I have another podcast interview this Friday, so I’m going to try to actually use the Scarlett interface to amplify the sound being recorded. I had a nightmare last night, which, amongst other things, involved me forgetting the microphone. The last City Lit Logic Pro class was online, and sadly the next will be as well. I have one more key thing I need to learn and enough time to try to edit an episode independently before the end of the course.
The ukulele has been on the back-burner a bit, and I want more balance in my life to make time for these important activities that feed my creative practice. Meanwhile, I went to see Grant Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit at Rough Trade, leaving with a copy of ‘The Work: The lyrics of Scott Hutchison’. I went with the friend who introduced me to the band, but I think I will save my copy for after the holidays. I’m going to be away from my partner, and really struggled after the first week last time, so I might take it out during January, when life inevitably becomes a little blue.
Things are super busy still, and the only way I’m vaguely on top of things is because I’ve had some work cancelled. Yet, I’ve still responded to an email about new tuition work for four hours a week up until the holidays, with one of the points about the student being that they like poetry! All the goals I have wanted to make about balance and focus will have to stay seeds for now, hopefully to bloom next year!
As well as the usual tuition work and content writing, I’ve been continuing with my music project, though haven’t practiced the ukulele enough this week, and I finished my ACE project application for producing a ‘She Grrrowls’ festival next year. I still have emails to work through, so just a brief update this week! The photo above is from an organisation I work for, which was featured on the news recently, which was lovely to receive.
Things are really full on at the moment, so I’ve been struggling to put the time into my ukulele practice. I’d rather do it in the day time, as I can feel really tired by the evening, so it doesn’t feel as productive. However, something that has changed is that I’ve now been focussed on one song, and whilst previously I kept on moving on quickly after a few times, I’m now having the opposite problem: I want to perfect it and as I keep making mistakes, I’ve not been able to move on. How long should I spend on one lesson or song?
I’ve been learning a lot and playing around on my Logic Pro course at City Lit. It’s my third lesson so far, and it’s great as it’s specialised to the students on it and the different things we want to do. Today we’ll be doing more about editing, and how I can make the volume more consistent, and put different files together on one episode. In some ways, it would have been good to do the course prior recording interviews, but on the other hand, the whole point of this year is to learn as I go along. It would be good to know how to attach the Scarlett amplifier whilst recording. Things are intense right now, but hopefully he hard work I’m putting into various thing right now will pay off next year.
I last recorded in Brighton, and it was nice to take a trip down memory lane, as my gran used to live there. It was so nice that I have managed to convince my mum for us to go there for our annual Christmas shopping trip (which is really just an excuse to spend time together and eat nice food). I’m glad I managed to go away as I feel like I would be a lot more stressed and overwhelmed if I hadn’t. Like language learning, learning music is actually really good for managing stress as you are forced to be present… of course, it’s possible to get distracted, but when you get into the zone, you brain has to concentrate so much that there isn’t room for other things.
I thought that in this blog instalment, I would go over what I’m been working on this week after someone queried me saying I’ve had a long day with the assumption that because I’d been working partly from home, and had some work cancelled, that it wouldn’t feel long. The fact that I am constantly doing *something* means that most days feel long. I realise that as much as I don’t always understand what certain people do day-to-day in their jobs, that people don’t always get what I do. But surely, they know I’m not laying in bed doing nothing?
I may work from bed sometimes, but the way I work could probably be better if I rested more, and appreciated the value of breaks and sleep. When people say things like this, it reminds me of another friend asking if I’ve been working. When you’re a freelance, artist, the lines between work and play blur, and, I’ve probably said it before, but I want to know when people this question… do you mean, did I do something that I was paid for? If so, how directly? Do you mean did I leave the house for work? Do you mean creative work, or other the kinds of work that you know I do?
Most of the time, unless I am doing something purely for pleasure and relaxation, then it would be fair game to call it work. On some level, other people seem to understand the notion that if I don’t do creative work, then I can never, for example, have a film made out of a novel. Sure, that may be a wild dream, but most people understand that if you don’t do the work, it’s never going to happen. But when it comes to actually appreciating this work on equal terms with their 9-5 work, the waters muddy. Is writing this blog work? Yes, it is. I’m not doing this purely for pleasure and relaxation. I’m doing it to connect with others and hopefully reach out to more audiences, as well as reflect on my work.
