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.

Freelance Reflections #51

I’m a little delayed starting up my new music-themed blog series as I’m yet to receive the funding, so have been focussed on the preparation stages, and somehow feeling really busy and overwhelmed despite having hardly any students. I would love to feel on top of things before the school term properly starts, with tutoring easing back next week, and on a full timetable come the second week of September. With the weather looking like storms for ‘Latino Life’, which I would have loved to go to, it’s likely I’ll use tomorrow to do some catching up.

I’ve had some time off to see my gran, who took me to see Amelie and for tapas for my birthday (which was in May). I’ve attended a few meetings, and in the process of arranging more for various aspects of my work, including this week for my work in providing alternative education, and at The Norwich Radical, who I last wrote for here. This Sunday, I’ll also be taking part in the SoLo Craft Fair at ‘Between the Bridges’ at London Southbank, holding a stall with all my books etc.

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I’ve just had to spend £80 for the year on PIL insurance. I don’t do stalls much, and they are costly to do (this one being £60 a pop!), and even then you’re lucky to sell anything or break even on the day costs, not taking into account your own labour. I really hope it goes well, and that we don’t get rained on! The market in Camberwell before was amazing, as even if it did rain, the table was fully covered.

I woke up feeling pretty tired today, and really craving a night in, despite only having really left the flat for food shopping and gym classes. I’m fighting negative body image feelings at the moment too, as despite sometimes having gone to the gym twice a day, I’ve put on weight rather than lost it, and whether it’s muscle or fat or both, I find it hard to see my body as it actually is, and I find it hard to accept that I will probably always have a “belly”, despite trying my best to have a healthy relationship with food and exercise. These feelings stemmed from I ended seeing someone who liked a post because I’d done a #pancakes on Instagram.

They had so many photos of delicious pancakes and claimed they eat them too, yet had unreal body proportions. I hate getting into a mindset like that, but we all have insecurities, and I honestly think that for most people, having a “belly” is normal, and I know my body well enough that I would have to deprive myself of a lot of food to look like that Instagram girl, and I bloody love food; cooking and eating brings me so much joy, and I know that if I ever had a stomach like that, I wouldn’t be in a healthy place physically or mentally. Anyway, I don’t know why I felt like sharing these feelings today, but to end on a cheery note, here’s a screenshot of my Soca class’ Boss Wine, if you can spot me doing one of the things I love the most!

Freelance Reflections #49

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!

Freelance Reflections #36

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.

Freelance Reflections #35

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!

Freelance Reflections #32

Does anyone have actual realistic expectations of what they can do in a given time? I tend to expect too much of myself. I’m going through a particular busy period and have lots of deadlines coming up, meaning I’ll have to do paid work for at least a couple of hours over the weekend just to keep afloat.

Only seven pages in after waiting for a blood test appointment & already recommend it!

Without much else to report than the standard work grind, here are some photos of my food from today. Even when I don’t share photos of my food, I still take them. I’m that obsessed. I’m weird. I don’t believe in depriving myself too much, so all I’m doing is trying to manage my portion size. Today I added cocoa to my porridge. I’ve watched Fed Up, so I try to have half a sugar in my tea (unless I’m hungover), knowing I have a sweet tooth. I blended three kiwis with some water and lemon juice for lunch with a slice of toast and poached egg. For dinner, I cooked some fake meatballs with wine stock, beef stock, herbs and passata sauce. I love writing about food, but it does make you hungry. Aside from the pictured, I’ve had two oranges, a handful of walnut halves, and after over five hours of content writing, broken up with lesson planning and lunch, I had a handful of my pic ‘n’ mix too. I’ve tried to get a monthly sharer bag as I think before I got the biggest size possible! And I did not share.

This past week has been eventful in terms of global events, and not in a good way. After International Women’s Day, some media outlets and general public had the audacity to doubt what Meghan Markle said in the Opera interview. What people also seemed to forget is that Prince Harry was also involved in this. It was disgusting to hear about the comments the Royal Family had made about skin colour, and the media’s comparison between Meghan and Kate is a prime example of misogynoir, combining both sexism and racism, pitting the two women against each other and skewing the perspective negatively when Meghan is shown to be doing the same thing. Things as common as eating avocado.

