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.
Today marks 6 months since I’ve been officially self-employed. My journey started when I got offered a freelance teaching job (EFL), though you could say it started seven years ago when I began my MA in Creative Entrepreneurship, though you could also say it started over a decade ago when my college friend Anya Destiney took me to an Apples & Snakes open mic, then again, you could also say it started when I wrote my first poem as a child and started to make an anthology with my parents compiled in a plastic folder, or you could say it started when I was born and named Carmina, Latin for poetry.
Anyway, being freelance is something I have wanted to do for a long time, yet it is scary taking the first step as it goes against much of what I feel I’ve been encouraged to do by my parents and society as a whole. Really, being self-employed is something we should be taught at school, especially when it comes to avenues that tend to work in this way, such as studying creative arts subjects. Although I don’t believe study should be so focused on the career, it would certainly make these subjects more practical and viable when thinking of the future, especially when it comes to A-level and university.
I thought I would start a series of reflective blog posts for several reasons. Firstly, I appreciate the honesty and transparency from other creatives about how to survive and thrive in this world, and there are many ways to do so and I would like to share what I’m doing in order to help others starting out. This is why Paula Varjack’s Show Me The Money was so great. Secondly, it helps my own practice as an artist to reflect on what I’m doing. I currently do this by writing a list of activities and goals in an Excel spreadsheet (I love spreadsheets) but, as a woman of words, I craved a more thoughtful expression of these reflections that are more than just time management.
To summarise, my income currently comes from various different streams. The idea is that my main income will be from tutoring and teaching on a part-time and freelance basis. This is a mixture of EFL, English and 11+. For the past six months, this has actually been a slow progression to building clients, and I’ve been doing a lot of copywriting to keep me afloat. Although not as well paid as I would like, I would be making next to nothing if it wasn’t for that work. I’ve been losing money from events (paying artists and the sound technician) and made a small amount from sharing my own work, and selling books. I’ve also donated eggs, which has seen me compensated with £750. You can do this a maximum of three times. Mostly, I’m doing anything I can grab my hands on, including some exam invigilation, which I found really difficult as my legs ached so much as I struggled with the boredom!
To think about ending this post, I’m going to just review this past week in more detail. I began the week planning my set for a 30 minute set and rehearsing in my bedroom. I spent a couple of hours writing my diary before getting on with some admin. I had a massive backlog of emails, so I indulged in spending a big chuck on these first few days going over the emails and actioning on them where required, meaning reading and signing a contact, and arranging phone calls etc. I didn’t have my usual tutoring that week, so I met up with my Spanish exchange that evening a couple of stops away on the train.
On Tuesday, it was a similar day with rehearsing and emails, sending invoices to get paid etc. I did some content writing and booked travel and accommodation for a trip to Liverpool with a friend, partly a birthday celebration, and also to attend a joint event between Shy Radicals and Shrinking Violets. I also arranged travel and accommodation for a training day in Cambridge, as I’m going to be an assessor for an A-level paper this summer, marking around 200 scripts.
One of the things I love about being freelance is getting up when I want (though I do need to be more strict with my bedtime!) and being able to start the morning with exercise which I like to do regularly for both my physical and mental health. Thursday was a very similar day, but in the evening I had the opportunity to support Sabrina Benaim at Bush Hall, which was a high I rode on for the next few days. The audience of around 400 people was incredibly supportive, and I felt like I really connected with them. At the end, when people queued for Sabrina, I was also invited into photographs and signing books and tickets – so exciting!
The previous week I had dedicated my first chunk of time to writing my own work, where I’m trying to write my first spoken word show. This Friday I tried to dedicate a couple of hours to writing, but I ended up just saving documents from my phone noes to word, and submitting a few poems to magazines and anthologies with upcoming deadlines. That evening I had a social event, but also went to support my friend’s band called Black Palms as an audience member. The next day was quite a contrast, with my last working day being a stall at Balham Bowls Club. Although well attended and nice to be a part of, I only sold one book, having paid £35 to do the stall. It’s swings and roundabouts.
I’ve just arrived back from being away with family, so starting a fresh week today!
Last week I said goodbye to headCRASH Cabaret at The Birdcage in Norwich, at least for a few months. I was the headline act and my boyfriend came to see me for the first time with his friend, both relatively new to the poetry thing. There were loads of people from UEA, mostly patrons of the Creative Writing Society. It was hard to speak to everyone but I managed to chat to a good few people.
From the newbies view, Andy Bennett and Amy Staniforth were the highlights (aside from me, but they couldn’t really say I wasn’t the favourite haha). All in all, it was nice to have a couple of drinks (one being free) and see some poetry. I messed up a bit of my set but was happy enough with it, having not performed for a while. The only bad thing was that it cost me an extra £20 because of some mess with the Job Centre and delayed trains meant I missed my Megabus. I really need to be getting paid for my gigs. I think it would be good to aim for around £25 for 10 minutes and under, £50 for 20 minutes, and £100 for 30 minutes and over.
In addition to this “goodbye” have been a few “hellos”. This week I started the MACE course at UEA London (MA in Creative Entrepreneurship) and I also had my induction at Sainsbury’s. I have my first proper shift on Saturday and I am really nervous! I don’t know why, I shouldn’t be nervous, I’m confident I’ll be fine but I just can’t seem to help it! I think after the first day I’ll be fine, it’s just things like lockers, extra uniform and booking holidays that I need to sort out! I’m reaaallly excited about the MA though and I can’t wait to get started with the work tomorrow. My boyf is visiting atm so I’m not going to knuckle down until tomorrow.