Solo Co-working

Since beginning the inquiry into The Artist as Entrepreneur, I have been recognising some of my daily struggles, and wondering about how to work with and through them.

I spend most of my time working alone. Apart from the solo practice in my performance making, I am more often than not, alone in my home-office (kitchen, really), typing away on my computer – responding to emails, grant applications, writing (both reflective and creative), the freelance marketing work, updating my website, research etc.

Many of these tasks often don’t have immediate results. The closest thing to success is the satisfaction from ticking off the to-do list. But until events like the program launch of the show you’ve been working on the past year come round, it is actually rather difficult to celebrate the work you’ve done/been doing/still have to do; the work never ends.

I think about my year at Metro Arts as an arts manager, and I chat with people from other worlds. And here are a few strategies that I have tried, and want to try.

1. Affirmation
Back in the office at an arts organisation, I’d often check in with my colleagues and my boss. My then-boss was an exceptionally nurturing one, and so I would approach her with questions if I got stuck, or would get her to review my work. Critical feedback, a partner to discuss solutions moving forward, as well as a simple “good job” is both affirming and productive. Just being able to go to someone and acknowledge that “I don’t have an answer!” is necessary! And this is greatly missing when you work alone.

2. Conducive space
Sometimes a cafΓ© is a great place to work. The balance of people watching, real-life interaction with the staff, and just a change of environment is refreshing, and reminds you of the real world in which you exist in – and the world which is bigger than you. It can be inspiring, and can definitely put you and your work into perspective. But I cannot always spend money eating out or having cups of coffee I don’t actually need.

Some co-working spaces are excellent too – all though many are targeted at start-ups of various kinds – which can be just as exciting. The possible network and new relationships that could foster in that space is a good perk. The Good Copy on Johnston street has a focus on writers. Visual artists share studio spaces. But can performance makers come together? Perhaps also, that we are addressing administrative work – which isn’t always the most interesting part of the job scope as makers.

3. Resources
A lot of times, we just don’t know stuff. And someone else’ experience is incredibly handy.

4. Time/Discipline/Self-motivation/Value
I’ve started charting a daily time-sheet, and I strongly advise you try it out and tell me how it is or it isn’t working for you.

Every other industry does it – even full-time staff are usually required to do it; this helps them better quote their clients when pricing their projects.

Creating this habit for ourselves as performance makers can give us a better reflection of the work we actually do in a day – in terms of time spent, as well as in what we did achieve. This can then also give us tangible figures to claim our value when we are being tasked by others to work on their projects.

I am hoping that being clear with time spent will then translate to a mindset shift with regards to self-motivation and discipline; realising how much/little time we take for particular tasks on that to-do list can help us better re-prioritise, and make better decisions with what we often say yes (or no) to.

Moving forward.

So that leaves me with two project ideas that I am instigating as of now. Please contact me directly at lewis.jme@gmail.com if you are interested in participating!

Project idea: A phone network.
A support network of peers who work solo and independently in the arts. A self-driven, self-decided time is put in place to make a phone call to the chosen peer – to check in, and listen – to affirm.

Project idea: Co-working at my home.
Designated day each week where peers will be welcomed to spend the day working side-by-side with me. Access to each others’ resources, casual conversations over shared lunches, and a way to structure work-time for yourself.

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