Freelance Reflections #85

This week has been very up and down with work. I’ve still had cancellations, which has made me worry about payment. At times, I’ve also felt stressed, which has impacted on how productive I’ve been able to be, or how productive I’ve felt. It’s not been possible to make up any lost hours financially this week, and yet I also can’t schedule anything in the time I’m committing to the students I have. Given the change to PAYE with one of the agencies I work with, there also seems to have been complications with getting paid for the hours I’ve actually worked, and last night I found I was taxed around half of my earnings, so was straight on the phone to HMRC this morning, who picked up just as I finished my washing up, so at least I’m getting things sorted!

Looking forward to reviewing these from Whisky & Beards when things are more settled!

Last Saturday, I spent the morning lesson planning, and after a fun visit to Specsavers, I finished my course reading and a Safeguarding workbook (and 3.5 hours of safeguarding training the day before!) Sunday afternoon, after stocking up on some food, I went through emails and sorted out the work admin for some of the other new casual PAYE work I’m taking on. Art making was sadly left until the end, so it wasn’t until nearly midnight that I finished.

Appreciating a sunset with fellow Art Therapist Trainees

As well as tutoring and waiting for students who didn’t turn up, I was back at university this week. Of course, one particular day of cancellations, I thought I’d take a walk and call a friend, only to become overwhelmed later that day. I got prepared for an upcoming debate by researching materials, but still need to do the much-needed reading and note-taking! I also had a lot of meetings, following on from my dyspraxia diagnosis, where I’m hoping to qualify for some support! I also had two intense interviews! One for a tutoring agency and one for a poetry opportunity! Now I’m going to walk to Crystal Palace and make use of my free tickets with the cinema membership I got for Christmas!

Once again, if you’re able to support me on my journey to becoming an Art Therapist, please consider buying my books or sharing stuff on social media, likewise with my crowdfunding campaign.

Freelance Reflections #84

Sure enough, the work is coming in, so I am trying to schedule it so I can also not burnout, creating balance whilst making some necessary sacrifices. This means I’m absolutely not doing any work on Tuesday evenings as I’m at uni on Mondays and Tuesdays, so I need this time to recover, have some down time with fellow students, and reflect. So my schedule of students is currently 2 hours on Mondays, 6 hours on Wednesdays, 2 hours on Thursdays (with 3 more pending) and 3 hours on Fridays. Plus some LEGO parties on weekends, and I’ve just signed up for a Living Wage events staff role!

Despite the positive turn of events, I’ve also have lost out on a big chunk of my income this week as one of a student I’m now seeing 6 hours a week has not been able to attend for the week, and unfortunately the agency won’t pay me anything for this time… which I could also do with using as preparation time as I will need to re-read the novel being studied (Purple Hibiscus, which I have read before at least!) I was able to make a little more money to compensate for this loss of income by doing some last-minute EFL cover!

Polka dots for poetry

I got to host an Apples & Snakes Work From Home workshop, and I had some positive feedback from people who attended (between 40-50 people joined I think!) and although I proved to be a little rebellious with my form samples, I absolutely loved it! Hopefully you can see I’m working hard (and also trying to rest hard… rather than party hard)! If you would like to help me on my journey to become an Art Therapist, please donate to my crowdfunding campaign, and/or buy some books, and/or share my links!

Freelance Reflections #82

So, I’ve had four/five days off for Christmas. I developed a sore throat on Christmas Day, which was the best time to get it in terms of work, as aside from travelling to Kent and back, then around Nottingham and Barnsley before heading back to London yesterday afternoon, it meant I could rest and also binge The Traitors. I didn’t think a reality show would captivate me so much, but it was really psychologically interesting, especially in terms of group influence. I was back to official paid-for work today as I’ve had a student.

Sleigh the Patriarchy Christmas jumper, new Yaks gifted from family & Xmas tree

Aside from this, I’m looking forward to a New Year as I enjoy intention-setting and the freshness of the occasion gives permission to indulge in a celebratory Chinese takeaway before a future of experimenting with various spices on lentil, chickpea, pulses, and vegetable dishes for the foreseeable future. I have an abundance of washing products, a few experiences to entertain me, and a bit of cash to get some groceries to help me with my cabbage budget now I need to save over £500 a month.

Car drive in last year’s cosy scarf

Things aren’t desperate yet as I’m just hoping the work will show up this month to make this all doable for May and onwards. Meanwhile, please donate to and share my crowdfunding campaign and buy my books etc!

Freelance Reflections #80

After an intense few weeks, things are slowly starting to wind down. The bad news is that I could really do with more work next week! Still, it will give me time to address certain things that have piled up, apply for new opportunities for next year, and even perhaps start a video tutorial series I’ve been putting off until I have the time.

The butterfly is still not quite complete.

On my MA in Creative Entrepreneurship we learn about having a champagne budget and a cabbage budget, so it seems like the next few years will be on a cabbage budget. It’s not so bad, I like cabbage. I make a mean bokkeumbap.

As long as I can keep a roof over my head, keep warm, and feed myself, then I’m quite happy to focus on training to be an Art Psychotherapist, and keep socialising to minimum, visiting friends and family in their homes and vice versa.

I’m due to pay my first set of fees, but need to raise double the amount by the end of January in order to catch up with the payments. I’ll need around £2000 more, then I’ll have 3-4 months to save for the final payment of this academic years Please donate to and share my crowdfunder to help me meet the next invoice date.

Freelance Reflections #77

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.

To help support me as an Art Therapist Trainee, please donate here.

Freelance Reflections #76

The last week has whizzed by, and yet my work schedule is still up in the air. It looks like I may be securing some work for next year, which is positive and I’m looking to do more alternative education in the daytime. However, balancing these placements with other work and university work… it’s looking like my relaxing Sundays will be when I catch up on course reading and art making (also a requirement for the course as well as the profession of being an Art Therapist).

Yesterday, I went to see the Soheila Sokhanvari ‘Rebel Rebel’ exhibition at The Barbican. An Iranian artist, it feels like a really important exhibition, especially poignant in these times with the femicides and protests in Iran. The exhibition is on until 26th February 2023. Featuring female actors and singers from Iran, each portrait is accompanied by a snapshot of their life story, which you can read about on the gallery website, often filled with details of exile, imprisonment, violence and mistreatment.

Freelance Reflections #57

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?

Cat steals student’s chair.

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.

Food is important.

So, to reflect more specifically on this week, focussed purely on Monday to Friday, I’ll break it down:

  1. Eleven and a half hours of teaching (with twelve hours cancelled, which meant I was able to do other work etc…)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Around seven hours of writing student reports, marking books, and planning lessons.
  5. 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.
  6. Two to three hours of content writing, because I massively reduced this.
  7. Around two and a half hours on learning the ukulele.

Then some of the non-work stuff I do:

  1. Around thirty hours sleeping.
  2. Nine hours of downtime (Netflix etc. and reading).
  3. Around seven to eight hours of cooking and eating dinner.
  4. Around four hours of the gym.
  5. Around three hours of language learning (Spanish and Turkish, with the former done over breakfast).
  6. Around three hours of lunch breaks.
  7. Around two and half hours of journaling.
  8. One and a half hours ironing.
  9. One and a half hours cleaning.
  10. One and a half hours food shopping.
  11. One hour washing my hair / bathing.
  12. 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.

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.

Sunday 22nd August

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 #41

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!

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.