Things are busy at the moment for several reasons. I’m working towards a funding application deadline for 22nd November, I’m covering an extra 6-hour placement, and I’m recording podcast episodes for my music and spoken word project. This is on top of everything else that I do, and the only reason I’m vaguely staying afloat, though not really on top of things, is because my 6-hour teaching placements keep getting cancelled. The tuition side of my work is going to be intense until around 10th January, at which point, I will then worry about losing students, and I won’t have saved as much money as I would have liked, because I would have spent more on presents. I have to take 24th-28th off to be with family outside of London. I’ll work in between then and the New Year, taking the weekend for myself and loved ones, and I don’t get paid for that time off.
So, to reflect more specifically on this week, focussed purely on Monday to Friday, I’ll break it down:
Eleven and a half hours of teaching (with twelve hours cancelled, which meant I was able to do other work etc…)
Five to six hours on an ACE application that I hope will mean I get paid in future, if successful. This involves not only writing the application, but also a lot of admin for the festival I am producing, so that everything is pretty much in place for when I find out the result. I cannot even contemplate not getting funding as a possible scenario. If I think about things too much, I feel overwhelmed; I just have to keep moving forward and taking action.
Around nine hours of travelling to and from students (a mixture of bus, train, bike, and walking). I used to do over three hours A DAY before I moved, so this is ideal now.
Around seven hours of writing student reports, marking books, and planning lessons.
Three hours of admin, which was mainly financial: sending invoices / completing time sheets, emailing and reviewing documents with my new (and first) accountant, and updating records.
Two to three hours of content writing, because I massively reduced this.
Around two and a half hours on learning the ukulele.
Then some of the non-work stuff I do:
Around thirty hours sleeping.
Nine hours of downtime (Netflix etc. and reading).
Around seven to eight hours of cooking and eating dinner.
Around four hours of the gym.
Around three hours of language learning (Spanish and Turkish, with the former done over breakfast).
Around three hours of lunch breaks.
Around two and half hours of journaling.
One and a half hours ironing.
One and a half hours cleaning.
One and a half hours food shopping.
One hour washing my hair / bathing.
50 minutes of therapy.
Over the weekend, I’ll also do at least an hour of tuition work (marking etc), my new three-hour music production course at City Lit, and as many emails and festival application admin as I can fit in, which will be between six and nine hours.
I can’t believe it’s now November! So, I’m about half way through recording the whole of the podcast series interviews! I’ve been to Leeds, Sheffield, and Bristol so far, with the last couple being in London (Dalston, and today in Greenwich). Pirate Studios is great as it has a lot of locations and it’s really affordable due to the way it’s staffed, but today I had to switch rooms in attempt to get away from a really noisy band, with sound bleeding through to the whole building!
We ended up in a rehearsal room, so at the end of the interview, I ended up playing on the drums. Sometimes I wish I went to the BRIT school or something as I would have loved to have been able to play more music. The arts are definitely my thing as I just love every art form and wish I could do more. When I retire – if artists every really retire – I hope I’d be able to just learn a bunch or random instruments I never got to!
Alas, I am sticking to the one instrument, which I picked up as it goes well with spoken word and I was told it was easy! As I enjoy learning the ukulele, it can be something I do in the evening when I don’t have time in the day. But then I have found, I’ve been so busy lately that I get tired, so carving out time in the day is the way forward. As is the repetition of the same things, which is a lot more fun when it’s songs that just doing different kinds of notes. I have trouble with focussing at times, so I can definitely dedicate more time if I don’t get distracted whilst doing it!
I’m going on holiday soon, and seeing this as a time to refresh my habits and routines on my return, in order to be more fulfilled and working towards my creative goals, rather than meet deadlines for some financial gain, when I could try a save a little better instead.
