Last night was the first She Grrrowls at Catford Mews, and despite a few teething issues, it was a great night. Although it can be hard to be present when running an event, it was such that I was able to really listen and be with the words, with incredible features Lateisha Davine Lovelace-Hanson and Marianella Lopez, such glorious open mic acts and audience members. You can see the joy emanating from the picture below.
My work schedule is changing again, and with this I’m considering that I need to make more rules for myself. These rules are to help me balance and avoid over-working. At the moment, I’m not handling stress well, and I’m currently writing this in the bath, fully aware I need to work on all sorts of boundaries. I only have Tuesday evenings consistently off. It’s not enough. I’m using tomorrow’s extra-long train journeys to read course material and write a book review.
I have committed to Sundays until mid-June, but I think I need to either just do one weekend day of tutoring, or continue to do the Lego Parties as my only fortnightly weekend work commitment. But to do that, I need a consistent amount of weekday work. I have my first totally solo party tomorrow, so I think that will be a deciding factor going forward, weighing up whether the fun factor and variety is worth the increased risk of germs when I could tutor at a nearby location. I’ve also scattered my language learning goals throughout the week in order to protect my Sunday afternoons for art making. It’s all still trial and error.
Living amongst boxes and furniture everywhere is making things difficult at the moment. On paper, I thought I could cope, but in reality, passing the month-mark soon, it does put a strain on your mental health, not to mention struggling with issues to do with being neurodivergent, where it’s coming to light that I find certain social conventions difficult to understand, and particular situations overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. Still, we move. All I can do is try to offer what I feel I can to those in my life, and try to be more present, knowing that this too shall pass. I’ve been using films a lot to escape, using my Everyman membership, attending free film previews, and the CPIFF (Crystal Palace International Film Festival).
A fellow Art Therapist Trainee has organised the above exhibition, so I thought I would share the private view information. With a slight change of running, we will have Lateisha Davine Lovelace-Hanson and Marianella Lopez both sharing new work at She Grrrowls at Catford Mews on Thursday 16th March, plus the short film screening. Buy tickets to the Catford Mews She Grrrowls here. To sign up for the open mic (there’s just two spots left), email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, pronouns, and short bio / sentence to introduce you with. In other news, I’ve been long/short listed for a couple of competitions, so I’m excited about the potential of that!
Last weekend I got to see the Tate Modern’s Yayoi Kusama exhibition. Although the exhibition itself was a smaller scale than I imagined, consisting of only two rooms, I was gifted the experience for Christmas and it was combined with a lunch. The food of her namesake was Japanese-inspired and it all felt so special. Amongst the chaos of everyday life, I felt I could be present.
With the news of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, it’s been a personally challenging week, with my partner being Turkish. The destruction is unimaginable and the death toll is currently over 22,765 across both countries. It has been a massive shock to process, yet with gratitude that his immediate family were not more so impacted.
Work this week has been disjointed; lots of cancellations for various reasons, tuition taking place in an exclusion centre rather than school, days moved, and I’ve been overwhelmed with the amount of students in need of alternative education placements.
After a young girl told me in an emotional and dramatic state that she would never draw flowers again, it seemed poignant that she incorporated them into her work as we made a colour-coded key to label different parts of speech in a sentence. Education is hugely important to me, but a lot of the time I feel more drawn to working with children in a therapeutic way, because otherwise there are so many barriers that many face in their learning.
In other news, I’ve got two events in March – the Forest Hill Poetry Stanza at Mozart London in Anerley on Friday 3rd March, and She Grrrrowls is back for International Women’s Day with a spoken word event at Catford Mews on Thursday 16th March. Watch this space for news on acts and tickets! The Stanza open mic is available to book for free on Eventbrite.
So, I’ve had four/five days off for Christmas. I developed a sore throat on Christmas Day, which was the best time to get it in terms of work, as aside from travelling to Kent and back, then around Nottingham and Barnsley before heading back to London yesterday afternoon, it meant I could rest and also binge The Traitors. I didn’t think a reality show would captivate me so much, but it was really psychologically interesting, especially in terms of group influence. I was back to official paid-for work today as I’ve had a student.
Aside from this, I’m looking forward to a New Year as I enjoy intention-setting and the freshness of the occasion gives permission to indulge in a celebratory Chinese takeaway before a future of experimenting with various spices on lentil, chickpea, pulses, and vegetable dishes for the foreseeable future. I have an abundance of washing products, a few experiences to entertain me, and a bit of cash to get some groceries to help me with my cabbage budget now I need to save over £500 a month.
