One of the catchphrases from my Art Therapy course is to “trust the process”. Whilst I often say such things tongue-in-check, there’s always some truth there too. I’ve accepted some EFL work which looks like it’ll be fun – apparently one of my students has pink hair and likes to wear pink (there I am in the meeting today, head-to-toe in pink!) So, now I’ve gone from being scared about not having enough work, to having too much work. I’m hopeful for another alternative education placement after the next three weeks, but I’ve also been offered an interview for EFL work for Lewisham Council.
I dedicated some time to art making the other day (see above) and I’ve still got some more works-in-progress, but it felt so good to do. It’s all very responsive to the present moment and things that have come up through the course, rather than the ideas I have for specific pieces connected to my poetry, but I trust that will come with time.
I’ve gone from being worried about having no work to being overwhelmed with how to schedule it and having to turn stuff down. Such is freelance life! I’m worried about some of the schedule as I know how tired I get already (I fell asleep at my laptop this week!) but I also know I will be back in a period of uncertainty come December as I’ll lose a lot of students around that time. I’m methodically working my way through my art therapy work, and I’m really enjoying it all and learning a lot. I liked the first piece I sketched for homework, but I also am wondering whether I would be able to make it into a bigger piece.
Aside from some personal upheaval, work and university is on the up. I visited the London Art Therapy Centre and the Bethlem Museum of the Mind, which has been fascinating. I went to ‘We Move’ at London Literature Festival last night with James Cahill, Gurnaik Johal, Arji Manuelpillai and Sheena Patel. I loved the sound of all their work, especially Sheena Patel’s – very relatable, but also the way she spoke was so natural and I felt I really connected with her. The concept of Arji Manuelpillai’s poetry was very thought-provoking, but the poems he shared were also stunning in their own right. Gurnaik Johal’s short stories were inspiring in terms of how to get into the heads of so many characters, and James Cahill’s novel appealed in the context of the location around SE London, and the coming of age story focussed on finding sexuality later in life.
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!
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.
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.
This week and the next, things are winding down, but feeling busy at the same time. I had a relaxing weekend, seeing one of my besties and visiting my gran in Hastings (again) for her birthday, that I seemingly haven’t got round to uploading to Insta. I swam in the sea, and having last seen a friend who moved there the previous weekend as well, it felt good to be back. I love swimming in the sea, and wish I had stayed longer.
Aside from content writing and tutoring, the previous week I hosted another Forest Hill stanza, and got some great feedback on three short poems, and I actually managed to edit them, which I tend to procrastinate about doing.
I also booked an actually holiday. A camping holiday in the UK, so I’ll be praying to the weather gods for sunshine. I don’t have much work in the summer, so I want to make the most of this by focussing on creative goals, as well as cutting down on spending (I’ve realised I’m overspending to a scary level since updating the last three months of finance records to include personal spending) and sit in parks with books and beer, and skate around.
I have also been applying for other work, so let’s see what happens as I do have rent to pay. I’d quite like to post some books, so buy buy buy!
This week I’ve had my energy back for content writing and tutoring, though I’ve got a horrible rash that is itchy and persistent. I’ve also been back at the gym, right in at the deep end with a 7am boxing class. I didn’t think I’d want to go back, but I do, and I’ve since been to a Soca dance class and Legs Bums and Tums. I’ve also started a low-cost therapy, and thought swimming would be good to do afterwards (though I did get stressed out being too slow for the medium lane and too fast for the slow lane!)
Aside from the usual work, I’ve also been applying for another round of funding, I’ve got a confirmed live poetry gig in July, and I’ve had a few poems accepted, with one in particular I’m really excited about coming out! This weekend I covered a creative writing workshop with a small group of children before more birthday celebrations. Sunday went super fast, so I completed a few things on my to-do list between 6pm-10:30pm after having been out in Brixton most of the day.
After a couple of orders for books, I still have plenty more stock available and have just ordered some pink envelopes especially for the ‘Circles’ book, so please do head to my Big Cartel and order a copy. If you’re feeling generous, my latest self-published pamphlet is also available, though probably won’t fit in the pink envelopes.
I’m also on 186,390 steps and need to complete 300,000 by the end of the month to raise money for Leading Lights. It’s a fantastic organisation I work for that provides social care and alternative education for those who aren’t in mainstream school. I still need to do 14-15,000 steps a day to meet the goal! If only I had been ill during the Easter holidays, this would have been far less challenging! Sunday was actually my best day so far, with 17,455 steps. We’re very close to the goal, and it would be lovely to get some messages of support on there for me too!
Last week’s She Grrrowls wasn’t as smooth as usual, but it was nice to see both the poets involved sharing poems, as well as audience members. I made a point of not bringing my laptop away when visiting family in Hastings for a picnic, but ended up writing a draft of a book review for The Norwich Radical on the journey on my phone!
I still worked on Bank Holiday Monday, but on Tuesday I got to use my wetsuit and booties for the first time in the 9-10 degree pool in Brockwell Park. It was so freezing, and strangely difficult to swim more than two lengths at a time. I’d never been in such cold water to my mind.
With less of some work, I’ve been trying to get on top of boring admin tasks, but also been writing a lot more and catching up with NaPoWriMo prompts, as well as attending the amazing Apples and Snakes’ Red Sky Sessions with Bohdan Piasecki, which have so far included Malika Booker and Jacob Sam-La Rose, two absolute poetry heroes.
I found out today that after being longlisted for Butcher’s Dog, I didn’t make the cut, which I’m gutted about. I never expect to be accepted when submitting poems, so to get so close makes it extra disappointing somehow. Then again, it is also all the more reason to try again in future.
