Following Tracey's excellent blog post about self care I wanted to talk a little bit about the methodology I have for maintaining a forward momentum in my work without falling prey to burnout. Self care is a huge part of avoiding that but I have also found several things about HOW I work can really aid in the effort not to run out of steam.
Getting the obvious out of the way first, the life of a freelancer is tough, I won't belabour the point but it's important not to overlook that. One of the advantages however is that it presents the freedom in some ways to work how you want to work on what you want to work on, with the caveat that at the end of it you still have to make sure somebody PAYS YOU FOR IT.
Currently with Circle of Spears I have a number of ongoing or upcoming projects. One is the audiobook title Minstrel's Bargain by Richard Ayre. A fantastically written horror/suspense title set in 1980s Newcastle. (Geordie accents abound) As I discussed in my blog about being dyslexic and reading audiobooks for a living I work a little differently to how a lot of other voiceover artists work in that regard but that's only one aspect of the work I do with Circle of Spears. Later this month I have a murder mystery evening event based on the works of Ann Cleeves. (come along if you're in the area) It's based on her Vera Stanhope books but you don't have to have read them to enjoy it. Those of you who follow us on social media will know that coming up this June we also have a show on at Fringe Theatre Fest in Barnstaple where we are performing the new play A Different Track by Ute Orgassa. It's been over a year since we were in the rehearsal room with a new project and I know that all of us are brimming with excitement at the prospect.
So with all this going on how do we keep on top of it all? Well, firstly with the audiobook stuff it helps to have a stop and start style of working especially while editing as this is for me the more mentally taxing part of the process. I've heard audio editing likened to making sausages, it's messy, time consuming, repetitive and if you saw it done it would probably spoil your breakfast. In the early days I used to pull long hours editing non-stop but after a while that only lends you diminishing returns. The brain fog descends and before you know it you feel like your brain is dripping out your ears. BUT YOU'VE STILL GOT ANOTHER CHAPTER TO DO. The key to overcoming this is working smarter, not harder. No matter what field you're in there will always be someone who can work harder and longer than you can but by working smarter you can get the most out of yourself without burning the candle at both ends. A lot of the methods I use have a lot in common with the practices taught to students studying for exams. Something I have taken to doing recently is setting myself a goal of a certain number of chapters to complete in a week. The time and means completing them is flexible but the goal is there to have something to work towards. I have found that having micro breaks during the editing process and complete screen breaks every few hours for at least twenty minutes helps wonderfully.
The theatrical side of things is a completely different beast. Most of the time same rules apply there as apply to doing physical exercise. Stay hydrated, warm up beforehand, physically and vocally. There are also sometimes games and techniques we use to get into character or maintain an accent. In the murder mysteries which are very improvisation heavy we sometimes work out any little character notes and relationships. We might also do some games specifically designed to get our improvising brains into gear.
None of what I have mentioned above is an exact science and the methodology I use is merely what I have arrived at after nearly 7 years working as a professional actor/freelancer in some form or another and it is always being refined. I'd be interested to know what you (Yes you the person reading this right now) do in order to avoid burnout and make your working life a little easier.