I am shattered. Officially shattered. It’s not like I’ve been doing long nights – by my standards, February so far has been fine (though that is about to change). It’s simply that, as a freelancer, finding actual time off is proving to be a bit of a challenge.
Take the last few weeks. I have, technically speaking, had no work. I mean, sure, I’ve been writing, but that’s only when I get a moment. I haven’t had to be in tech, I haven’t had to submit anything to a deadline, I haven’t had to rig, I haven’t had to focus.
However… somehow, the days have vanished. For a start, there’s a lot of domestic stuff going on. I’ve been up at 8 a.m. on the dot every day for the last week to paint my flat. (A long story which will be told as soon as I have legally guaranteed reassurances that it has a happy ending.) A few hours and a lot of stickiness later, and the daily email list is already dozens of messages long and very few of them bring me peace of mind. There are rehearsals to attend. Kit lists to chase. Lighting designs to… well… design. Every new theatre I work in equals a brand new model I have to build on my computer before I can even start to work out lighting positions. There’s scripts to read, meetings to attend, budgets to be argued, tech specs to lament over, technical managers to chase and production managers to avoid. And somehow the simple act of prepping for a play consumes days at a go, and are the reason, more than the hours I’ll spend in tech, why lighting designers should get bigger fees than currently we do. But that’s a different rant…
On top of that, there’s writery stuff coming in and out. Contracts signed and contracts returned; blurbs to discuss and novels to conclude. Ideas to pitch and finances to be monitored. Switching from lighting to writing one email at a time takes a re-gearing not simply in terms of priorities, but in terms of the side of the brain that’s being used. And that’s great – that’s why I do it – but it’s also knackering.
There’s plenty of socialising too, and I’m very grateful for this; but as a freelancer, I tend to see people for a few hours in the day, which means I return in the evening needing to work, and so the rhythm of the day, the sense that at 5 p.m. everything stops – simply doesn’t apply.
Endless admin bogs me down. If I spend one more minute on the phone to the Department of Work and Pensions being played frickin’ Vivaldi I may go impale someone on their own baroque bow. Endless research, endless being redirected from this telephone number to that telephone number to being told to call a completely different number altogether because Judith in Customer Services can’t handle and what you need is Customer Support, please redial.
A lack of weekends is beginning to tell. Even when my Sundays aren’t spent up a ladder preparing a venue for another rig, weekends are still full of rehearsals, more meetings, and prepping for tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, one day at a time.
Now, I’m aware that, in the grand scheme of things, all this is largely my own fault. I’m a girl who likes her lists and likes to be busy. But that said… I look at so much of my life and wonder – can I really not do this? And not do it now? The very nature of my job(s) means that if I’m not actively pursing a thing, I’m almost certainly prepping to pursue it, and without the prep nothing will be achieved. So here I am – soggy in rigging plans and colour calls and emails begging for a hazer and notes from my agent and an unfinished chapter that I really, really want to get done because if I don’t get back to words sooner rather than later I might implode, and tins of paint and letters from the DWP and the local council and…
… and you know what, right now, I think I might just go to bed.