Breathe.

And again.

Your fraud pants are invisible.

They are, aren’t they? Quick, check!

Yes, they are indeed invisible, now breathe.

And thus begins the secret diary of a fledgling freelancer, hoping this will bring comfort to other freelancers, fledging or flown. I wish someone had told me that there is an awful lot of seat-of-pants, make it up as you go along, say yes and most importantly, that EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING THAT TOO. Maybe I would have taken this leap of faith* sooner.

Roll back to the end of March 2017 and I received an email saying I’ve been selected for Writers’ Block North East‘s Mentoring Programme. This was my second acceptance. The first time I went in with ideas for a novel I thought was ready to be written and my head exploded with the amount of stuff I learned. I stopped the novel. I reworked, I took it all in, I read voraciously, I applied the amazing one-to-one mentoring advice I’d been given from Laura Degnan and James Harris and by the end had zero of the novel left but an idea for something new using all the knowledge I’d soaked up. So here was round two, time to put it all into action, but this time we were to be based in MIMA (Middlesbrough Institue of Modern Art) and we were their Writers in Residence. What does a Writer in Residence do?

Working around my pay-the-bills-part-time-job, and with some holiday taken for good measure, I spent a month in MIMA. Learning Curator, Claire Pounder met me on my first day. I wasn’t sure what I was meant to actually do but my background in Community Development, before a serious encounter with disability turned my world upside down, came to the fore. I would listen, watch, ask questions, join in everything and out of that something would come and I’d present an idea, I said, definitely wearing fraud pants.

Disability hadn’t battered my confidence. The way society views disability, the way I viewed disability, had taken its toll. I believed that if I couldn’t do things my ‘old’ way, the ‘normal’ way, then I couldn’t do things at all. I kept it hidden; shame and fear are more disabling than disability itself. And for the first time ever, to Claire, I voiced this. Once I finally opened my mouth and articulated my needs they were met and I was accepted. As me. As a writer and a practitioner. Something clicked and changed. And I began to soar.


Dear Fledgling Freelancer,

There is a steep learning curve out there. Saying yes to the right things, discussing fees, time management, wishing there was cloning currently in place, turning down work because you can’t do two things at once and worrying that will be the end and they’ll never ever ask you again, funding bids and HMRC, believing you are good enough, knowing you are good enough…

Roll forward a year. With the hardest work you have ever done, but without it feeling like the hardest work you have ever done because it’s all you’ve ever wanted to do and that makes you want to cry a little bit, you will have achieved the unthinkable:

Your work will hang in the gallery in MIMA and they will have paid you to design their schools programme based on the ideas you came up with and presented in your residency. You will have worked with them on two further projects and hope to keep this curious and exciting relationship flowing.

You will be a Spoken Word Performer being booked at events to deliver your own words, you will be receiving commissions and about to begin R&D at ARC in Stockton to develop a new piece of theatre.

You will have found your creative family in the Tees Women Poets and the members of the GTPT programme at ARC. Find a creative family! They will nourish you, pass on work and advice, and above all else be your greatest cheerleaders.

You will have met your demons head on and made peace with them. They will still haunt you, that dark room in your nightmares, and your disability will still have to be managed, but you will be empowered and unstoppable. You will work with Vici Wreford-Sinnott, a dynamic tour-de-force of a director and theatre maker, who will open your eyes to Disability Arts. You will then become a blogger for Disability Arts Online.

You will be working on your novel in the morsels of time you can grab between planning sessions, delivering them, writing new poems, going to gigs. And thanks to Writers’ Block, this time you have a clear plan and an agent who would like to read it upon its completion.

You will be earning an income from words, art and drama. You just have to trust that it’s time to put your fraud pants in a drawer, because this is real, and there’s no going back.

With love and best wishes,

Your Flown Freelancer

P.S you will no longer have time for Netflix.


*not in a higher power, unless you count wine. But in little ol’ me.

 

Read more from Lisette on Disability Arts.