I’m thrilled to introduce another guest blogger: Annie Harris. I met Annie at the London College of Music, where I teach. By the time we met, she had already graduated and was making her way as a young actor in London – juggling trying to find acting work while keeping body/soul together and keeping the wolf away from the door! I’m really excited to introduce her to The Thriving Creative. As you’ll see she has a wonderful fresh perspective. Welcome Annie.
You know the advert where the lady’s running around a white room full of wobbly, spinning plates, metaphorically referring to her questionable financial common sense? A commercial doesn’t often provide much time for revealing the full extent of one’s acting technique, but she does a pretty fine job of pulling a ‘I’m about to burst a blood vessel’ face while keeping all of her plates in perfect, spinning order.
She opens an app on her snazzy phone, and boom – all of her finances become magically organised! Thankfully, all of those nasty, taunting plates have vanished.
I, for one, relate to this ad on a particularly personal scale. No, I don’t have a secret life as a plate-spinner. I used to dream of running away to the circus as a child, when my mother would read me the story of the plucky French orphan girl, Madeline, dreaming of running away to the circus with her frenemy, Pepito, or ‘Bad Hat’. I tried running away once. I got as far as cosying up on an old bean bag in our garage, and skulked back in time to catch Blue Peter before dinner.
Since I graduated, I’ve been juggling two jobs to keep myself financially independent in probably one of the toughest cities in which to do it. I recently wrote a post on my own blog, Ubermagee, about my life as a graduate so far. For those of you who’re interested in a little background story, it tells the story of the time from the second I received my results, right up to the present day.
Surviving alone – and I won’t sugar coat this – at this time of financial bleakness is not pretty. It’s a tough old world out there for all of us, but I’ve found that what really separates the men from the boys is the ability to juggle their ‘survival job’ (teaching, hospitality, administration etc) and the ‘dream job’ (acting, singing, being a musician – delete as appropriate).
Crack this skill, and keep up the following practices, and that tough old world becomes much easier to handle.
1. Keep a good diary
I’ve begun with this one, as I’ve found that it’s been the most helpful for me. Make sure that your diary is up to date and organised at all times. I make almost constant use of Google Calendar, which is also able to be accessed from smartphones, tablets and the like, and includes an extremely helpful taskbar called ‘Google Tasks’. I genuinely believe that running my two lives wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t make use of this wonderful little tool on the regular. If you prefer a paper format, then I recommend carrying your diary at all times, as well as a pencil and eraser to keep it looking fresh and readable. Remembering where you’ve got to be and what you’ve got to do is often half the battle.
2. Be honest
These days, absolutely anybody can hold down two or three ventures if they’re clever and creative enough with their precious time. However, if you’re going to an interview for a survival job, it’s absolutely pointless letting them believe that all you want to do for the rest of your life is that job, if that’s simply not true. It makes it a whole lot easier to find a job with an employer who appreciates and understands what you do, and is open to negotiating your hours as and when it fits around the demands of the business. It’s a much nicer feeling than lying to your employers regularly, perhaps feigning a doctor’s appointment every week or so, or telling them that your child is home sick from school and you simply can’t leave their side.
3. Find a flexible job
Following on from the above note, it’s much, much easier on both parties – employer and employee – if the job you have is pretty flexible. Administration or temping jobs are good for this, and teaching even more so. There’ll always be times when swapping shifts around gets sticky and you’ll have to come to a compromise somewhere along the line, but that can, and does, happen from time to time and there’s not much you can do to avoid it.
If you can find a back-up trade that allow you to be self-employed and decide for yourself when you can take the time off, then even better. I, and a handful of my peers, have extra skills in PA work, touch-typing and proofreading. A couple of chaps I know still help out their family members doing man-with-a-van type jobs when they can. It’s all about finding the balance and using your skills to the best of your abilities at all times.
4. Stay motivated
Your ‘dream job’ will never fail to bring you lots of new and exciting things to learn and discover every day. Conversely, you may feel that classic ‘fear of missing out’, and have that nagging feeling that you’re not exploring absolutely every avenue possible for developing new skills that will put you heads above the rest. Your ‘survival job’ is boring, repetitive, and you resent having to go to the same old office every day when you feel like you could be doing something so much more valuable with your time. That’s an awful lot of brain-thoughts for one person, and it’s easy to feel disheartened and mentally exhausted by it all.
Making sure that you take care of your body by making time for physical relaxation, exercising regularly, eating the right foods and sleeping well may seem like an extra chore to add to your ever-growing list, but they’re all crucial to keep that all-important energy up so you can face each day with bright-eyed and bushy-tailed optimism and enthusiasm.
I hope these tips have been helpful to you. Thank you for taking the time to read my first blog here, and huge thanks to the wonderful Steven for hosting me. I’ll be back soon with more, but until then, best of luck! 🙂
Annie is a 22-year-old actor and writer based in West London.
After spending the first 18 years of her life in South Wales, Annie graduated from the London College of Music in 2011 with a 2:1 in Musical Theatre.
In the last year, Annie has been part of a team focusing on the social presence of Equity’s West and South West London Branch, has guest blogged for the mental health awareness charity ‘Mind’, and has recently dipped her toe into the world of vlogging.
Thanks for the post Annie. You’ll see more of Annie’s writing next week.