What to expect in 2017/What I learnt in 2016
At this point in my musical career I am literally a 4-10 hour a week liz lemon… I seem to aways be working and never working at all. And for some reason I keep having to go to work but also not having to work.
The only good and useful part of my Musical degree was that there was a clear beginning and very clear end. Where as with being a free-lance self-employed lady, there is no end in sight… there also doesn’t seem to be any real structure or prospects in sight and I’m not 100% sure if I’m doing better each year or if I’m just getting more complacent.
Part 1:Where I am complacent and ungrateful.
About a month ago I realised I have the best job in the world and I love performing and being able to pay all my bills and everything from simply performing and teaching music, which is what I wanted to do as a little kid. However, I also do it so often that I am now insufferably complacent with this, but only in my head because I have no one to talk to about it as I work by myself and can’t go talk to ‘Janice in accounting’ about how long and boring and unceasingly frustrating my work is becoming for me. So I am getting to the point where having to go busking for 2-3 hours in the middle of winter where there’s a 50% chance that I might have to be in a pitch I don’t like or it might rain, is starting to really grate on me!
I know, ‘Sam Shut up! Loads of people would kill to be able to do what they love for a living and get all their work and gigs just by the sheer gumption of going and doing it in public!’. I know! and I’m sorry if I complain about it. And I am gradually trying to be more present and thankful of my lot in life!
However, it’s not a crime to want more. When I was at the Hilton I wish I had had to guts to ask for the ‘more’ that I wanted. I wish I had said ‘No! We’re in year two, I want a raise’ or ‘No! You will have a place for me to perform and you won’t take large parties of people passed this two foot gap’. Bossy people often actually become the boss, if they’re smart… otherwise they just become your insufferable co-workers who have a bunch of stupid ideas and you have to listen to all their silly little problems. So, me wanting more than just to be busking for the next 40+ years of my professional life is not really a crime, it’s a drive! You’re not working in McDonald’s because it was your dream, you’re there because you have to, and in a very similar way I am busking because I have to, the fact that it gets me great work and helps develop my skills and fanbase are added bonuses.
I am very lucky that I didn’t have to wait tables or work in a shop or do anything non-music related when I graduated and I am thankful for that every day. However, if you are in that situation as a young musician it is not a bad thing to want more and want to be able to pay your bills with your craft. So, for me, this coming year will be about finding the joy in my busking and challenging myself to want more and do better. With more concerts and recordings and things that could fail spectacularly. The reason I don’t have regular concerts is because of how cost-ineffective they are. I can make my weekly financial target by busking, and I know I will have to spend a lot of money to put on a concert and if it doesn’t pay off I won’t make any money from it. So this year I’m going to try a little bit more and have a little bit more faith in my ability and talents, even if it does completely fail!
Part 2: Where I try to Structure my work week.
The absolute worst thing about the incredibly flexible work-week of a free-lance musician with basically no commitments is that I have no structure or schedule in my week. I tried setting timers and reminders to do things at certain times and I try to, at the very least, eat dinner at the same time every day. But it’s very hard to have a real sense of structure when you’re only constants are going to bed and waking up… Literally, those are the two things everyday that you know will happen. So this past year I leaned into it!
My bedtime was 10:30pm, didn’t have to go to bed, but had to be in bed. and I was woken up everyday by my housemate/best-friend Sarah at 8am, she makes breakfast and I make the coffee… sooo it’s a fair trade really!
Because those are my only constants I started to try and get more of a schedule in my working days, the days that I would get up at 8am, be en-route to busk at 10:30 and then be home and done my 2pm, so from around 2-5pm I started trying to do things. ‘Things’ was simply ‘walking around roath park in an attempt to get 10,000 steps a day, like you’re apparently supposed to!’ and it worked really well for around 3 months, it got me outside, it’s technically classed as exercise so I got to wear trainers and sweatpants while doing it!
It was perfect… until we moved!
If you ever buy a house with your friend (or if you’re a real grown up, with your significant other) and you are the person in that relationship who has roughly 80 hours a week of ‘unstructured free time’, then you will quite probably be the ‘Stay at home wife’ in the situation. It is horrible, but only in a very ‘First World Problems’ sort of way. You know that everything that needs to be ‘done’ in the house will be done by you, and you alone.
