Freelance reflections #13

Well, it’s a new year and the perfect time for reflection – though having always worked in education, I always see September as a good time as well. In fact, I think it’s important to reflect on how things are going, which is obviously why I started this blog series! I finally started the bullet journal that a friend got me a while back, and I’m going to see how well it works in combination with my current system of using my iCalendar. I used to use an Excel spreadsheet, but I think I need to better utilise this in combination with my calendar system for specific tasks such as submitting work. For example, I have put ‘submissions’ into my calendar to repeat for an hour a week, but I would be better to work through these in my spreadsheet. What I’ve been doing instead is just having the tabs open, which is less effective, cluttered and stress-inducing.

Despite being happy with the work I’m doing, as I’m thinking of moving out of my parents’ place, I am becoming concerned that my income needs to be higher. I’ve applied for a few poetry jobs – one editor role and a producer role. I’m even thinking about applying for more part-time EFL work, and have gone for one that is three days a week… the issue is that it is 20 hours, and this often refers to contact hours rather than total hours, so lesson planning could mean that more of my time is eaten up. I think I’m still questioning what I’m doing too much rather than just getting on with things and enjoying it.

When thinking of the year ahead, I’ve used the bullet journal to plan poetry-related activities as the other work I do is pretty consistent. There’s a couple of key submission deadlines at the end of February, so I really want to focus on getting these two projects I’m (supposed to be) working on completed by then. This means that the show stuff might have to wait until the beginning of March, but I’m sure that time will come around quicker than expected! When I wrote out all my goals on the yearly timeline, it made it easier to see. I need deadlines in order to actually make things happen creatively, otherwise I tend to let the paid work takeover.

I have found myself being annoyed when people ask about work, especially when there is an assumption that you are only working when you ‘go out’ to work. In fact, most of the work I do is at home, and most of the time I ‘go out’ to work is spent travelling rather than teaching (with the exception of maybe one day when I have three students). Planning lessons is work. Marking is work. Content writing is work. Checking emails is work. Writing poems is work. Updating bloody financial records is work (this is what I spent all day yesterday doing, finished with a bit of content writing and admin). When I am at home, I spend a majority of the time working, so even if I’ve been at home all day, it is pretty damn safe to assume that YES I have been working.

Being freelance means I work every day, and I choose to do that because it means I can be more flexible at times. Sometimes I have to fit things around work, and sometimes work can fit around other things I want to do. I would love to have more rules for myself about what work I do on a Sunday (ideally these would be reserved for reading, writing and relaxation), but at the moment they are just another day I can fill with things I want to get done. By implementing a slightly better system, I hope this year that I can work more towards spending time in a way that is closer to my ideal, because certain tasks end up piling up because they’re not “important”, then they just seem like such a mountain to climb. These things that pile up tend to be the financial record keeping, my scrapbooking, and copying quotations from books I’ve read (instead, I prefer to read more books and add more to this pile).

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I’m really happy with how the year is going so far. In fact, I’m going to break down what I’ve been up to each day briefly.

1st: I’d been at a small gathering with three others for NYE and it was perfect. I woke up without a bad hangover. When I have a really bad hangover, it tends to be the only time I do actually have a day of relaxation, because I’m physically forced into it. However, this day, I met my friend for brunch and then we went for a walk through Clapham Common. I spent the afternoon writing until past 11pm.

2nd: I hadn’t finished the writing I’d wanted to do, so I also write this day after starting the morning off with Zumba. I also did some admin, such as telling the tax credits office about my actual earnings since completing my self-assessment. I went through some emails before seeing my first student of the year, then spent the evening marking work that I’d collected from another student. I added a prompt for the ’12 Days of Form’ writing group I’m in, for the next day, and finished at 10:30pm.

3rd: I had my final session with one student in the morning. I’d stayed up late the night before watching a film, so I was a bit tired. I came home to do some planning and marking, and had to do a quick update on my ACE evaluation before doing some more writing. After working through a few more emails, I then met friends for dinner and a final festive celebration with a panto.

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4th: I did Zumba again, after writing the poem of the day. I then spent just six hours updating my records. It took me a lot less time than I expected, so that was great. I did some content writing and some admin for She Grrrowls. Still allowing myself some time to wind down from the holidays, I watched another film before reading in bed (this last activity is one I want to get into better habits with).

