2022

Time for the annual blog post. I started this year somewhat overcommitted, and the pace didn’t slacken until… November, kind of? This isn’t a “look how much work I had” humblebrag, this is an “I can’t do that again”.

Part of the problem is that this isn’t a well-paying industry. Part of the problem is that saying no to a job is bloody terrifying, because you never know which jobs are going to lead to other things and if you’re not the one doing the job then you won’t be the one doing the subsequent jobs.

A case in point: I had, very sensibly, scheduled a little bit of time off at the end of August/beginning of September. I knew I’d be busy in July and August directing a Fringe show, and I had a short gap between the end of that commitment and the beginning of the new term at EAS. Just after I opened my Fringe show I stepped in at very short notice to do some production management on a short film – I knew that would be exhausting, but my show was up and running and I had time off coming up in a few weeks, and there was a lot to be gained by doing it.

Within minutes of saying yes to that, I found out that one of my actors had covid. We found an understudy, but she could only cover one week. By the end of that week, the original actor still had thick red lines on her LFTs, so I suddenly found myself on understudy duties. But it would be fine – I had time off scheduled, I could recover then.

And then I was offered a week’s well-paid dramaturgy on a really cool project with an artist I’ve admired from a distance for years. That week’s work was during my planned week off. For the sake of my wellbeing I should have said no – but I didn’t, and I loved it, and it led to another project almost immediately afterwards, to a much bigger project this spring, and to a residency in the summer.

But while it was a great move professionally, I’ve been limping literally and figuratively ever since. I’ve needed my stick a lot this year. I’ve been very unsociable as I’ve used up all of my capacity for talking to people on work and I’ve got nothing left for chat. I’m two weeks into my break – my first this year – and I’m still exhausted. Even if I’d wanted to replicate the frantic pace of last January, when I was in R&Ds all day and either rehearsal or teaching in the evenings/at weekends, I couldn’t do it. I imagine this is how a car feels when there’s no fuel in the tank and someone turns the key.

So, although I don’t do New Year’s resolutions because fuck waiting for arbitrary dates to make change, my plan is that when I start back after this break I need to find ways to build in rest. How I’m going to do that I really don’t know, but I’m going to have to. I can’t do another year of taking no time off until Christmas.

But at least I’m going back after this break with some great stuff lined up. Mark and I are working together on a piece about a long-dead alien civilisation eulogising itself, Measureless to Man, which we’re sharing at Snapshots at Manipulate in February. I’m working with Marie-Claire Traynor on her weird and wonderful Inverfayreseat. I’ve got a libretto to finish for the brilliant Amble Skuse (plus that residency). There are Rabbler touring plans to make. I have a wonderful new diploma cohort to teach at EAS. And I’m starting 2023 with a newly-published book – my novella Heaven Burns, which is available from Leamington Books as part of their Novella Express series.

However, nothing is happening before my break ends on the 9th. Until then everything is books, films, husband, cat and hibernation.

Happy New Year.

About jenbitespeople

Edinburgh-based writer, director, dramaturg, spoken word artist and acting coach. https://ko-fi.com/jenbitespeople View all posts by jenbitespeople

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