To Be Or Not To Be... A Creative Freelancer?
In honour of Mr Shakespeare's birthday, who has played his part in the asking of this question, I offer you my musings on what it means to be a creative freelancer.
'So what is it you do again?' is not an uncommon question to be asked and recently it has been something that I have had to take time to really consider.
"It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves"
In the last month or so I have been busy applying for various jobs to supply a regular wage and it has been a great exercise in trying to understand what skills I actually have. Of course, although I have had various temporary PAYE positions over the years, I have been self employed and freelance for 25 years which makes it somewhat challenging when completing standard application forms. What should be a relatively simple exercise of listing past employers and citing a couple of referees (one which of course should be your most recent employer - a task in itself) becomes a tangled web of who and what to include, when working for and with so many organisations over the course of a typical year. I can put my own company that I have run for the last eight years, but I work outside of that as well. So in short, it isn't that simple. One application recently wanted me to list all employment since leaving full time education which, whilst complicated, was the catalyst for reflecting upon my working life to date.
"All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players"
In reality my working life began before I left full time education and not just the Saturday or holiday jobs many of us do as teenagers. I actually started working in an arts related role from the age of 16 when I became an assistant to my drama teacher at the youth theatre I myself attended. I then went on to be part of the team leading the youth theatre at Warwick Arts Centre during my time at university and ever since I have always tried to maintain working with young people through drama as part of my freelance life. Whilst at university I was lucky enough to be involved in several community projects and it was really the first time my eyes were truly opened to the power and importance of harnessing the creative arts to help people express their story.
Indeed, it is this interest and need to explore story that has governed my employment choices. Whether as a performer, a workshop facilitator, a trainer or a teacher, the hearing, telling and creation of stories underpins everything.
"To thine own self be true"
However, there is no place to put this discovery on said form. No I must drill down and specify the skills I have obtained over my diverse employed life and not only that, I have to make them 'punchy', 'unique' and not 'what everyone says'. This last advice is given according to the numerous websites that specialise in writing the perfect cv and application form. Yes, having not had to fill in an application form and worse, construct a cv for some time, I made the mistake of seeking guidance from the worldwide Web! In the words of Mr Shakespeare "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so" and with a tendency to over think I realised I had to quickly abandon seeking said guidance and just start writing.
"We know what we are, but know not what we may be"
So to the skills section and perhaps the biggest and most important part to answer. Now do not fear I'm not about to impose a great long list of skills I have upon you, but suffice to say I discovered I do have some and probably more than I initially thought. More importantly I discovered that on a good day I use most of them, on an average day I try and use most of them and on a bad day they mainly go out the window! Now they may not be punchy or unique but they are real; ability to communicate, adaptability, team and independent working, problem solving etc, etc...
"We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep"
Now back to the initial question - what is it you do? Well having pondered over the variety of work and skills obtained, the answer is simply - a lot of stuff. My life as a creative freelancer is not a defined role and no two days are the same. I am a teacher, facilitator, writer, director, producer, performer, an events organiser, but I'm also an administrator, an accountant, responsible for marketing and Web design, the person who answers the phone and makes the tea and probably more. It does not make me superhuman or better than anyone else, especially those who work within a defined role, it just probably makes me more crazy. It is a privilege and a burden, but what I have concluded is, it is who I am.
"To be or not to be that is the question..."
So to the final question - what part has William Shakespeare got to do with all this? It's a question of sparks. He or rather seeing his work come alive in an open air production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in my formative years was one of the many sparks that ignited my passion for stories. The language may have been mostly alien, but the magic I was involved with that night has stayed with me forever. It is this magic I seek to unlock in others and myself that is the answer to what I do.
I shall fittingly end with one favourite and insightful quote from the Bard himself...
"The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away"