‘Oh the livingroom needs re-painting?’ You’re gunna do that by yourself. ‘This light doesn’t work’ You’re gunna be standing on a ladder with the power off trying to figure out how lights are wired! ‘This kitchen needs a clean’… yep, for the next three months of ‘Settling in’ time you are effectively the live-in maid. ‘You don’t have to do it! I can do it when I get home’ the other person will say, but honestly what’s the point…? I mean, they work a 40 hour work week and you work 10… you have more time sitting in that armchair you bought so you could ‘sit alone watching tv’ a week than they spend in the house during daylight hours! It’s a fair trade for… oh wait… you both earn the same amount… you’re both 50% stakeholders in the house….? yeah no, that’s not really that fair. but it’s what the first three months of any new house become.
Here’s my tip for getting out of that relationship dynamic. Get rid of your car.
In Cardiff the nearest useful hardware store is about a 30 minute walk from our house. If you were to walk there, buy paint and walk back it would take you an hour and a half in total. However, if you’re the person in your pair who drives it takes 15 minutes. So just get rid of your car. They can do all the getting and fetching and buying! why not! during the first two months of us living here I went to Homebase or B&Q every.single.day. and I’m not even being hyperbolic! It was every day! at least 5 days a week for around 6 weeks, because no one tells you how much stuff you have to have before your house is ready for you to live there without having to go do things all the time. And our house wasn’t a ‘fixer upper’, if anything ours was a ‘You don’t have to do anything why are you so eager to paint the ceiling?’ so it wasn’t as if there was a lot of work to do it was just that there was a lot of work for one person to do. And the ‘leave it, and we can do it together when I’m home’ argument is redundant because you are home for approximately a million hours in the afternoon to paint and re-seal and fix the roof of the shed and clean the kitchen and hang all those paintings and re-paint the livingroom for the third time because the new white doesn’t show through the old white and you’ve now got weird white roller lines on your ceiling because you have to do everything alone!!!
So, get rid of your car.
We are now in month four and I don’t have anything to do anymore… I could find things to do but I don’t want to, I’m very stubborn and don’t work well with others, which makes me perfect for a life as a solo musician, but a complete pain to live with! So in my afternoons now I’m doing…. nothing. basically nothing. I will watch tv, or play on my piano or both! (one of these is actually classed as work and the other isn’t)
So when we finally got to December I had ultimately given up on trying to schedule my life. These are the only tricks I have learnt to make it seem like you have a real job.
- Leave your phone downstairs when you go to bed: The first thing everyone does when they wake up is check their phone. but if you are a business and that business is yourself then you are effectively working from the second you get up to the second you go to sleep. So leave your phone downstairs and this will help that separation between working and not working
- Turn your phone off on your days off. Again, this is like the first tip but if you are having a ‘day off’ that is actually a ‘day off’ where you don’t do any work and you have specifically said ‘this is my day off’ turn your phone off. If you don’t you’ll be sitting there sipping tea and bing! you’ve gotta answer this email from that bride who’s getting married in 2020 and really needs your instant reply!
- Go to bed and wake up on a cycle. your body will get it!
- Stop going out drinking, drink at home. it’s cheaper and you get to sit down! (this is more of a life tip)
- Say things like ‘I don’t work for free’ and ‘No, I’m not working right now’ when people ask you to do things and you wanna shame them when they ask you to demonstrate your skills… it’s really fun and makes others feel like you’re an accomplished business lady. You can also say things like ‘Time is money!’ and ‘I’m always grinding!’
- Know the difference between working and ‘working’ and try and separate what you do for money and work you get paid for. (There will probably be a whole blog this year just on this topic)
Part 3: Where I try to improve myself in the Coming year.
This coming year I will probably try and give myself all the telltale signs of a ‘resolution’. Maybe I’ll try drinking less. Maybe, I’ll try and be more ‘Fun’, ‘Ooh you should learn a language this year,’ ‘Make more friends!’ All that nonsense that people tell themselves to do in order to live their ‘Best lives’.
[At this point, I am going to go open a bottle of wine and pour myself a large glass… bare with! Got it! Goodness my house is cold outside of my office!]
Everyone in our current culture is obsessed with living their ‘Best Life’ or being their ‘Most Authentic Self’, and I tried that in 2016. I tried eating less meat, eating Kale, doing yoga, meditation, we even took a mindfulness course and it helped me be in the moment then I realised how boring that moment was and how badly I wanted to not be in ‘That particular moment’ and I was like ‘nope’. So in 2017, I don’t want to be my ‘Most Authentic/Best Self’, I don’t want to lose any weight, or eat better, or get in shape. I want to live my ‘Most Comfortable Self’. I’m gunna wear flats to every party I go to! I’m gunna wear thermals every.damn.day in winter! I’m gunna only buy clothes that are suitable for pregnant women because elastic clothes fit my lifestyle! I’m done, and I’m gunna be comfortable doing it!