5th: Today I have been to the gym (I last went on NYE – go me!), written the poem of the day, and I’m about to have lunch, get ready, and go to Words Aloud in Sutton. It’s a great time to go to an open mic when you’ve not got plans. It’s quite local to me and my mum’s even offered to give me a lift! Then I’m meeting a friend from college for the 30th birthday of our old friend. It’s fancy dress and I’m using the ‘growing up’ theme for an excuse to wear all my old dance gear, tap shoes and all!

Tomorrow I’ll get working on those piles!

Happy New Year!

Why I Don’t Believe in Diets

So, the video above is from a poem that was published by Nasty Little Press in the Podium Poets #1 anthology, in partnership with Spread the Word. We’re all familiar with the “New Year, New You” cliché and I wrote this poem after being sick of the post-holiday obsession over weight, perpetuated by adverts that play on our insecurities.

This year we saw the epitome of this came with Protein World’s advertising campaign, below. Now, it’s not so much as this is anything new, but it was more that it’s the last straw. These kinds of messages are so insidious and as much as I refuse to let them get to me, they do. Please, come up with a new way to sell your shitty weight-loss products. I mean, the product in itself is something I loathe.

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I’m even embarrassed to admit that I was conned into getting some “free” weight-loss tablets that ended up giving me heartburn and a hole in my bank account instead. I really paid for my stupidity as I could only get half the cash back after telling them what awful human beings they are. But really I think this shows how difficult, but imperative, it is to rebel against these kinds of campaigns.

So, when I was on my second membership to Move Your Frame and saw them post the same rhetoric, but this time linked to exercise, I vowed not to go there again. I mean, at least a weight-loss product is all about unrealistic expectations and isn’t trying to be something it’s not. But for a company whose message is meant to be about keeping fit, being healthy and being active in a fun way to jump on board the body-shaming bandwagon, it’s just a whole other shade of wrong.

Kate Tempest & Hollie McNish: Reclaim Touch from RANDOM ACTS on Vimeo.

One of my favourite poetry videos is the collaboration between Kate Tempest and Hollie McNish ‘Reclaim Touch’. I think more of this honesty is needed in our rebellion against the diet and weight-loss industry.

This was meant to be a short post, but I also wanted to mention Juliette Burton who spoke about Protein World during a panel at Feminism in London. I had already come across her on the Twitter-sphere, but hearing her in person was a privilege. She spoke about her experience with eating disorders, where at her lowest weight she was just 4 stone and a UK size 4, or the infamous US size 0. She was a month away from dying when she was the size that it is said that 11-17 year old girls are encouraged to desire, stating how advertising is the wallpaper of our lives. She also became an overeater and increased her weight to 19 stone, at a size 20, which had an impact on her mental health and resulted in feelings of suicide. She was able to find a healthy medium, but also suffered from bulimia. Here you can see why this matters.

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I write this as I’ve been too busy to go to the gym over the last few months. But I decided not to make myself feel guilty about it, and accept that I would get back into a routine when the time was right. Being so busy, I spend a lot of time walking anyway, and on New Year’s Day, after a lot of guiltless indulgence, I went on a 3/4 hour walk from Kingston Hospital to Kew Gardens and around the illuminated trail. Tomorrow I plan to do some dancing in my house, I’m going to a spa with my mum on Saturday, and then on Sunday I plan to return to the gym. But I will continue not to diet – the idea in itself an illogical concept where it’s a known fact that any weight loss is put back on. Instead, I will eat healthily, treat myself to nice things like chocolate, and exercise regularly to keep physically and mentally fit!

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New Year’s Eve: Resolution Time

I had a mini-meltdown last night after a syncing error deleted five notes and I could only remember two. However, I knew the most important one was the one about my goals – a refreshment from my five year plan, which I created back in 2012.

I achieved some of the things on it, such as getting published by Nasty Little Press, and performing at festivals like Latitude and Bestival. However, I have to say that working in the job I’ve been in the past three and a half years has kept me from achieving some of the things I might have done had I worked on a more part-time basis. Arguably, I could have made better use of holidays, but you can’t be productive all the time, and relationships need nurturing, holidays need to be had.

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I’ve made a detailed plan for what I want to achieve in the first half of the year:

  • Save £2,000 more
  • Start learning Spanish regularly (Duo Lingo, Rosetta Stone, Hive Meetings)
  • Volunteer to teach English at work and outside of work
  • Roundhouse project
  • Writing: more poems, novel and show
  • Prepare manuscripts for publication in 2017

In August/September I hope to apply for jobs in Spain. Some may argue that I should just keep plodding on, maybe ask to go part time, find a more suitable job in the creative industries, or just jump right in and go freelance. However, I’m still relatively young and have friends who have done similar things, or are doing similar things. I’ve always tried to push myself out of my comfort zone, and if I land somewhere like Madrid, maybe I could end up making my poetry more global. I may move more slowly than others, but that’s okay. In some ways the things I want to do go against my nature, but more than anything I need to enjoy the journey, appreciate the present and manage to keep the future in mind without that being my focus.

