Monday, 19 May 2014

about creative life and being freelance as fuck

i would like to talk a little bit about being a creative type and working freelance, or at least my experience of it at this point. partly to help myself process it a bit, and also because i feel like if you don't live this life, you really don't get it and can't get it to a large extent, and so relating to a creative freelancer can get strained. and also because i desperately want to live on my own, without any other humans - familial, roommates, or otherwise - so that my anxiety related to living like this can ease a bit, but since i'm freelancing and have no regular dependable income to pay the bills right now, i have no idea when that will happen. and so perhaps this will help me at least verbally vomit some of that anxiety out, or process it better, or something. i don't know.

freelance work sucks. yes, yes, being your own boss and doing work you care about is great, but realistically, a lot of the time it's actually you having a bunch of different bosses and you don't really have the option of choosing only contracts that you care about because you have fucking bills to pay and you need to eat and goddammit, that contract you don't really want will let you do at least one of those things and you're tired of just eating rice. it's unstable, and unreliable, and because you have no fixed 9-5, the whole "choose your own/most productive time to work" often results in you working all the time. there is no turning off. and if you do decide, i'm going to take a break now, you feel guilty the whole time and so you end up back at your project half-working on it while you shovel food in your mouth and also feeling shitty because you should be relaxing. if a boss or manager in the normal workplace ran you the way that you run yourself as a freelancer, chances are there would be union intervention kicking in. 

and because the freelance work you do is ultimately still related to things you do care about (i.e. i knit to relax and also knit for pay, or i'm on my computer to procrastinate on pinterest but often that also coincides with brainstorming a new show design/blogging/dealing with emails/my whole damn life revolves around my computer), when someone else encounters you, they assume you must be relaxing/not really working because, hey, that's what you like to do so you couldn't possibly be working. which either results in some sort of resentment on their side, or your imagined resentment on their side results in anxiety on your end, or they interrupt you while you're trying to deal with a deadline and you're stuck with either needing to be rude and anti-social because you need to work or being social and not working (except you're not really being social because you spend most of that visit/chat/whatever mentally stressing over how much longer will this take i really need to get back to work i still have so much left to do why do i always leave these things so late i should learn how to manage my time better circle circle circle what'd they just say?). 

also, it's often really lonely work. if you're working from home rather than coming into whatever workplace for a contract, it can seem nice to start off with, but that quickly loses its charm. yes, you can work in your pjs, but actually getting up and having a shower and dressing to go out can be very good for a) your mental health and b) your productivity. having your living space double as your workspace can get messy, and not just in the physical sense of projects strewn everywhere. when i lived in easy bussing/walking distance of cafes, i used to make a point of finding a cafe to plunk myself down at. wifi is sometimes great, sometimes distracting. the endless(ish) supply of caffeine is great until the anxiety kicks in, but generally being out wears that more into a productive buzz than into anxiety. plus you can always switch to tea. the hum of other people is comforting without being too distracting. and if you're in a city like halifax, which is chock-full of students and creative types, the vast majority of cafes are totally cool with you plonking yourself down at a table for hours with your various stacks of books, computer plugged in, and shoes off. i even had a place in halifax where i used to eat my packed lunch/snacks at, although that was usually when i was spending 6-8 hours there and i was buying a few drinks over the course of the day. and everyone working there was a poor student/activist/artist who understood that while buying a few coffees was justifiable, spending ten dollars on lunch as well was pushing the budget a bit too far. there was one time i actually bought a box of tea because it was the most budget-friendly option - about the cost of a latte and a half, and gave me 12 cups of steaminess. 

all complaining aside, freelancing is great for the one thing that we always end up doing it for - we give so many fucks for the work we're doing/field we're working in, it's almost worth all the headaches and instability that come along with it. no one in their right mind (whatever that may look like) would choose such a fragile life if they didn't care about the work with every fibre of their being. when things are going well and you have enough contracts coming through to pay the bills without tipping you over into overdrive, it's amazing. it's so rewarding to be in whatever field(s) you're in and making work and seeing it out there in the world and also be able to feed yourself more than rice. 

so i guess that what i'm saying, is that i'm over it. kind of. i would like a full-time (or really reasonable part-time) contract that paid my bills every month, routinely, so that i could count on it, and pay me at my degree level, and maybe even eventually let me qualify for benefits. that would be something. because at the end of the day, a full-time job is only 40 hours a week, and when you've spent the past decade doing a full day at whatever level of schooling, followed by homework/essays//projects/rehearsals in the evening (and often rehearsals in the wee hours of the morning too), and then also worked part-time and run societies/been involved in activist causes/volunteered for different organizations, a 40-hour week that ends at 40 hours is pretty sweet. and leaves a lot of time for your own projects, while also structuring your life a little bit nicer than if you were to try to structure yourself. 

ok, i think that's all i want to say about it right now. sorry if today was whiny, i just needed to get this off my chest. it's been running around in my brain for a while, which doesn't leave a lot of room for the actual work i need to do. back to sewing the undies (they should be ready by mid-week), and then i have some database entry to do, and then reworking paperwork. and the shawl commission is almost done. that'll be my downtime tonight, i think. and i want to make another video for the indiegogo campaign. that'll happen probably on the weekend though. stay tuned...

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