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.
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.
It’s been about a month since I’ve written here. At the moment, I feel as if a big mountain has piled up and I’m still working my way over it. I’m slowly getting on top of things that I tend to avoid doing, whether it’s admin stuff or less important things that I do out of my own interest. The admin stuff involved sorting through papers (I missed one pile under my bedside cabinet and another near my computer is creeping up once more), and I’m still a few months behind on my fiance records. I did do my self-assessment though as I had all my records from October 2017-April 2018! I just need to pay them and inform the tax credits people.
Like bits of paper, emails can also pile up, so I got on top of those and the numbers in my inbox are creeping up once more. Today I’ve had a fellow freelancer round mine and I’ve sewn some things I hadn’t got round to sewing and updated my scrap books. I know I’ll be working Saturday due to doing this, and having spent much of yesterday studying and completing my Spanish assessment, but if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have had a day like this and I think it is just what I needed. Another thing I will probably leave for over the Christmas holidays (when I don’t have students) is taking quotations from books. I actually used to be really good at posting these online, as well as a few snippets of my own stuff. Why wait for New Year’s Resolutions to get back on these habits?
I’ve had a cold for a couple of weeks. As a freelancer, obviously you don’t get sick days. Or rather, you don’t get paid sick leave. It never got too bad that I felt I couldn’t do any work, but the day of the Bristol tour date I wasn’t feeling up to travelling home the next day and then doing lessons the same evening, so I cancelled them. When it came down to it, I ended up doing some content writing at home to make up for the loss of income. I still socialised when I was ill, and never really rested properly, which was probably why it dragged on for so long. At times, I began to feel feverish and worried I was getting worse, but three weeks on, I’m back to my usual self.
Another thing that I did, whilst probably feeling at my worst, was go all the way to the other end of the Northern line (my nearest tube station, still buses away). This was to get my photograph taken for an agency for being a supporting artiste. It meant hours out of my day for a very short thing that may come to nothing, but it could also provide some fun days out for some alright money. Another thing I’m doing for extra cash is tutoring a mature university student. Other than that, it’s more or less the same stuff I’m doing.
In terms of poetry, I actually recently judged a poetry slam at a university, which was a great experience. It was lovely to hear how varied these young voices were and providing feedback for them was really enjoyable because of how talented they all were. We got some flowers and chocolates as judges and felt very special on that day. Otherwise, spending more time on my own writing is one for the New Year’s Resolutions, especially with the Christmas break coming up as I’ll be trying to to get a bit of income whilst also read more into the texts that my GCSE student is studying so I can do my best to help her.
The She Grrrowls Autumn 2018 Book Tour is now over, with the last event ending in Hackney and ending on a real high. Tonight is the final She Grrrowls event of the year, and we’ll be back in February at The Poetry Cafe, which I am so happy about! It has been a struggle for years, changing venues a lot, but I hope it continues to thrive in this wonderful space. Now I just need to complete the evaluation for ACE and plan the next steps for the ideas I have for She Grrrowls.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
It’s nearly a year on from becoming self-employed, and I’m finally getting a routine together. I have six students across Monday to Wednesday, which takes up about six hours on each day because most of this is travelling. It’s a constant battle in my mind between money and travel. I live at home, so I am able to save, but the sacrifice is time.
It begs the question: what is my time worth?
I figure I’ll stay put for now, and embrace the time travelling by reading, doing any admin I can on-the-go, and sometimes just daydreaming out of windows, listening to music. I’ll be turning 30 next May, so maybe I’ll freak out then and feel the urge to uproot. But at least by then I’ll have saved some more.
My mornings are spent planning lessons and marking. This takes up a lot of time as well, but it’s okay. If I stick at it, the work will get easier with time. The type of subjects the students are studying often means I have to go over each paper to make sure that I not only know the answers, but know how to teach the students how to get those answers.
The students themselves are lovely and a pleasure to work with. The other day, I was doing a creative warm-up game with Rory’s Story Cubes, and we made a story that was so funny that we both got the giggles. It was about dice that wouldn’t stop rolling. It relied on an implicit communication as we each continued the story, the dice still rolling in the story, and whilst it was seemingly unprofessional to laugh quite to the extent I did (barely being able to speak), we bonded in that moment, and it is those moments that will make it hard when the tuition stops.
The last couple of weeks, I have been focusing on trying to get into the routines that I want to continue. Sometimes I question whether I’m doing enough paid work. I have this mentality that I should be trying to make as much as I would need to survive if I didn’t live with my parents. But, how am I going to progress with my writing career if I don’t give it the time it deserves? When talking to fellow creative Daisy Dockrill a few months back, she said to do exactly this, for the reason that I would be able to give myself that time to write more.
As well as planning and marking in the mornings, I do content writing, and I said I wouldn’t do this past Wednesday, but this slipped into Thursday the last couple of weeks. Today I’m going to aim to do at least four hours of writing, but I also have a book tour to organise and there’s still (always) a lot to do for that! I’ve been trying to do bits and pieces to do with it, but as always, it never feels like there’s enough time. I’ve been socialising a fair bit too, but this week has been all work really. I’m looking forward to a couple of social things over the weekend, including Common Ground – a free festival I found out about. Hopefully the weather will be nice!
Last week also saw the first instalment of She Grrrowls at The Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden. It was really lovely, with the most audience we’ve had in a long time. I didn’t make quite enough to cover costs now I have to pay for the venue as well as the acts, not to mention paid advertising. The features were Annie Hayter, who is a Barbican Young Poet; Anvi, who is on an ACE-funded stay from India; and Good Canary, who is a musician!
