Freelance Reflections #62

Although there are some days where the schedule goes awry, I have been really pleased with how my day are going when I am able to do things the way I want to. I’m awaiting details of a new daytime student, and it looks like there will be some flexibility. So, generally, my days will start with a morning of Duo Lingo with breakfast, exercise, content writing, and lesson planning. I’ll do some language learning before lunch, then practise the ukulele. Then I’ll have time to work on funded creative projects (currently music and event production) and unfunded creative projects, before then tutoring most of my students. After dinner, and on Sundays, my aim is to only do relaxing, fun things! Although, I have also started learning Turkish on Thursdays! Last night, I ended up getting this takeaway that was basically just a ready meal you had to heat up yourself! It was good, but… strange!

I did also take part in an Arvon online workshop about Performance in Communities, which involved taking these close-up images in my kitchen. On Instagram, I recently shared some books from Burning Eye Books, who unbelievably didn’t get funding and so really need people to buy books and donate! At the last check, they had about 10 copies of each of the books below, so if lots of people bought those books that’s £100 a pop between the poet and publisher.

Last week, I was very thankful to find out that my ACE application for the She Grrrowls Festival on Saturday 5th March this year has been successful! So, each day I’m working on this project a little, as well as my music project. I’ve not announced it officially yet, so this is a bit of an exclusive! Now, I just need my application to do an MA in Art Psychotherapy to go through! I don’t know whether it’s a build up of anxiety, but my skin is super itchy again, like in October. So, it’s good to be busy in the day, but by night it can be more of a struggle to stay asleep with the constant urge to scratch, even with medication! Hopefully it’ll kick in soon.

Freelance Reflections #61

I am trying to prioritise rest and creativity, but change doesn’t happen at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. Like always, it’s about trial and error and finding balance between listening to yourself with your needs, and what just needs doing…

I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time with family, albeit difficult being the first year without my maternal grandad. I spent time with my mum on the anniversary, and also uncovered something funny thing my dad kept, including this letter to Father Christmas. I’ve tried to give myself some time to do relaxing activities over the bank holiday, minimising the amount of work, to the point where my FitBit thought I was napping when I was in bed looking at books.

I’m doing the first She Grrrowls of the year shortly, feeling tired and looking forward to a night in. I’m also trying to accept the uncertainty of the pandemic, the question-mark over funding, and what this will look like by March, when I hope to do the festival. I’m trying to be kind to myself when I have emotional storms, and when I don’t manage to get everything I plan to do.

Freelance Reflections #60

It’s Christmas eve, and I’m just waiting to be picked up to see family over the next few days. My partner is away, which can be difficult for me at times, so I’m trying to focus on the positives… which is thankfully not my last lateral flow test. I want to hold on to that gratitude, treasure the time with my family, and the time with myself.

I volunteered to steward at a local pharmacy in Lewisham to help the flow of people getting their vaccines. It was immensely rewarding, time went really quickly, and I recommend it to anyone who is able. I did the work I needed to do, and had the afternoon spare. I have been feeling a bit nauseated and tired, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to do a PCR to confirm the negative lateral flow. I really feel for people who are alone right now.

Last night, I cooked a roast for me and my flatmate, and spent the evening watching a Christmas film and wrapping presents… which took about double the time of the film. My therapist was kind enough to see me this morning, and I had a head massage, and I think I may even leave my laptop behind… I’ll be back working after a long journey home on 29th, so I want to make the most of this time and dedicated it to play and rest!

Freelance Reflections #59

One thing I am learning to accept more is that as a creative freelancer, there is always more work to be done, and it’s really important to continually work on balance, which I know I keep banging on about. Whilst things just won’t be as balanced as I want them to be this side of the New Year, I am making sure I have at least some down time and make time for friends and family. I’ve been better at managing my priorities, even though it means my language-learning is taking a backseat, so that I can just keep moving forward with the tasks that need completing before the holidays. Included in this is making time for self-care, which this week involved me reading whilst getting my roots done. I very much enjoyed the scalp massage during the shampooing, which made my hair look super shiny too.

I had to cancel and postpone some work the other week and took a Covid test (even though I knew it was just a cold and didn’t have the main symptoms). I was just exhausted and needed a day to rest… and by “rest” I just mean “work from home and not go outside”, (reminder: freelancers don’t get sick pay or holiday pay). It was a cold and rainy day, so I think it was a wise move! I’m still trying o be more self-aware and kinder to myself in that way (a nickname has been “rapido”), even just walking less fast to my students. A lot of the work I’m doing at the moment isn’t directly related to any money now, but it needs to be done. But I need to remember when trying to save by transferring money away from my current account, that my rent does need to be paid for and makes a dent in that. Here’s hoping I get that funding for the She Grrrowls festival I’m planning!

Freelance Reflections #58

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.

Freelance Reflections #57

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?

Cat steals student’s chair.

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.

Food is important.

So, to reflect more specifically on this week, focussed purely on Monday to Friday, I’ll break it down:

  1. Eleven and a half hours of teaching (with twelve hours cancelled, which meant I was able to do other work etc…)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Around seven hours of writing student reports, marking books, and planning lessons.
  5. 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.
  6. Two to three hours of content writing, because I massively reduced this.
  7. Around two and a half hours on learning the ukulele.