The last week has whizzed by, and yet my work schedule is still up in the air. It looks like I may be securing some work for next year, which is positive and I’m looking to do more alternative education in the daytime. However, balancing these placements with other work and university work… it’s looking like my relaxing Sundays will be when I catch up on course reading and art making (also a requirement for the course as well as the profession of being an Art Therapist).
Yesterday, I went to see the Soheila Sokhanvari ‘Rebel Rebel’ exhibition at The Barbican. An Iranian artist, it feels like a really important exhibition, especially poignant in these times with the femicides and protests in Iran. The exhibition is on until 26th February 2023. Featuring female actors and singers from Iran, each portrait is accompanied by a snapshot of their life story, which you can read about on the gallery website, often filled with details of exile, imprisonment, violence and mistreatment.
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.
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!
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.
A nice round number for this exciting news! I will be starting up a new blog series on here as I just found out that I have successfully gained funding through Arts Council England’s Developing Your Creating Practice scheme, which funds established artists to explore a new direction of art.
I found out the news whilst in Cornwall last Wednesday, when aside from my usual content writing, I only had ten students across the whole month, so it’s certainly kept me busy on my return! I had pictured myself in parks with books and beer a lot more this month, but it’s also nice to be able to pay the rent!
My funding is for me to explore music with spoken word poetry, which will involve me learning the ukulele, learning some basic music programming software, and interviewing some poets who have also worked with music. I’ll write more next time in the new blog series, which will be focussed on that.
I’ve been doing a lot of planning and reworking ideas so far, alongside content writing and my Stanza group. August seems to be slipping away, and with lots going on, I better get on with everything else on today’s agenda.
It’s been about a month since I’ve written here. At the moment, I feel as if a big mountain has piled up and I’m still working my way over it. I’m slowly getting on top of things that I tend to avoid doing, whether it’s admin stuff or less important things that I do out of my own interest. The admin stuff involved sorting through papers (I missed one pile under my bedside cabinet and another near my computer is creeping up once more), and I’m still a few months behind on my fiance records. I did do my self-assessment though as I had all my records from October 2017-April 2018! I just need to pay them and inform the tax credits people.
Like bits of paper, emails can also pile up, so I got on top of those and the numbers in my inbox are creeping up once more. Today I’ve had a fellow freelancer round mine and I’ve sewn some things I hadn’t got round to sewing and updated my scrap books. I know I’ll be working Saturday due to doing this, and having spent much of yesterday studying and completing my Spanish assessment, but if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have had a day like this and I think it is just what I needed. Another thing I will probably leave for over the Christmas holidays (when I don’t have students) is taking quotations from books. I actually used to be really good at posting these online, as well as a few snippets of my own stuff. Why wait for New Year’s Resolutions to get back on these habits?
I’ve had a cold for a couple of weeks. As a freelancer, obviously you don’t get sick days. Or rather, you don’t get paid sick leave. It never got too bad that I felt I couldn’t do any work, but the day of the Bristol tour date I wasn’t feeling up to travelling home the next day and then doing lessons the same evening, so I cancelled them. When it came down to it, I ended up doing some content writing at home to make up for the loss of income. I still socialised when I was ill, and never really rested properly, which was probably why it dragged on for so long. At times, I began to feel feverish and worried I was getting worse, but three weeks on, I’m back to my usual self.
Another thing that I did, whilst probably feeling at my worst, was go all the way to the other end of the Northern line (my nearest tube station, still buses away). This was to get my photograph taken for an agency for being a supporting artiste. It meant hours out of my day for a very short thing that may come to nothing, but it could also provide some fun days out for some alright money. Another thing I’m doing for extra cash is tutoring a mature university student. Other than that, it’s more or less the same stuff I’m doing.
In terms of poetry, I actually recently judged a poetry slam at a university, which was a great experience. It was lovely to hear how varied these young voices were and providing feedback for them was really enjoyable because of how talented they all were. We got some flowers and chocolates as judges and felt very special on that day. Otherwise, spending more time on my own writing is one for the New Year’s Resolutions, especially with the Christmas break coming up as I’ll be trying to to get a bit of income whilst also read more into the texts that my GCSE student is studying so I can do my best to help her.
The She Grrrowls Autumn 2018 Book Tour is now over, with the last event ending in Hackney and ending on a real high. Tonight is the final She Grrrowls event of the year, and we’ll be back in February at The Poetry Cafe, which I am so happy about! It has been a struggle for years, changing venues a lot, but I hope it continues to thrive in this wonderful space. Now I just need to complete the evaluation for ACE and plan the next steps for the ideas I have for She Grrrowls.