I posted on Instagram about Reclaim These Streets on Saturday at 6pm at Clapham Common Bandstand, and Reclaim The Fight at 6pm in Trafalgar Square, inspired by Reed of Come Curious, posting messages from my phone of a selection of texts with the words “home safe”. This is a vigil in honour of Sarah Everard, whose tragic case has unravelled this week. On Monday, I was walking through Brockwell Park looking at the posters, and now a police officer has been arrested on suspicion of her murder. I cried when I read about her remains being found in Kent.

Yet the Met police even have the audacity to threaten people attending with fines when we have had many demonstrations in the past year that have gone ahead, observing social distancing, and even an anti-lockdown one that couldn’t give a fuck. Most of us spend our lives just getting on, but it’s times like these that we need to take action.

One of my friends also rightly pointed out that missing black women don’t get as much media attention, which leaves it to us to spread the word through social media and the like. Mariam Khan gave a reminder that Blessing Olusegun’s body was found on a beach in Sussex last year, and despite the death being unexplained, the police are not investigating it.

One last thought that I’ve been made more aware of through social media is the importance of language; we need to stop talking about the women who have been murdered and raped. Instead, we need to say men murder women, men rape women. I am done with this passive language.

Freelance Reflections #20

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.

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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.

Freelance Reflections #15

It’s been over a year since I wrote a freelance reflection, and my 3 year anniversary of being self-employed passed by just recently. Although the current pandemic impacted my work, and meant I had to sadly cancel planned and potential tour dates for my book ‘Circles’, published by Burning Eye Books at the end of 2019, I am now back to my usual work.

I spend mainly my mornings content writing, and my afternoons tutoring. There’s not as much time for creativity as I would like, but I love being freelance and I’ve now moved out of my parental home for the third (and hopefully final) time, living with a friend in South East London. I’d moved to SW around the age of 4/5, so prior to that I had lived around Herne Hill and Norwood, so I feel very at home now, more than I did before.

Part of why I love being freelance is being able to create balance in my life, in a way that isn’t always possible being employed (though it should be, and I think this pandemic has shown how flexible the workplace can truly be). I wake up between 7:30-8am, and after listening to a guided meditation in bed, I’ve started doing my Spanish apps for 15 minutes whilst having breakfast. I digest my food whilst writing my journal, then do some exercise. This has been at home (dancing, hula hooping, skipping, lifting dumbbells, and Nike Training) or outside (jogging, skateboarding, rollerblading), but I’m thinking of joining a gym. After 2-3 hours of content writing, I have lunch and then I have some time for other activities like submitting poems, and studying Spanish. I come home from tutoring between 6:30-7:30pm, depending on the day.

After making my feedback notes, I have dinner and try to spend the evening doing less work-focussed activities. I’ll mess around on my phone, probably a bit too much, watch some sort of programme, and then ideally have some time to do some varied activity, which could include listening to a podcast or music, drawing or colouring in, playing games, chatting, or writing. I also love baths, which I like to have before watching a programme, so this free hour sometimes (often) goes out the window, and then ideally I would read for an hour. I do tend to self-sabotage in the evenings, rebelling against my own structure of the day, and some evenings I’ll go out and do none of these things I plan, but I know when I do follow the structure roughly, it can be really fulfilling.

During the last few months, I’ve been doing some Instagram shows, including with She Grrrowls, my own channel and a couple of other online shows, including Spork, which can be listened to on Spotify, and The Word Bin, where I just talk about why I would bin the word “needy”. I was also commissioned to write a poem about small acts of rebellion during the current pandemic and lockdown, as part of the Royal Museums Greenwich’s Museum From Home series.

