Recently I’ve been feeling really fed up. Around February of this year I got very sick and had to turn down a lot of work – work which I thought I’d soon pick up again, but which never rematerialised. What I didn’t know at the time was that this was the start of a career breakdown. It was the least amount of work I’ve had since leaving uni: just a couple odd afternoons teaching. After 3 weeks of nothing I made the decision to start applying for non-freelance musician and creative jobs, because I couldn’t seem to find any. I unearthed my CV and updated it properly for the first time since 2011. I applied for jobs with titles like Social Media Manager and Events Assistant and Junior Administrator and Music Course Co-Ordinator. I didn’t get them.
I continued to unsuccessfully apply for jobs until the middle of July when I got really sick again and this time got myself hospitalised. After the allocated 3 week recovery time, a lot of drugs, and my planned trip to Helsinki, I got back to my desk one week ago feeling thoroughly confused and bewildered.
Being freelance in a creative industry means you expect periodic phases where jobs are a bit thin on the ground, but if you’re struggling to get hired for months on end it starts to just feel like you’re untalented and unemployed. You start to question things. I’m not an insecure person normally, but my career is something I’ve always had a bit of trouble embracing. Am I really good enough for this? Am I a good enough musician? Are my words interesting enough? Are my songs unique enough? The resounding answer is no. If I was and they were, I wouldn’t be in this predicament.
I left uni with a flurry of job leads, most of which turned into work and I missed the dreaded “move home and apply for everything” stage that a lot of people fall into. Perhaps I’m just doing that now, but it’s hard to stop yourself from wondering if you are talented and you’ve just hit a bad patch, or if you’ve just been winging it up until now and suddenly everybody’s found out you’re crap and that’s why the phone sits silent. It doesn’t help that we live in a society which pushes musicians and writers right to the bottom of the pile: any kid with a ukulele and a YouTube tutorial is a performer, any hack with 2k followers and a rhyming couplet is a poet. I’m not bitter, and I don’t feel entitled – but I do wonder where I fit in. I fluctuate between wondering where it all went wrong and trying to retrace my career steps over the last couple of years, and thinking I ought to just pack it in and re-train as something really employable like a plumber or a dentist or a meme.
I spoke to my friends about this: with no family or teachers anymore, they’re all I have. In my peerless industry also I lack senior figures I can turn to for advice, which is probably part of the problem: we all end up looking sideways, rather than up. People were universally shocked that I’d been contemplating retraining; “but you love what you do!!!”. Well yeah, but I also love having something to do. My friends spoke about the lack of outlets for contemporary music, how unemployment can be so fun if you know when it will end, how we’ll probably all get there in the end but it’s hard to see when you’re in the middle of the maze. I spoke to James and he advised me to make a website or YouTube and generally share more of the stuff I’m doing. “You do so much that it’s hard for people to associate you with one thing, so you’re on like 10 lists without being top of any.” Turns out the blessing was a curse.
I’ve never been a particularly anxious or insecure person (in fact, quite the opposite) but I think it would be a stronger person than I not to feel a bit worn out given the circumstances. 8 steady months of little work will do that to a person. I’m not saying my life is all doom and gloom and I cry in a ball every morning: I still make enough to live and pay rent, I have incredible friends, I’m in one of the greatest and hardest cities in the world, I have a caring boyfriend who loves me, and most wonderfully of all I have my health. It’s just difficult: I’ve always defined myself by my artistic output and I LIKE having work, having a purpose, developing as an artist, creating. And that’s what I’m lacking.
So that’s where I’m at right now. I’ve decided that I’m going to sack off applying for boring jobs, and throw myself into my writing, my music and my blog for the next two months and see where it leads. Force myself to put up more songs, more ideas, more compositions. Make a website and get it up to date. Make a YouTube and just chuck all sorts of covers on there. Stop writing any old thing on my blog and keep it strict and structured – see if I can’t get a few more of you out there interested. If nothing comes of it, then fine. I spent around 4 or 5 months of this year half-heartedly applying for jobs with absolutely nothing to show for it. I may as well spend 2 months doing things giving myself a break and doing things I actually like.