Blog : diary of a freelancer

Experiments with enough – Day 100

Experiments with enough – Day 100

It looks like I’ve made it to day 100.  Surely there’s something appropriately special in store for this last day. Is there?

My brain has been thinking about a post listing the things I’ve learnt from my 100-day diary but right now it’s trying to wriggle out of it. “It’s too late for coherent thoughts now”, “This should be done properly tomorrow”, “What you write now will be rubbish”.

Which I guess brings me to the first thing I’ve learnt:

What I do is better than what I don’t do.

In the sense that it’s all well and good to have high standards for yourself. To expect great things. Yet if this expectation stops you from actually doing anything then it’s just getting in the way. I’ve had good posts, bad posts, decent posts. Most importantly I’ve had the experience of writing and sharing a diary for 100 days. If I only posted the great entries I would have missed the whole thing.

I find it harder than I imagined to be frank about some things.

I’m a very open person (much to my mother’s dismay) and usually have absolutely no problem talking about my most personal, difficult days. I find the practice interesting and it always reveals something new to myself. Yet being frank with my thoughts about things I’m doing when that involves other people I’m working with I find more challenging. I often erred to the side of caution when I felt that things would create issues related to others. Finding the balance there as been difficult.

I’m realising I have this freelancing thing more sorted than I thought.

There are a million writings out there about how unglamorous freelancing is, how difficult it is to earn a living, how no one ever pays decently, how it’s actually all about working your ass off for nothing. And don’t get me wrong, it is all that sometimes. Yet there are also many days in which it works beautifully. Freelancing lets me explore things on my own terms and tweak processes as I go along. I’m embracing the fact that I’m a generalist and that having the flexibility to change tack at will is priceless. I’m completely open to other models of working that also include this flexibility but I don’t think that I am really be happy and fulfilled without it.

I actually love writing every day.

Despite the fact that some days I’ve been epically busy, other days I just did not feel like lifting a finger, writing daily has been a helpful and enjoyable practice. Some days I felt like I was only capable of writing rubbish but I wrote anyway and the practice of writing helped develop things in my head. Words help me make sense of things and writing them down feels both slow and deliverate, giving each one more attention, creating a space for observation.

On this note I’m winding down this 100th day of my freelancing diary and bringing the series to a close. I would like to sincerely thank all of you who have been keeping me company by reading occasionally or everyday. Your attention, comments, encouragement have spurred me on in moment where I felt this was a silly idea. I am very, very grateful.

My mind is already thinking about what’s next and it will come soon. In the meantime, thank you. I hope that you have also enjoyed the ride and found it somehow meaningful.

Experiments with enough – Day 99

Experiments with enough – Day 99

Today was mostly about our Parking Space Coffee morning. Wake up, little mini yoga session, breakfast, shower and making coffee, packing table, chairs, cups and biscuits in bags.

It took us a good 20-30 min to find a white parking space in Valletta. The one we eventually encountered was a motorcycle space in St Paul Street. Thanks to the press this week we were instantly recognised by a neighbour and also had a biker 🚴 join us. You can read about the whole experience here. I really enjoyed the two hours we spent there chatting, stopping passers by, drinking coffee and hanging around with some very interesting people. Today was the first time that the event took on a life of its own. Each of the people who joined had their own version of events. Their own idea of what it is and what we were all doing there. This made it an even richer experience for me.

The rest of the day involved lunch at home with friends, roaming around Valletta, and eventually a little unexpected trip to Marsascala where we observed the pro seaside picnickers doing their thing.

Experiments with enough – Day 98

Experiments with enough – Day 98

I did very little work today. The day programme involved a ferry to Sliema, sitting for Zvezdan Reljic, an amazing photographer and print master, and finally a rather big dose of wedding outfit shopping. This year I have definitely done more shopping than the last 4 years combined (still minute when compared to the average). I guess you could see it as an update of the basics that can then be with me for a long time. I try to buy things that are well made, from small artesian brands rather than mass market. Things that I can see myself wearing again and again and again. I’m also slimming down my wardrobe in the process. Anything that’s not top favourite gets charity shopped in an attempt to minimise my possessions and be lighter. There’s always an edge to my feelings when I buy things, so I try to make my money support good things that I want to see thriving and growing. Sometimes I just buy things that are not the best in terms of environmental or social impact. I’m not particularly proud of that and I’m trying to do that less and less. There are always alternatives if I look hard enough.

