Here is another post that will deal with the unique industry I work in, full of big personalities, big vats of alcohol and big sociopaths.
The theatre industry is one of those places where everyone acts big all the time. It’s a classic case of peacocking: in clothing, in accessories, in the book you’re carrying around, in the way your voice projects around a theatre when you stage-whisper “Kierkegaard” and in the way you enter a room.
The reasoning behind it seems to be something like this: if I enter this party, foyer or theatre with AMAZINGNESS, any stranger will be behoven to assume that, to match your amazing arrival, you yourself are amazing.
An easy way to enter with amazingness?
Have the hugest greetings in the world.
As a result, greetings in my industry are massive. The minimum greeting is a kiss on the cheek. But I have been greeted by many vibrant colours of the intense greeting rainbow, including:
- The combined kiss AND hug, where you kiss first, then hug, then start to separate, and then the other person, confused about the length of these things, is still holding onto you, so you come back in for a longer hug, but they’re already been burnt and are WITHDRAWING from you, and things get rough.
- The continental double-cheek-kiss where, again, if not warned, you might retreat back from the kiss, thinking “WE’VE ALREADY HAD OUR PATENTED CHEEK PECK AS FAR AS I AM AWARE” and the other person is leaning right back in for Smackeroonie Numero Duo, and you meet noses at a really awkward angle, physics-wise, and things get BLOODY.
- The hug-with-no-kiss that you thought would have been a hug-with-yes-kiss, so you find yourself murmuring a breathy bourgeois “MWWWWAAAAAA” into someone’s ear while they hug you silently with confused pursed lips.
All of this sounds a bit dodgy, right? A bit awkward and horrible and the sort of thing that might keep you in your room for every Wednesday night til eternity, only venturing out to see Tuesday matinees, or whenever you can be sure the “pretty people” won’t be there to scare you?
And to compound the awkwardness of it all, a lot of these people you are hugging and kissing and ear-breathing into are NOT ACTUALLY PEOPLE YOU WANT IN CLOSE PROXIMITY TO YOUR FACE.
(Thank you to the lovely Cathy for blowing my mind with this realisation today, which we talked about in a foyer, after a friendly and non-awkward greeting hug that we had obviously both practiced in our respective cars tonight before entering said foyer.)
Yes, a lot of these hugs are not “OH GOD IT’S SO GOOD TO SEE YOU” or “I WANT YOUR SKIN NEAR ME RIGHT NOW” hugs. They’re often “Oh. Hey Bob” hugs. Or even “OH THIS BITCH IS THE WORST” double-side kisses. Sometimes you hug someone hard while thinking “I WOULD NEVER TRUST YOU WITH MY ARTISTIC SOUL”. But you do it anyway. Hug right on home.
But you know what I like about this?
I like everything about this.
I like that on a regular Wednesday night you get to hug a WHOLE lot of people, 90% of whom are not douchebags. After a day of sitting in front of my computer writing To Do lists in tiny font so the tasks seem less overwhelming, this is a tangible way of remembering that other people exist.
People who have big voices, and big stories, and big jewellery. People who might have done something a little more interesting with their day than search for new ways to word the phrase “rip off the bread and dunk it in the soup” so it sounds most dramatic.
And they all want a piece of you.
Yes, with qualifications.
A lot of people have this image when they think of a freelance lifestyle:
They think it’s all weekdays brunches and writing on a sunny moor somewhere and quiet midday Woolies trips where you can have long conversations with your favourite checkout chick, Mildred, about her back pain and jerk grandchildren.
In a way they are right. But you know what they don’t know?
These perks are UTTER NECESSITIES IN ORDER TO STAY AFLOAT IN THE GREAT JAGGED TROUGH OF A FREELANCE WRITING LIFE.
This is a more realistic image of a freelance lifestyle, and yes that is pyjamas at 7.00pm:
Welcome to A Day in the Life of a Freelance Writer, And Now See If You Like It So Much:
7.30am: wake up. What a great time to wake up. Everyone’s at work and the day is MINE to write ALL THE THINGS!
