to-do list—you can’t be a writer without being a reader. Besides, I DO love a good book. I want to add reviews for books I read moving forward–one a week should be achievable.
The MFA I’m receiving is a “terminal degree,” which means I could start looking for potential teaching gigs. The stroke-induced anxiety I suffer from might impact my ability to stand in front of a class, but there is the possibility of teaching online courses or even writing essays. It might be worth trying both.
My “what’s next” has other possibilities as well. I’ll continue my podcast until at least episode 100—a personal commitment I made 9 years ago which I plan on fulfilling.
And there is the ongoing physical rehab that takes hours out of each day.
There are also people in this crazy literary industry I would love to work with. Editors, writers, agents and publishing houses I have jotted down in a sort of bucket list of talent I want to engage with and learn from.
So “what’s next” is just about anything I want it to be.
At the end of 2015, I nearly died from a pulmonary embolism, a heart attack, dozens of strokes and cancer.
And while I physically and mentally cannot do what I used to do for a living, in 2019 I find myself actually enjoying life more than I ever have.
“What’s next” is a question my parents ingrained in my very soul. That question, I realized years later, stemmed from the fear of an unknown future.
So what’s next? Anything that I want.
Now the question excites me.
Peace, love and hair grease,