To end on a positive note, successfully recorded two poems with Muddy Feet Poetry on Thursday outdoors in Deptford. I had learnt one by heart, and was super nervous, but Pete and Stanley were so lovely and supportive throughout, I felt really happy afterwards.
The main poem we recorded is also part of Free Spirits: Loss in Lockdown, by Jo Sharpe and poet Rachel Sambrooks. There will be a free exhibition at Studio 9 Oaks Park Studios in Carshalton on the 17th and 24th April, which you can register for online on Eventbrite.
It’s a strange experience writing about something like grief and putting it out into the world; sometimes I feel like artists get it because we all do it, but maybe it’s a bit odd to other people, but it is all part of how we process the world and how we connect.
One of the perks of being self-employed is that sometimes it’s possible to change around your schedule. Why might you want to do this? In the middle of a national lockdown that feels like all there really is to do is work, when it hits 20-degrees, that’s the reason.
I worked all Sunday, with my eyes to the weather forecast, and met the necessary deadlines. If anything, I wish I had made the most of that sunny Tuesday even more. I did some work until around midday, then headed out to Brockwell Park to read and sunbathe, after having been there for a sunset stroll the night before, and a morning jog. My partner has a balcony, so after lunch there, I continued reading and eating ice-cream until I needed to leave for work.
The next day, I expected at least another couple of hours of sun, but sadly it was more of a grey day. Still, I went for a read and walk in Dulwich Park, and did a little skateboarding too. I also have a lot of the next couple of weeks to catch up with stuff, and begin to put into action some of the writing and studying routines I want to implement into my daily structure.
I attended the first Zoom workshop for the ‘Red Sky Sessions’ by Apples & Snakes, with Bohdan Piasecki, featuring Malika Booker. She spoke a lot about writing routines, so I really have no excuse to not get started this week. Although Bohdan did also say that my diary writing is a valid form of writing!
I also have some good news about a project that I’ve been accepted onto, which feels really great but I’m unsure if I can reveal the details right now. It’ll involve creating and workshopping new material for a show in the summer months, likely at an outdoor venue.
I’ve also managed to memorise the poem I am recording next week, so I just need to keep going over it to really ingrain it into my mind. I don’t find memorising poetry easy (even when it rhymes, as in this case), but it’s something I want to do more, and really requires daily practice to do. At least, for me, like Malika Booker was saying, having such routines means I actually do it, whilst it’s when I slip out of the routine, or at least that intention, that the danger can be to just NEVER get anything done.
Today, I’ve managed to do the work I wanted to do, and will be exploring a new park for a walk, as well as seeing some family outdoors this weekend, despite the disappointing weather. Next week, I’ll be catching up on emails and my many open tabs, as well as making sure to carve out some time for writing projects, whether that be editing or writing.
Tonight is also the next She Grrrowls Instagram Live show. So far, only one person has signed up, which is my fault for putting the word out too late, but hopefully more messages about signing up with come in today. Either way, the show must go on, and I will be back from my walk in good time to get going with it! I did my Instagram Live ‘Poetry Slumber Party’ on Monday, and if anything, it’s funny seeing my face as I get interrupted by my partner accidentally speaking aloud whilst playing a game, and by a knock at the door!
December always seems to be the time where people start to take stock of the year that’s coming to an end. It is also a time that seems to be extremely busy, making sure to meet deadlines and get everything prepared for the holidays, even though these holidays will be very strange. I don’t like to think about it much as it makes me sad, but I also know I have a lot to be grateful for this year.
I haven’t had time to do much reflection at the moment, so will save that for nearer to the close of the year. Meanwhile, the reflection I have been doing is for how fortunate I am for the work I do. I love working with children one-on-one, and I’ve just started working with a new agency for a 4-hour placement each week, giving tuition to those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to access it. I’ve also started tutoring someone in Spanish, which is great as I am only around B1 level, and they have just started learning.
Today I finally finished Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo. I absolutely loved it, and having recently met with my old She Grrrowls co-host Ibizo Lami, who was listening to it on an audiobook for the second time, I really got the sense that it would be a good book to read again with the knowledge of having read it once. One of the things that I thought was so great about the book was that you would read something from one character’s perspective and agree with them, only to hear a counter-point from another character that made you think in a completely different way. It wasn’t so much about wrong and right, but it held multiple truths in coexistence.
I’ve been enjoying re-listening to all my top tracks on Spotify, and I’m slowly making my way through the ‘On Record’ playlist, which is incredible so far. I listened to Phil Taggart’s Slacker Podcast, interviewing Biffy Clyro, and it just really made me smile and laugh. ‘Switched on Pop’ was really interesting on ‘Unlocking the Rhythms of Rosalía’. A Zach Sang interview with Poppy was weird and wonderful, and I appreciated how she spoke about being softly spoken and commented ‘I like my volume’, when it was brought up. There were a couple of podcast episodes from Skullcandy, including one on Tommy Genesis, and so it was great to hear more about her. The podcast ‘Dissect’ came across as quite robotic in its delivery, but the dissection for Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’ was really intriguing.
I watched ‘Prince Avalanche’, which was a really moving story of two brother-in-laws painting road lines, which was equal parts hilarious. I want to share more about the things like this that I come across. I feel like I haven’t really achieved the things I wanted to this year, but seeing as we’re in a pandemic, maybe I should give myself a break and appreciate the things I have done. Next year, I would like to focus less on productivity and more on carving out the time for my creative practice as well as my more regular, paid work, and to have more time on Sundays for reading and relaxing and maybe even watching more films.