In the afternoon I dared look at my bank account to see who had paid and who hasn’t from my last batch of invoices. I somehow seem to work with a very timely-paying set of customers in general. My longest so far have definitely been government bodies (about 3-4 months!). Only one payment came back from the last batch I invoiced so it’s time to do some chasing. I find the whole system of credit bizarre. We buy things on a cash basis every day. You would not dream of going to the supermarket, taking your food and then paying them within 30 days (sometimes longer). Why would anyone expect a freelancer or a company for that matter, to give credit? Based on what premise?

In the evening Jo and I hopped over to feed the cats at the other house (I feel a little fancy saying that even though I clearly own neither). In the beginning they were naughty, antisocial, jumpy. We hung around for an hour or two and played, talked, cuddled and just sat close by. The change by the time we left was incredible. We left two sleepy, calm cats cosy in their sleeping corners. How much difference a little focused attention and time can make!

Experiments with enough – Day 97

Experiments with enough – Day 97

I’m in bed at 11pm, both sleepy and tired. I emerged from the cocoon that is Bahrija today where I spent the first half of the day.

I’m happy with the progress we made over the last two days and it feels good to be moving on to other things for bit. I really enjoy the variety.

This evening I had a meeting and a book launch of three books by EDE that quite a few people went to. Several people spoke about being exhausted on a Thursday evening which highlighted the fact that I actually felt completely relaxed and fresh after a few days in Bahrija. I had not really noticed before then.

It seems that exhibition production might be on the cards for the next few months following today’s meeting. I’ll need to balance it out with some decently paying work (the gov pays a measly hourly rate in general and my tax and NI need to come out of that) but I am really excited about the encounters, new ideas and experience that this will bring into my life.

In happy and completely unexpected news, Parking Space Events was featured by Lovin Malta today. Something about this project seems to have captured the imagination of many. I’m really enjoying the exploration.

Experiments with enough – Day 96

Experiments with enough – Day 96

I could seriously get used to this. Another Bahrija day at a relaxed but steady pace. Morning walk, some sweeping, meditation. Breakfast, some more cleaning and settling down to my computer mid morning to write some documentation with Peppi. We eventually stopped for lunch, then did some more work till 4pm when we started to make dinner, showered and eventually went for a walk up on the cliff and admired the para glider overhead.

This is how life can be for all of us if we decided to work together rather than segregate our resources and and worry about how we will all be jobless and moneyless very soon. We can all make our lives simpler and more in tune with the things that will support human beings in the long term. We can have the time and the possibility to enjoy the things that are already around us. To enjoy each other. To really live.

Why do we so often choose the hamster wheel instead?

Experiments with enough – Day 95

Experiments with enough – Day 95

Permaculture Malta day. To facilitate my work I’ve moved to Bahrija for just over two days. It feels easier to dedicate myself to something when I’m in it. Distractions seem to have less effect. I managed a site update on, there’s still much to be updated there but it’s definitely progress. Tomorrow it’s documentation and writing up new projects with Peppi.   

Photo: The sunset I missed because I was absorbed in my computer. Oh well! Taken by Johannes Buch who did not miss sunset.

Experiments with enough – Day 93

Experiments with enough – Day 93

Bahrija day. Early wake up, breakfast and a drive to Bahrija to welcome a group of students from Kingston University in London who visited Bahrija during a fieldwork trip to Malta. It was fun to see them explore the wonders of a compost toilet for the first time and their surprise at how ‘normal’ it all was. Favourite question, “where is the closest glass of wine to here”?

A mean curry later courtesy of Johannes and some afternoon laze in the shade time we spent some blissful hour or so shelling beans that will be used for seed. I had not shelled beans since I was probably six or so in my grandfather’s room-on-the-roof in Mellieha. It was definitely a nostalgia-filled moment.

The day ended with sunset surf (well Jo’s did, mine involved proud cheering on from the sidelines since the waves were a bit too enthusiastic for my beginner status), a parental visit and some cat loving before finally heading home. The more time I spend at Bahrija, the more energy I want to dedicate to getting the NGO to a financially sustainable status where it can really support more work to be done there. Question is, how do I create the right set of circumstances to facilitate me doing that?

