Usually I stay away from writing directly about myself, but today I want to share a little of what’s happening in my life. Right now, I’m getting close to the end of a big project: my second book (and first novel) is nearly complete! (In case you’re curious, it’s a fantastical, humorous adventure set in the pre-life—like the afterlife, but before we’re born—all about what makes us uniquely human.)
During the lengthy process of writing this book, I forbade myself from even thinking about what might be next. I’m not usually in favor of banning thinking—if anything, the world needs more, not less of it. But I’ve learned that, without a strict rule, I constantly derail myself by speculating about other possible goals I could be pursuing instead:
Sure, I could finish this novel, but maybe I ought to [take on more programming projects] / [write a full-length comedy show] / [learn a new skill entirely] / [get a job] / [join the circus]…
Now, though, I’m approaching a good moment to begin the process of considering what’s next. It’s not yet an urgent decision—I have a couple of months of work and polishing on the novel, along with some other, smaller, projects—but the vacuum in my time is becoming visible as the end of the novel comes into sight.
I know I’m far from alone in wondering “what’s next?” when a big project ends, whether for work, or a leisure project like a community play. So, I thought it might be useful to share some of my initial thinking here, out loud.
1. Take a break
This is the most obvious idea, and probably the most attractive. My brain has been conjuring images of plane flights, landing me directly into a beach-side hammock surrounded by cocktail bars and coconuts. This is no doubt a hint from my subconscious!
Allowing ourselves time to breathe is important. I can’t even remember the last time I took a holiday without intending to work, write, or plan for at least a portion of the time. So here’s one easy conclusion, at least: I ought to take my own advice about self-care and plan (a little) time to recharge.
2. Do more of the same
It would be simple to continue on my current path. Isn’t that often the case?
I have plenty of ideas for more books, lots of speaking invitations, and occasional technical freelancing to keep me busy. I could easily fill the upcoming gap in my life by simply starting another book. (The thought of this course of action fills me with both excitement and panic, though I suspect I’ll feel differently after taking my own advice about needing a break!)
However, I don’t want to continue simply for the sake of continuing; it’s important to me that I actively choose to stay on (or stray from) the path I’m on.
Because we have so many passions and big dreams, intentionality is one key to designing a multipotentialite life. And that means I have to consider other options. Like…
3. Start a totally different project
Maybe it’s time to change direction again and pick up something new. For example, I’ve played at making computer games for virtually my entire life. What if I started taking it seriously enough that somebody, somewhere, might someday buy something I’ve made?
What would that look like? It would be a huge change in direction. While I have some of the necessary skills (and it would be really fun to improve the skills I currently lack), it’s daunting to set out to create something worthwhile enough to justify shuffling my life around that much. So, perhaps the sensible step would be to choose a smaller game design project and work my way up. If I end up deciding to pursue this at all. :)
But I have less drastic options for new large projects, too: I already do plenty of standup comedy and public speaking. Perhaps, without the distraction of book-writing, I could prioritize developing this area of my life? Stepping up one area from a medium-commitment to a bigger-commitment seems like a more sensible change in direction than jumping headlong into a whole new area.
Then again, while I’m exploring crazy options…
4. Change the entire direction of my life
The end of a big project seems like the ideal time to assess my life in general, since I’m already doing lots of reflecting on the project itself.
How happy am I with all the things I’m spending my time and energy on? Do I want to rip everything up and start again? Or are things mostly looking good? Does it just need a bit of tinkering around the edges?
And, to take the next step, if I did make a wild change of direction, what would it be? Go back to traditional employment? Or how about getting a qualification, which would open up new opportunities entirely? As I type them, none of these options feel right to me, but these are the kind of questions I need to begin exploring before my current project ends.
I find it useful to look at everything on different scales. The spectrum of “What’s next?” runs from continue exactly as I am to rip up my whole life and rewrite it. By exploring all the different places along that spectrum I can see which one feels right, for now.
So, that settles it!
Haha. Of course, I didn’t expect to sort my entire life out in the time it takes to write one short blog post. These are big questions, and they keep asking themselves over and over. This is just me starting the process of transition by opening up questions to mull over as I wrap up my current project.
If you’re in the process of a big change right now, I hope that this glimpse into my early, messy process has been useful and maybe even helped you to consider all the possibilities for your own plan-making!
What do you do when you finish a big project? How do you take stock and reassess your options? Share with the community in the comments!