In terms of actual ‘tangible’ goals, I am trying for three in 2017 they are as follows… nope, make it four, this wine isn’t as nice as I was hoping:
- Get better wine. My best-friend Sarah and I are now adults with real job and an actual income, unlike when we were students and had pretend jobs and no income, now we feel like we should be grown ups and do all the ‘Adult’ things we thing adults do that makes them ‘adults.’ As a result of this idea, I am constantly talking about my taxes (seriously, I won’t shut up about them at this point), Sarah talks about how stressful but enjoyable her job is and we both pretend we know stuff about wine! We are constantly buying wine, with no idea what we’re doing, I probably couldn’t even spell merlot without autocorrect, let alone sheraze (see!). So last year we just kept buying wine at random, like little kids trying to figure out what candy they like, we just grab wine at random off the shelves of our local supermarket and when it rings up as £14 a bottle Sarah calmly looks at me, shrugs, and says ‘We have money now! We’re adults’, this works for spirits and about 45% of the time for wine. Expensive Gin (like £20 a bottle, I’m not insane!) is really good, quite consistently! There is a noticeable difference between a £5 gin and a £15 gin. However, with wine it’s not that simple, because a ‘Good wine’ could also taste gross to you! So for 2017, I’m gunna start trying to track this wine shenanigans as best I can to determine what I like and also what I don’t!
- Put on a Concert. I will do this at some point this year. I am not good at planning and I doubt many people will turn up and I still want to different harp to do this theoretical concert because my korrigan would drive me up the wall for the whole evening but I am determined!
- Record another Album, something a bit more substantial. Maybe I’ll throw some money behind it and make a really good one, but at this point who knows!
- Get a New harp. As previously mentioned, I hate my Korrigan now. I can’t stand it anymore! it’s too quiet, it’s too big and it’s too bulky for a lever harp! A lever/folk harp should be fairly portable, I shouldn’t have to wheel it everywhere because it should be quite light weight and manageable. That’s the point of a lever harp! The Korrigan is a training harp for when you upgrade to pedal harp, but I’m not upgrading for a few years and gigging with such a bulky instrument is an absurd waste of effort! I could have something a little smaller and a lot lighter to take to gigs and still have that same great sense of space that you get with a larger harp! So in 2017, I’m upgrading but also getting smaller to make my life a little easier (see what I did there?!? the wine has kicked in! woo!)
Part 4: Where I accept myself for my flaws and failures and try to move on and live the best and happiest life I can.
In 2017 I will most likely fail a lot! If 2016 was anything to go by it’s gunna be a real mess! So here’s some things I hope I fail at for comedic reasons (These are not real and jokes, and I hope you all laugh at how ridiculous they are) and here’s some things I will accept that I might not be very good at in reality.
- My plans to inflict a nuclear winter on the world. God, I hope I fail! I already hate the cold! imagine if everyone I know and love were dead too! what a bummer THAT would be!
- Writing off my Car in a dangerous ‘Fast a Furious’ Style car chase! I’m really hoping that I never get into that sort of situation in the first place!
- Armed Robbery! I hope those people call the police and I get sent to that asylum I’ve heard so many good things about…
- A fist fight with Theresa May. I’d actually be interested to see who wins.
- A fist fight with Theresa May’s security team. The more likely situation. But honestly, If I did end up losing a fist fight with Theresa or her secruity team I’d be branded as ‘that crazy woman who shouted “I wrote this on a blogggg” before being tackled to the ground by four members of the british secret service. And If I won? I would probably be a national legend and no one would care about my music, after all no one wants to talk about Hitler’s paintings…
Things I will accept I might fail at:
- Doing my taxes properly the first time. I will never do them right the first time around it usually takes me at least three goes at it!
- Recording an album with other people. I can never find other musicians that have my schedule and I don’t work well with others when I have to be the leader! It’s hard and I’m dumb!
- No one will turn up to my concert. This is going off of solid facts with my choir, who had an audience for 9 at our last concert and 4 the concert before, two of which were my parents!
- Reaching my financial targets every week. Because life is full of unexpected surprises.
- Continuing my friendship and co-home ownership with my housemate/bestfriend after she reads this blog post. I will accept this and hope we can move on with our lives.
Part 5: Goodbye and Goodluck!
So, dear reader! This is around 3000 words, and I’m so sorry if you’ve gotten to the end and expect any real ‘truths’ to take with you into the coming year! all I want to say for my closing section is this;
Be nice to each other, don’t have to like each other but don’t go out of your way to be a pain to someone else.
Be responsible for your actions and all that you do and say in the world!
And finally, buy my album and come to my damn concert when I do it! I can not stress this enough!
Happy New Year!