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I am a creature of habit, but new habits can be made and old ones can be broken. I’m thinking that my priorities for 2016 will look a little something like this (aside from the day job):

  1. Reading and writing
  2. Volunteer work (running clubs, EFL/EAL teaching)
  3. Physical and mental health
  4. Learn Spanish
  5. Performing/recording new poems

So, a Happy New Year to all!

I plan to have a quiet one with my boyfriend Matt, having a take-away and walking to a quiet patch to maybe have a drink on a picnic blanket if the weather is nice. I’ve also booked us tickets for ‘Christmas at Kew’ on New Year’s Day!

Christmas Catch-Up and a Cuppa

Grab yourself a cup of tea and join me for a much needed Christmas catch-up! I’ve not written in over a month as I’ve been so busy. Now I’m writing I can’t think of much that is new. But what is new is pretty big!

My major news is that I have now found out my grade for my Creative Entrepreneurship MA – DISTINCTION!! I was feeling nervous so am relieved and happy with my result! I can now either wait until July for the congregation, or pick up my certificate in February  I’m not sure which to do as I won’t know many people there – if anyone!

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Secondly, I performed my piece at The Gallery Cafe for ‘Word’s A Stage’. I was really pleased with how it went and spoke to lots of lovely people afterwards who showered me and my fellow poets with kind compliments and conversation.

I performed the piece again at The Place, in Bedford, as a part of ‘New Write Nights’. As I had work the next day I had to dash off during the interval. The organiser was kind enough to be my taxi for the night and I got paid expenses so it was great to get out from London for something different. I also met a woman called Jan, who works for the Arts Council and I had the pleasure of talking to her on the train back.

Here is the feedback I got from the night at The Gallery Cafe:

Carmina’s piece was nicely written and touching. I enjoyed how she used the tube stops as beats.

Great! Really interesting combination of content with structure (circular) – worked really well to express emotion of a breakup. But slight overuse of pop culture references, I thought (didn’t add anything).

Great [illegible word – simile?]. It flowed lovely. Would love to hear more. I love the excellent references. Q: What is your main influences [sic]?

Beautiful & moving, really drew me in.

Great control, structured by the underground stations – would love to read it. Wonderfully consistent rime [sic] scheme.

Nice – great use of the train journey as a structure for the piece. Some beautiful lines – “not trying to make you jealous – I want you to come back.” Lovely delivery, could perhaps play more with pace. Reflecting in the Indian meal for example, this is a bright moment.

Beautiful – train lines like a web was wicked and revisiting this was great – you had my stomach in knot. Very powerful.

Really liked the Circle Line framing for this piece – something all Londoners can relate to – as well as the excruciating heartbreak too.

Carmina’s words just escaped being too tragic to bear. The train metaphors link could mesh more.

Graceful, passionate, emotive, soulful, honest, scarred.

I’m feeling the urge for a clearing as I have a few scraps of paper and books etc. under my bedside cabinet that needs sorting. I have pieces of poetry in books, on my iTouch and on the tip of my tongue. I started a novel in November but will need to save that for the future, having written no more than 5,000 words.

For now, I’m awaiting the response of the Arts Council for my funding application for my event for Poetry & Paint. The event will go ahead nevertheless, but funding would make an amazing difference. It will be quite intense organising the event for March 31st 2013 but I’m confident I can do it. I’ll also be making a book to go along with the event and act as a kind of programme, showcasing the featured artists as well as others that have produced work for the concept and a piece introducing the topic and outlining why it is important for writers to engage with other artforms.

So, with the new year approaching, I am concentrating on this event, as well as working towards gaining a publisher for my own poetry. I also want to focus on extending the piece I did for ‘Word’s A Stage’ to a full-length show, and from Spring, look at setting up more regular events. I also want to reflect on my Arts Plan to see how much progress I’m making.

As for my new years resolution; it can be summed up by two words: appreciate life.

At times I have been overwhelmed, taken too much on,
burned the candle at both ends,
felt like I was losing friends,
and before I knew it the year was gone.