Then some of the non-work stuff I do:

  1. Around thirty hours sleeping.
  2. Nine hours of downtime (Netflix etc. and reading).
  3. Around seven to eight hours of cooking and eating dinner.
  4. Around four hours of the gym.
  5. Around three hours of language learning (Spanish and Turkish, with the former done over breakfast).
  6. Around three hours of lunch breaks.
  7. Around two and half hours of journaling.
  8. One and a half hours ironing.
  9. One and a half hours cleaning.
  10. One and a half hours food shopping.
  11. One hour washing my hair / bathing.
  12. 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.

Freelance Reflections #56

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?

Freelance Reflections #55

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.

Freelance Reflections #54

So, I got back on the bike and have commuted using it every day I’ve gone out (except Tuesday when it was pissing it down with rain and I got an eye infection so bad I had to cancel work… misdiagnosed as conjunctivitis, but actually an eye ulcer, so I’ll have matching eye scars…) I have realised a few things about me and cycling:

  1. I enjoy going for a bike ride far more than using it as a way to commute.
  2. I’m so wary of roads now, I refuse to go on those with traffic, instead annoying pedestrians and (and annoying myself with how bumpy pavements are), so it takes me at least double the time Google says.
  3. It is only marginally quicker than walking, and I don’t even get to listen to music and podcasts.
  4. I feel so anxious before and during, that after my hands ache from holding the handlebar so tight.
  5. I feel much more visible and self-conscious than when walking, when I feel more like I’m in my own world.

Still, I’m proud of myself for trying, and I will try to use it the days I feel I can, which will likely be Monday and Wednesday. Thursday could work, but will also involve some train travel, and I’m not sure how the cycle from Sutton the the centre I work in will feel.

I’m working seven days in a row this week due to holding stalls last Sunday (pictured), where I sold just one book, and two badges… and tomorrow I’ll be at Camberwell Green’s Farmer’s Market, which is fantastic as they invite one artist a week to have a free table! The other ones were SoLo Craft Fair and I paid £60 a pop, plus the very specific and expensive insurance. Help! I spent the time writing my journal, studying Spanish and Turkish (the latter subject really hurt my head), and then spent the last hour doing this doodle. Time well spent, I suppose…

Last weekend, I bought an SE23 badge for me and two of my SE23 friends, as Forest Hill had open studios as part of Sydenham’s art festival. It was between pub one and two on a pub crawl I did with some friends, where we found a pub with amazing bao buns, and another with karaoke, which usually takes place on Thursdays. It’s my longest day, but maybe a sing-song is just what I’ll need some days. We’ll be back.

Lastly, for anyone in Hastings, I’ll be at The Electric Palace on both Friday 24th and Saturday 25th at 8pm, with the Friday being a film screening, showing my poem ‘Grandad’, amongst others, followed by a Q&A. The Saturday will be a poetry set, and it’ll be the first indoor performance in well over a year since I was doing my ‘Circles’ tour, that was halted just a few months in.

Freelance Reflections #53

Tomorrow I’m back at Between the Bridges for a special LGBT+ events, representing the bisexuals, with books including poetry about relationships with women (Circles) and men (the others). I hope I do better than last time with sales! I’ve also invested in some table clips and different display units. The weather over the weekend looks pretty average, but hopefully some sunny intervals will bring the footfall.

This week I have been thinking about what I can do to create more balance and be more fulfilled in what I do with my time. I feel like I could be close to burnout or become ill if I don’t do something different to protect my free time. After dinner, I’m going to have wind down time, meaning my language learning will be earlier in the day and alternate between Spanish and Turkish. I am also going to cut down on content writing, as it is the least fulfilling work I do, and this will allow me to actually work on the creative projects that are also work (i.e. based on funding, they are equal priority), and I even might find some time then to do the many creative things I want to do that aren’t linked to money! This will also mean I will have less time over weekends that I have to do, so I can do what I really want to do… chill out, read books and magazines, watch films, or just generally do whatever I want to re-energise!

In other news, recently I also got a bike for commutes to students, and I went out to build up my confidence. Typically and ironically, I think I did something to the gears that made the chain loose, and just after having built up the confidence to go on the road, in the pouring rain, thinking back to when I did the same whilst travelling in Laos, and as soon as I turned in towards the pavement, I skidding off the bike, and landed on my thigh and elbow. I tried to fix the chain, but I fell off again. No nobody stopped to see if I was okay, but some guy did shout out from a van, ‘What a hand?’ I saw them smirk as they drove off…

In more cheery news, this week has been very eventful in terms of social stuff too. I was in the live audience for Life & Rhymes, hosted by Benjamin Zephaniah, featuring Lemn Sissay, Salena Godden, AP Staunton, and two young poets I didn’t know about, Y.A. Poet and Simply Sayo, who were all great in their own unique ways. I also went to Crystal Palace International Film Festival on Thursday and one of my favourite films was ‘A Piece of Cake’, so I bought these silver balls as a reference when I went to see my boyfriend last night after watching ‘The Guilty Feminist Live’ at Southbank. Lastly, keep an eye out for events in Hastings, as I’ll be at the film screening on 24th and this Poetics event on 25th September.