Experiments with enough – Day 92

Experiments with enough – Day 92

Flurry of activity day. A late start, cat feeding and plant watering at Arch B, some city errands, a trip to Xrobb L-Ghagin close to Marsaxlokk (which was wonderful but also upsetting to see fish farms so close to the shore). Home for some food and then to Spazju Kreattiv for Victor Agius’s exhibition Consume and his curator’s talk about it. It’s always a pleasure to see Victor’s work and the process behind it but I would also have loved to see more of the backstory of the artworks, the fire, the work that got taken down after two days etc etc. I’m always intrigued by the story behind things and which ways can present that in the most accessible and communicative way. The day ended with a highly random festa experience in Valletta. Three band clubs playing, fireworks, a group of youngsters carrying a statue in the most casual of fashions, a soft-toy lion sitting happily in front of the statue of St Augustine, street decorations. Practically no spectators. The whole thing was surreal but also strangely intriguing.

Photo: From Consume by Victor Agius.

Experiments with enough – Day 91

Experiments with enough – Day 91

In frustration and indecision mode. I’m looking at my own website and being unhappy with the way it presents my work and how laborious it is to update it properly. I’m updating it anyway and working on finding a better system in the long run. One that is easier to manage on the go.

Tonight I’ve given myself a 15 min window to write this in and will now give myself the luxury of reading. I realised I rarely make time to do that and I sorely miss it.

Experiments with enough – Day 90.5

Experiments with enough – Day 90.5

It’s almost the middle of the day and today I am really confronted with some big questions. This week and the next are dedicated to documentation and catching up with things and as everything is slower and quieter, as I have options over what to do with my time, questions about what I actually want to do with it crop up.

Here are some of the themes dancing around my head this morning:

Planning for how long?

I have in front of me the possibility of working on a year-long project that would take at least half my working time to start with, with more hours during the last few months. I have no idea as yet how much it pays and my head is full of questions about whether I want to commit myself to something for that long, whether this fits with what I find necessary, important. Whether it leaves me enough time for the other things which I know I need to be doing. On the other hand, a year long project brings a basic income I can plan things around and which would mean I will know that I can do things a few months down the line albeit not knowing whether I will actually have the time to do them.

How do I document my work better?

I’m a writer who is obsessed with getting the essence across effectively and meaningfully. How do I do that for myself? How do I document my projects better? How do I showcase what I do in a way that represents me well and attracts more of the type of things I am interested and intrigued by? I’m frustrated with my current portfolio and would love to find ways of speaking about what I do in better ways and really getting who I am across to readers who happen to land there.

And the big one:

What is my next step in really intertwining who I am and what I do?

Freelancing is for me a way of being flexible enough to follow my own curiosity, rhythm, gut instinct. Within that I still regularly get lost in my own mind’s cries to go for what I know will pay me well now, to make each hour of work pay, to stick within what I know is relatively straightforward to monetise. Yet I’m clearly both a generalist and a person who is intrigued with the intersections of things. I live between many bubbles, I love spending time with a wide variety of people doing very diverse things and lights fire up in me when I can make links between them, ways of borrowing something from one to use in another, ways of translating the languages of each to show that what might appear as chalk and cheese actually shares a similar milky colour, a crumbly texture and significant amounts of Calcium. As I allow myself more freedom to explore my own possibilities (going to Brazil for 6 months and taking myself out of my self-inflicted boundaries had wonderful effects), I’m becoming better at finding opportunities at these intersections. Yet it’s the quiet work of days when I manage to silence my brain chatter long enough to get pulled into things by my own curiosity. Days when I need to sit in the middle of uncertainty and find the peace that exists in not knowing. Days when I can give myself the time and space to search for the words inside myself and allow my own truth to surface. Days when I manage my own inputs and outputs so that they support rather than squash this truth-finding process. Days exactly like today.

Inputs I’m exploring today:

foam I had the pleasure of working with Maja and Nik on Tasting Tomorrow and I am very impressed by their amazing documentation (among many other things).

This great Creative Mornings talk by Rob Alderson about the magic that comes about when blurring the lines.

Photo credit: Nik Gaffney / foam during Tasting Tomorrow