So, a quick overview of what I’ve been up to, aside from the usual… I’ve been in the recording studio for Camina’s Cantata. I saw my nan whilst up north, and made us a Turkish dish that my partner had previously attempted (I have to say mine was better… but mostly as I had 90% of the correct ingredients).
I saw Overflow written by Travis Alabanza, performed by Reece Lyons, at Bush Theatre. It was incredible and all my friends loved it too. I also saw my friend in a play called Living Together at Bromley Little Theatre, which was hilarious.
I’ve also managed to get on top of a task that has piled up, and hope to not keep this from happening! This involves saving all the bits from books I’ve read and organising them into albums. I have also been realising how even just 10-minute bursts of reading can do wonders for my mental health. I’ve felt overwhelmed and anxious a lot, but I’m pleased to be growing and believe things are getting better, rather than worse. So, that’s something, isn’t it?
It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve written update as I’ve been busy with the other aspects of the projects. I’m currently writing this in break between podcast recordings in Bristol. I’ve got one more to go, and despite some nerves at meeting certain poets, it’s a pretty cool way to spend the day. I’m looking forward to meeting a couple of other Bristol-based poets for dinner later too. Another poet friend has also recommended a gig, but I may be ready for bed by then!
The other week, I recorded the first two podcast episodes in Leeds and Sheffield, which means I’m almost half way through getting the interviews recorded, which is wild. The final interview is scheduled for February, so the rest are more spread out, but I’m hoping I can do one or two extra episodes as so many more poets spring to mind now, and so I think I will redistribute the funding that was meant to be for another music production course. Meanwhile, I have been doing a little ukulele practising, but would like to dedicate more time to it, valuing repetition more, rather than quickly going through the Fender programme, being on Level 2 already.
My next podcast interview recording is next week, and the first one in London, though this and another are with Berlin-based artists. It’s interesting that a lot aren’t taking place in London, though I wish I had more time to stay and explore… and part of me wished I did have an excuse to go back to Berlin for a weekend of recording! Though I am taking a much-needed holiday soon in sunny Spain.
I’m currently in Hastings, looking forward to doing a full feature set at Poetics at The Electric Palace. It’s the first indoor gig since the start of the pandemic, and I’ll be doing a career-spanning set, with work from 2010-2020!
Last night we had a ‘Women in Film’ screening of different poems, with my poem ‘Grandad’, produced by Muddy Feet Poetry. It was something I’d never done before, and it was incredible to be able to hold that space, as the Q&A section gave added meaning and context to the work, which meant it was much more impactful than simply watching the videos at home.
This week I started facilitating a new fortnightly writing group for those over 60, at Holborn House, which is an incredible community centre, which has lots of different activities for people to get involved with. I was even gifted a memoir from one member, and reading it just highlights the importance of personal histories, and how vital it is to keep our stories alive for other generations to learn about.
So, this week I have got my lovely ukulele a new sturdy case for when I have to go to my in-person lessons in Brockley at the end of next month. I’ve also taken it with me away in Hastings, where I am currently writing this, so I can make sure to practise whilst I’m away, even if it’s just for half an hour today. Like Yayoi Kusama, I love polka dots, and this case even matches the dress I’m currently wearing!
My gran lives in Hastings, and it was over five years ago that she got me the ukulele… and over those years stopped asking me if I would join in a group here. I may be nowhere near able to do that, but at least I’ve finally started learning. At the ripe age of 32, it’s never too late to pick something up, and learn something new!
So, things are ticking along. I still have more admin to do to fix most of the podcast interviews, but I have realised a couple of things about my learning, in terms of the ukulele, but also in general. I like working my way through the Fender platform, but I don’t like the repetition that is required to really master something. Anything that uses the second to forth strings is difficult for my fingers to reach, and put down the necessary pressure to produce a good sound.
I’m still trying the basics, with very small parts of songs used to reinforce the learning. I also wrote a few lines of song that I could even try experimenting with… maybe once I know a bit more! Baby steps! This week, it’ll be more of the same, but trying harder to fight against the afternoon slump where I get distracted, and instead focus, and maybe take more time to sit properly and set up the camera properly.