To a new year, and truly appreciating life.

xxx

New Year; Same You, But With Added Shine, A Slicker Rhyme…

A belated happy new year!  I have just handed in my coursework today and have lots of news to share.  Christmas, by the way, was wonderful – the best ever!  Here’s me celebrating family-style with some of my new clothes (Primari aka Primark).

The first news story is a sad one.  I write this blog for my website but I also post it in other places, and one of these places, Inked-In, is closing down because some company is taking over and wants all the rights to the content.  Totally out of order.  Not happy.  I’ll probably stop writing on there now because I want to have the rights to my content thanks.

Anyway, onward and upward!  I have found an amazing function on Excel that means I don’t have to use this Smartsheet thing I was using that ended up being a free trial and asked me to pay for it.  As if.  So yeah, genius that I am, I figured out you can sort a to-do list on Excel; my list is sorted by the ‘status’ (i.e. whether it’s been started or is complete) then by the due date, and then by a daily ordering system, should I need to do work on something that has a due date way in the future.  It’s not a waste of time either, as I have now completed 44 tasks, and started it maybe a couple of months ago.

For new years eve, Matt and I popped round to my friend Jo’s house for a bit because she now lives about 20 minutes walk away from me!  She used to live in Hammersmith so it’s great she’s so close now.  It took us a bit longer as I took a wrong turn, but good to know for future reference as last time my mum was my taxi.  Jo had fireworks and it was a bit scary but also very pretty and overall, amazing.

Matt and I celebrated our 6 month anniversary on January 2nd at Los Amigos and it was delish.  We also saw a ‘Havana Club’ sign which was cool because we met at a club in Norwich called Havana (now called Kartel).  It was a bit quiet but we had a lovely time.

On that note, I’ll say a little about new years resolutions.  Now, I’m the kind of person that’s always trying to self-improve… a kind of perfectionist, I guess.  So, new years resolutions are something I try to do at various points in the year anyway. That said, my main aims for 2012 are as follows:

– Read more poetry.  Well, read only poetry, aside from non-fiction books used for study, and the occasional fiction book for if I want a break from just poetry.
– Resume my exercise routine.  Try to go to the gym 1 or 2 times a week, and do at least 15 minutes of exercise in the morning before breakfast.
– Keep up a regular beauty regime.  Cleanse, tone, (exfoliate), moisturize.
– The last two points means I need to get early nights.  And wake up early-ish.  If I don’tget enough sleep I get lazy.

And now, for some poetry news.  Firstly, I wanted to say how great it is that Dean Atta has shot to fame, so to speak, after posting ‘I Am Nobody’s Nigger’ online.  As I stated on Twitter, I guess I’ve been “deeply immersed in the world of spoken word,” (quoting The Guardian) because I remember Atta being a regular name since I started out in around 2006.

Not wanting to draw too many comparisons, but, I had previously read Carol Ann Duffy’s Stephen Lawrence tribute poem and been disappointed.  I actually began to have a go myself but am yet to finish it.  I just found her poem too obvious, and lacking emotionally.  And it is a great shame because I have enjoyed Duffy’s work since my GCSEs (though I was disappointed at her reading at the AQA Anthology show).

In terms of my poetry news… I’ve been shortlisted for a £1000 fund on IdeasTap.  My idea may be more suited to another IdeasTap fund I’ve applied for since, and I feel unlikely too get the one I’ve been shortlisted for as it’s quite a long shortlist!  I’ve also been accepted to be a Peer Mentor for Shake the Dust for the Eastern region.  It’ll be really great to give younger poets advice and support, and take part in the regional finals – and I’d love to be a judge!  I probably should have mentioned my judging experience with Scroobius Pip!  It’ll no doubt be a great experience anyway.  I may not have been accepted as a Poet Shadow, but I’ve got the next best thing.  I’ve also applied for the Charles Pick Fellowship at UEA, starting in October.  Thinking about the prospect of being accepted for that excites me too much!  Wish me luck on my endeavours!

xxx

New Years Resolutions

-Cut down on drinking! Say no to hangovers!

-Take time to relax – listening to music, baths, meditation.

– Read more books and less on the internet.

– Move on more from past relationships and let go of negative emotions, accept change.

– Make an effort to learn poetry by heart more.

– Save money.

– Exercise more.

– Don’t stress out when things don’t go to plan.

– Don’t get too hung up on guys. Have fun and don’t get hurt too easily when it doesn’t work out.

– Write more and edit… a bit.

– Tell people how you feel and don’t bottle too much up.

– Try to exude confidence and feel good vibes.