I’ve been exercising every day until today. I was really itching to, but I just got a new tattoo, so I can’t wear a tight sports bra over it. I’ve been doing a bit of Spanish, including some reading, but could push myself more with this to get up to scratch. I’ll be starting intermediate conversation classes soon, which is scary! Next week I’ll be in Leicester for the second date in the She Grrrowls Autumn 2018 Book Tour, and the first outside of London!
Another couple of weeks of freelance life, and I’ve now got three students I’m tutoring, and although other paid work has not been much over these last two weeks, I’ve been busy with lots of unpaid activities, such as planning workshops and tutoring sessions (which takes a long time at this stage) and writing a funding application. I’ll still be working on both of these things next week too.
I’m also using a maths revision book to brush up on my Maths, and have found there are a couple of different ways to do subtraction, and the new way I’ve found is actually the one recommended by the government.
I went to Joel’s book launch, which was really lovely, and there I saw lots of old familiar faces, as well as a few new ones. The next evening I went to see The Head Wrap Diaries, and I ended up reviewing it for The Norwich Radical.
I’ve dedicated some time to writing, particularly on Sundays, but have been using my long journeys to take part in NaPoWriMo still, which ends on Monday. I’ve been sharing some extracts from my new poems via Instagram. I’ve also done a little bit of illustration as an experiment to get me back into visual art a bit.
Yesterday I decided to go to a few exhibitions around Old Street, including a visit to BEERS, Victoria Miro, and Parasol Unit. I went for an incredible tapas meal at Boqueria and then to a reggaeton and salsa night, where I danced until the early hours. I’m now feeling pretty smug because I’ve had so little sleep, but I’ve been super productive doing some content writing work, plus poetry and Spanish practice and this!
I also recently got an office chair for my bedroom and I love it! I was on a horrible wooden fold-up one all this time before. I can even put it on a massage function!
Today marks 6 months since I’ve been officially self-employed. My journey started when I got offered a freelance teaching job (EFL), though you could say it started seven years ago when I began my MA in Creative Entrepreneurship, though you could also say it started over a decade ago when my college friend Anya Destiney took me to an Apples & Snakes open mic, then again, you could also say it started when I wrote my first poem as a child and started to make an anthology with my parents compiled in a plastic folder, or you could say it started when I was born and named Carmina, Latin for poetry.
Anyway, being freelance is something I have wanted to do for a long time, yet it is scary taking the first step as it goes against much of what I feel I’ve been encouraged to do by my parents and society as a whole. Really, being self-employed is something we should be taught at school, especially when it comes to avenues that tend to work in this way, such as studying creative arts subjects. Although I don’t believe study should be so focused on the career, it would certainly make these subjects more practical and viable when thinking of the future, especially when it comes to A-level and university.
I thought I would start a series of reflective blog posts for several reasons. Firstly, I appreciate the honesty and transparency from other creatives about how to survive and thrive in this world, and there are many ways to do so and I would like to share what I’m doing in order to help others starting out. This is why Paula Varjack’s Show Me The Money was so great. Secondly, it helps my own practice as an artist to reflect on what I’m doing. I currently do this by writing a list of activities and goals in an Excel spreadsheet (I love spreadsheets) but, as a woman of words, I craved a more thoughtful expression of these reflections that are more than just time management.
To summarise, my income currently comes from various different streams. The idea is that my main income will be from tutoring and teaching on a part-time and freelance basis. This is a mixture of EFL, English and 11+. For the past six months, this has actually been a slow progression to building clients, and I’ve been doing a lot of copywriting to keep me afloat. Although not as well paid as I would like, I would be making next to nothing if it wasn’t for that work. I’ve been losing money from events (paying artists and the sound technician) and made a small amount from sharing my own work, and selling books. I’ve also donated eggs, which has seen me compensated with £750. You can do this a maximum of three times. Mostly, I’m doing anything I can grab my hands on, including some exam invigilation, which I found really difficult as my legs ached so much as I struggled with the boredom!
To think about ending this post, I’m going to just review this past week in more detail. I began the week planning my set for a 30 minute set and rehearsing in my bedroom. I spent a couple of hours writing my diary before getting on with some admin. I had a massive backlog of emails, so I indulged in spending a big chuck on these first few days going over the emails and actioning on them where required, meaning reading and signing a contact, and arranging phone calls etc. I didn’t have my usual tutoring that week, so I met up with my Spanish exchange that evening a couple of stops away on the train.
On Tuesday, it was a similar day with rehearsing and emails, sending invoices to get paid etc. I did some content writing and booked travel and accommodation for a trip to Liverpool with a friend, partly a birthday celebration, and also to attend a joint event between Shy Radicals and Shrinking Violets. I also arranged travel and accommodation for a training day in Cambridge, as I’m going to be an assessor for an A-level paper this summer, marking around 200 scripts.
One of the things I love about being freelance is getting up when I want (though I do need to be more strict with my bedtime!) and being able to start the morning with exercise which I like to do regularly for both my physical and mental health. Thursday was a very similar day, but in the evening I had the opportunity to support Sabrina Benaim at Bush Hall, which was a high I rode on for the next few days. The audience of around 400 people was incredibly supportive, and I felt like I really connected with them. At the end, when people queued for Sabrina, I was also invited into photographs and signing books and tickets – so exciting!
The previous week I had dedicated my first chunk of time to writing my own work, where I’m trying to write my first spoken word show. This Friday I tried to dedicate a couple of hours to writing, but I ended up just saving documents from my phone noes to word, and submitting a few poems to magazines and anthologies with upcoming deadlines. That evening I had a social event, but also went to support my friend’s band called Black Palms as an audience member. The next day was quite a contrast, with my last working day being a stall at Balham Bowls Club. Although well attended and nice to be a part of, I only sold one book, having paid £35 to do the stall. It’s swings and roundabouts.
I’ve just arrived back from being away with family, so starting a fresh week today!