Saturday, 19 July 2014

How it all began.

Hello.

It's been a while since I updated this blog, so I thought I'd drop in with a little note about the current state of play.

 

It's all been kicking off. A book of One Pound Stories is currently being crowdfunded by Unbound. It's very exciting – if (when! WHEN!) we hit the target, the book will be published. Printed and distributed to people who've paid for it. And to shops where other people can buy the book. My book. With my name on it. Which I've made. Blimey.

It's all slightly unbelievable.

In the mornings I work in a café from 6am – 12pm. A couple of days a weeks I work 6am-5pm to make up my hours, but it means that I have a lots of afternoons off to work on the project.

If you proposed the story of my life as a writer/waitress as a film treatment it would be rejected for being too clichéd. It hasn't always been like this. I've had many different jobs in theatre, comedy and opera - producer, promoter, agent, stage manager, actor, runner, props mistress.....Good jobs. Fairly steady. Well-paid. The problem was that none of these jobs left me any time for my own creative projects. Initially I was excited to be a part of such exciting work – I worked in some of the most prestigious venues in the country, got to travel, met some amazing people. But while it was my job to help others realise their artistic goals, mine would always take second place. I was very good at my job(s), but when I became aware of the risk that my frustration would turn to resentment and undermine my good work, I knew that it was time to make big changes.

I began One Pound Stories when I was made redundant from a position in an opera company a few years ago. Living in London I needed to line up another job, fast. I sent dozens – hundreds – of CVs a week, seemingly into the ether. I had a housemate who was unemployed at the same time. We'd stay in our rooms hunched over our laptops, grunting at each other of we crossed paths on the way to the loo or in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil.

Apart from trawling through job websites I had no idea what to do with myself.

This went on for a few weeks.

Depression is a contrary little shit. Just when I needed to call on the backup reserves of positivity and stoicism that had seen me through countless adversities before, it saunters in, squats in my brain, and croons at me that I'm unemployable, lazy, stupid, unimaginative, dull, unpopular and doomed, doomed, doomed.
 
I needed to get out of the flat. I needed to meet and talk to (apart from the grumpy housemate who shared my horrible predicament). I had to do something for myself, not just for the nameless, faceless recipients of my life's work on two sides of A4.

It was time to take affirmative action.

It was time to consult the Big Bag For Life.

Here is the Big Bag For Life.
 

For years I'd been scribbling down ideas in notebooks and on scraps of paper, envelopes, paper bags, old Christmas and birthday cards, and putting them away to think about later. “I'll do something with them one day, when I have time” I'd told myself. I'd lugged this growing bag of potential from house to house, every year or so emptying it to check its progress, then quietly refilling it. I had stacks, reams of the stuff.

 
 
 
Most of it was useless.
 
 
Stage directions. Badly scrawled illustrations. Flyers. Tickets. Postcards.
 
 
 
 Phone numbers for costume stores, balloon makers and printers. Some terrible, terrible poetry.
 
 
 
 Some of it was years and years and years old. It documented not only every project I'd worked on, every city I'd visited, every home I'd had, every diary entry, but every half-formed idea, every piece of research, every shopping list, every reminder to send this email or call my parents, every bus timetable, every piece of banal, inconsequential, irrelevant fluff that had crossed my mind.
 




On my knees, in a mire of yellowing pages, I got to work. Trawling through the pile, salvaging what was worthwhile (photographs, bad teenage poetry), discarding what was not (letters from a toxic ex).
I was looking for inspiration. Looking for a sign from my past self that proclaimed: This Is What You Should Do Next.
Then I found it.
 

Written in the corner of an old notebook from an old job from years and years earlier was a single line, a barely-formed thought, jotted down and immediately forgotten. “I will buy your stories for £1”.
It would be easy enough, I thought. And relatively cheap – for the price of a yoga class that would last an hour I could buy supplies to make a sign and eight stories that'd keep me occupied for a few days.
So that's what I did.
I bought card and marker pens to make a sign. I set up this blog. I handmade business cards with green card and gold ink with the site and email address on them to give to participants.

I enlisted Josh, the grumpy unemployed flatmate, to come with me to offer moral support, which he did in good faith and with good spirit. Thanks, Josh. On a cold day in Greenwich park in January 2012, I collected 15 stories in two hours. You can read them here.
I was excited. I spread the word. This experience that I'd created for myself strengthened my CV and got me a couple of small-scale arts jobs. I repeated the experiment in other locations. I planned a nationwide tour. Then in July I was unexpectedly offered a full-time job as an agent with an entertainment company I'd done ad hoc work for before. It was a good job for a well-respected company. The money wasn't great to start with, but I was told there could be potential for a rise. And surely having a good, steady job in a company whose work I believed in was better than doing well-paid but crappy promo work for energy suppliers and supermarkets? It would mean postponing the tour, but I'd get around to it....

So. Steady job. Good job. Good status. Low pay. High pressure. High responsibility. Long hours. No time for own creative projects. Initially excited to be part of exciting work. Prestigious venues. Travel. Amazing people. Help others' artistic goals. Mine second place. Very good at job. Frustration. Resentment. Undermine my good work.

Enough.

It was time to make big changes.
It's all slightly unbelievable.

In the mornings I work in a café from 6am – 12pm. A couple of days a weeks I work 6am-5pm to make up my hours, but it means that I have a lots of afternoons off to work on the project.

It's all been kicking off. A book of these stories is currently being crowdfunded by Unbound. It's very exciting – if (when! WHEN!) we hit the target, the book will be published. Printed and distributed to people who've paid for it. And to shops where other people can buy the book. My book. With my name on it. Which I've made. Blimey.

No comments:

Post a Comment