I had the urge to look back at my last 5 year plan from 2017 and made a new one. I find it interesting how overly-ambitious I have been, and I’m not sure if I’ve done the same with this new one, but it’s funny to think I had put ‘think about children’ in 2021, and now in 2020, I’ve changed this to ‘freeze eggs’, which I really hope I can do through the donor scheme as I have donated eggs three times now, so this would be my last chance. I’ve included career goals alongside personal goals like this, and imagining I may be able to save for a deposit on a place by the age of 36, and think about children around that time too. I have no idea what situation I’ll be in then, and though it’s a nice idea that I may have a partner to do these things with, in 2017 I had also hoped to move in with my then-partner, and I’m much happier now living with a friend, so there’s no saying that any of these things will make me happy, which really is the most important goal of all.

Freelance Reflections #12

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.

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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?

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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.

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The best bag for work – fits in water bottle and umbrella on each side, doesn’t squish my folders, and has some other little pockets for ease of access (plus a charging section).

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.

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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.

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Found this dress in a vintage shop in Kingston & couldn’t resist!

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.

Freelance Reflections #10

As of last Wednesday, it has officially been a year since I registered as self-employed. I’m in a much better position than I was a year ago when I started. The main battle is with my mind, to stop questioning myself and live how I want to live. I have regular work to keep me going Monday to Wednesday, which spills a little over into Thursday. This means I have  between 3-4 days to focus on other things.

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The challenge is to stick to this routine and give myself permission to do the necessary creative work, and remember that this is a legitimate use of my time, as well as the work that I’m being funded to do for the She Grrrowls book tour. Yet, there are also times where other things come up, the routine gets disrupted… usually with work, but also with other things like seeing friends and family.

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Most recently, I went to Leicester for the She Grrrowls book tour with Joelle Taylor and Esther Poyer. It was a great night and from there I went to see my grandparents in Yorkshire, and my cousin in Nottingham. Last week, I did a week of TEFL work and it was intense. I taught 9am-1pm, had a nice lunch break before leaving to tutor 2.30pm-8.30pm, then did my planning for more tutoring sessions after a quick dinner, leaving just enough time to squeeze in a bit of Spanish and Netflix before doing the same again. It was also National Poetry Day that week, meaning I had an excuse to show a video of Joelle Taylor to the most advance group, tell them about Rallying Cry, and make them do some of their own poetry.

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Things eased up towards the end of the week, but as anyone who’s freelance knows… there’s always more work to do be done, so I filled my time with all the other necessary tasks. I ended the week by hosting She Grrrowls at The Poetry Cafe. It was so busy, I was regretfully having to turn people away or there wouldn’t be room for people who had booked tickets in advance… something I’ll have to think about in future in case of no-shows. A much better problem to have than being in a cold room in New Cross with just a handful of people.

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I took a train to Norwich with a friend, where we celebrated with a group of our uni friends as it has been 10 years since we started at UEA together. I came home to find that poet and artist Scott Tyrrell has completed his map of poets. I managed to wrangle my way onto the East Anglia section, which I’m not sure I am entirely deserving of, but I am proud to be there. Although back in London, Norwich was where I really grew as a writer, studying it in a couple of modules at university, but also being part of the local scene of live lit events thanks to people like Amy Wragg and Russell J Turner. I got to support acts like Francesca Beard and Kate Tempest, and gradually made connections with poets from Aisle 16 like Ross Sutherland and Luke Wright, that saw me getting into working with young people, getting my first pamphlet published by Nasty Little Press, and performing at Latitude. For these reasons, my poetry career has a deep connection with the East of England.

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I don’t get that many gigs to do my poetry, but really this is connected to my ideas of what it means to be a “success”. Really this is a a destination that I will never arrive at, because it doesn’t exist. As a creative, you will always keep striving for more, but really the goal should be continue to make work and do what you enjoy whilst having some kind of stability to enable the work. There are so many ways of doing this, and just because your way is different to someone else’s doesn’t make it any less valid. I want to focus more on creative goals and taking small steps towards bigger things, like the fact I’m going to have two videos from Muddy Feet Poetry in the autumn!

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