I sure have a lot to write, because I don’t like saying no, and I have a lot of inspiring collaborators, and I would like to achieve many things before I die!
8:00am: Better do something outdoors before a day in front of my computer!
It’s time for joyful invigorating park-time, featuring dog-stalking, cardio fitness and my new patented “sit on a bench and do breathing exercises til calmness and The Muse descend like some sort of slow-flapping heron on the banks of Lake Innisfree”.
This is a great hour for the freelancer.
9:30am: is there a new episode of The Mindy Project to watch, while I eat some sort of high-protein leisurely breakfast?
This shit is great research for being a Sassy Comedy Lady in the Modern World and so I often rewind and note down importantly lines to sear them into my brain for future just-in-cases.
10:30am: OH GOD OH GOD I HAVE SO MUCH TO DO OH GOD WHY HAVE I LEFT IT SO LONG OH GOD TIME TO GET TO WORK.
1.30pm: Well! At least half that time at my computer was productive, and the other half was looking for backpacks on sale that I put in my Checkout Basket but never actually buy!
It’s time to go to my local shopping centre and make the important SUSHI vs FRESH VIETNAMESE SPRING ROLLS vs DO I JUST MAKE A SALAD decisions.
This takes a while and it is not to be taken lightly.
Luckily Mildred is there to advise on my purchasing decisions (“they make milk out of BEANS now!)
2.30pm: OH GOD OH GOD I HAVE SO MUCH TO DO AND I JUST SAID YES TO SOMETHING ELSE WORK BITCH WORK WORK WORK YOU COULD DIE TOMORROW YOU KNOW
4:00pm: You know what they say about the muse?
Sometimes the muse is a fucking bitch.
On any given day, the muse might desert you and the only way to work through your current creative roadblock is to:
a) go back to the park and stare at dogs while calm-breathing til a solution appears,
b) lie on your back for 2 hours until you either fall asleep and dream the answer (A DINING TABLE MADE OF SKELETONS), or it comes to you mid-slack-jawedceiling-stare.
5.15pm: My housemates start returning home.
We discuss our days. Theirs involve interactions with human beings.
Mine are things like “I realised I have one weird toenail” or “I swear that pitbull on Lord St laughed at me like a cruel, mocking human.”
6:00pm: EAT SOMETHING EAT ANYTHING EAT CARDBOARD JUST GET IT DOWN AND GET BACK TO WORK YOU FOOL
Continue until 10 or 11pm and then fall asleep.
And here’s what I’m really getting to, non-freelancers.
You know how you get home from work and go “woooo whata day, Jeff sure was a dickhead at the water-cooler, ooh strategies and human resources woo, time to flick on Real Housewives and see if Brandi Glanville is still her honest self despite the bastards trying to get her down”?
Your non-work time is YOUR TIME TO ENJOY because you are FAR AWAY FROM WORK. You might need to check some emails or return a call, but you are not needed until 9am tomorrow. You are free.
Freelancers have the constant knowledge that we still have heaps of work to do. Always, always heaps of work to do. And our desk with all the means to do that work is sitting right above our heads.
And the desk has a long bendy neck like Horatio Hornblower in that movie, and it cranes that neck out the window of our study and down the front of our houses and right into the window that our TV-watching-couch sits next to.
“Imagine I have a desk instead of a face and pilot chin”
And every time we shift a little on the couch to LOL at a Housewifeism or eat another handful of Pringles from the Pringles that our housemate didn’t say we could eat, but we’re all friends here, right, we see that desk.
We eyeball each other all night. It shakes its long mahogany head at us.
We gulp, and we understand.
It might be 9-5 for everyone else, what a way to make a living, but not for us, Freelancers. Not for us at all.
So, Would Jess Like Freelance Lifestyles?
Yes, she would. I don’t have to squish onto trains, I can eat fucking huge lunches, and I get so much dog into my working day that it’s kind of a joke.
But is it a little more tiring, stressful and intellectually rigorous than it sounds? Is it hard to justify “nap time” as a creative endeavour? And will that Mr Fantastic desk of yours ever drop the motherfucking eye contact? No.
So, tread carefully my friends. And get back to work.