What Am I Doing? What Am I ‘Not’ Doing?


You may have noticed that I haven’t blogged in quite some time. Maybe you didn’t. That’s ok too. I am not hibernating, though it’s been so cold in East Belfast, the idea of disappearing under my duvet with a bar of Caramac and re-emerging in May, seems infinitely appealing. In fact, I’ve been “enjoying” the busiest January/February of my young life. I thought I’d write a quick blog just to let you all know why I seem to have disappeared/look like the the world’s grumpiest individual and try to get away from you really quickly every time our paths cross.

At last count I am currently working seven part time jobs/longterm art projects. I’m not complaining. It’s wonderful to have this much work and as a result it looks like I’ll be able to keep myself well-stocked in Caramacs and other more necessary items for the foreseeable future. All my projects are wonderful and important and life-giving in their own ways, and it is such a blessing to be able to say I enjoy what I do and actually mean it. But oh my goodness, I am so tired. I am so tired/busy that I didn’t get to watch the new episode of Endeavour until three whole days after it aired. (Not good enough, Jan. Next thing you know, you’ll be skipping Casualty). I am also leaving important items lying at my backside in coffee shops at an even more impressive rate than usual. (This is always a good means of monitoring my overall well-being).

I am beginning to learn lots of hard lessons about being a freelance arts practitioner. For example. Be careful who you give your phone number to. And. It is impossible to function if you only eat workshop biscuits all day. And. Four hours per week commitment, rarely means four hours. It’s a bit like the 10% extra you get on top of the speed limit, before you get a ticket. Hire a freelancer for 4 hours a week and they’ll probably do up to 6 hours before they start complaining. I am not at all good at complaining. I have also learned that I am not very good at measuring things such as how long a project will actually take to deliver and how much I should charge for things, (Nb. saying, “I don’t know, how much do you think you should pay me?” is only a good option when working in the arts sector in Scandinavia), and how many extra minutes/hours/Millenia you need to set aside between meetings when your meeting is in the Queen’s area and you require a parking spot in the Holy Lands. It’s a steep learning curve. I hope to get better at it all soon.

For those of you thinking, “seriously, Jan, seven part time jobs? You must be exaggerating,” (most likely it is only my brother wondering this, or my nephew, who has learnt from my brother, to question my use of hyperbole), I am currently curating three literary festivals, teaching a radio drama workshop for carers, overseeing the Dementia Friendly film programme at the QFT, facilitating a film making project for seniors, coordinating the Literary Programme for CAP and, as of last week, roaming about on trains all over Ireland, writing stories inspired by my journey as part of the Irish Writers’ Centre’s Roaming Writers programming, (bit of a tongue twister that one). Actually just counted up there and that makes eight, rather than seven responsibilities and doesn’t even take in all the one off workshops and speaking dates and sundry bits and bobs I find myself agreeing to do, (German documentaries about Brexit and the like). Every one of these projects is incredibly important and mostly a lot of fun, but right now they’re taking up such a large chunk of my time and I’ve become something of a hermit.

I’m also in the middle of a big edit of a new novel. It will be launched sometime in early 2019 and I’m delighted to say it’s found a really wonderful publishing home, though I can’t say too much more at this stage. Editing isn’t really my favourite part of the writing process. It feels a little like doing an enormous jigsaw puzzle where the frame keeps expanding with every piece you put in place. I’m inclined to just ok all my -very lovely-editor’s suggestions in track changes, shuffle the chapters around a bit and say, “there you go, all done. It’s meant to be confusing. I was going for a kind of Finnegan’s Wake vibe.” I’m not doing that. They probably wouldn’t publish it then. Instead I’m drinking lots of coffee and staying up late and meticulously going through the whole bloody thing for the ninth time, trying to get it as good as it can possibly be. It is not very much fun.

I anticipate re-entering civilisation around the middle of March. If you don’t see me by April, it might be best to break my door down. You’ll probably find me sitting in a circle of Caramac wrappers, furiously trying to work out what tense it is when you’re in the past already but you’re trying to talk about something that happened before that. Please don’t have too much fun without me. I’m not gone. I’m just editing.

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