What’s Next?

Welcome back to the Creative Life Adventure.

I’ve nearly completed a major creative project I’ve been working on intensively for over a year. There is still work to do, but it will no longer be a full-time effort. I find myself asking, “What’s next?” A number of new projects are on my mind. Which one will be my next primary focus?

The fact that I can even ask this question is a great privilege. I’ve had jobs where every minute was spent in reaction mode and it was all I could do to keep up. But “What’s next?” also symbolizes a transition point. For better (in my case) or worse, it’s an act of moving on to a new line of thinking. Even if you already know what that next activity is, a mental transition needs to occur. And simply asking the question can jump start your mind to begin considering possibilities. You can see this as a recurring theme in my favorite TV series, The West Wing:

Despite it’s transitional status, “What’s next?” is still part of a continuum. All those completed meetings on The West Wing weren’t forgotten, the topics were just put on hold, and every “What’s next?” added to the overall theme of a fictitious presidential administration. My work in progress won’t be locked away after this, it just won’t be my primary effort, and each new project is hopefully part of a longer process of personal and professional growth.

That process of transitions that form a larger theme is one of the things I love about exploring cities. Every city I’ve been to has its own unique character, and that character is reflected in the fun of discovering something interesting around every corner. You might come upon a cafe or restaurant, compelling architecture, a museum, or a bookstore with just the book you’ve been looking for. And the people-watching opportunities are endless.

Jackie Robinson mural on brick wall of retail building in Montreal
Cities offer something interesting around every corner – in this case, a Jackie Robinson mural in Montreal, by the artist Fluke

“What’s next?” is also the premise of cliffhangers – every suspenseful book chapter ending, every TV series cliffhanger season finale, every movie character double-cross, the entire soap opera industry, the film serials of the early 20th century, they all thrive on a desire to learn what comes next. Dan Brown has written an entire series of novels built on a rapid progression of “What’s next?” chapter endings. Love him or hate him, Brown’s books have sold over 200 million copies, so somebody out there is eager to find out what happens next.

I’m not always a fan of surprises in real life. “What’s next?” at the dentist’s office is rarely good news. But “What’s next?” is a philosophy worth practicing. It’s at the heart of every new assignment, every sunrise, every goodbye, and every hello. Writers can use it to keep readers turning pages. Painters and movie directors can use it to build suspense for their next work. And we can all rely on it to anticipate the future. Even if whatever is next isn’t pleasant, remember, there will always be a “What’s next?” after that.

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