When meeting someone for the first time in a while the “So, what are you up to these days?” question soon crops up. Because I’ve been doing an odd mixture of things for the past couple of years friends ask this of me with even less idea than they might otherwise. So, for the subset of people who also read this, here’s what I’m up to these days.
The summary is that I’ve mostly been at home, doing things I’ve been meaning to do for ages. I’m a bit unsure about acting right now but still keen on the internet. I need to find more paying work and I’m trying to define what the new challenge is that I need.
Getting things done
Since I left the theatre course at LISPA last July I’ve had very little paying work of any description. So I’ve been able to churn through items on the “Things to do someday that I know I’ll never have time for but if I write them here then maybe I can stop thinking about them” list. I’ve digitised VHS tapes, sorted out 3.5” disks, put a lot of unused stuff on eBay, added some new things to the Pepys site, and rewritten the code behind Gyford.com, among other tasks. It’s been great, but I’ve realised there will never be an end to this stuff. There is always more to do.
I wasn’t under the illusion that I’d step out of LISPA and end up with paying acting work. Or any acting work come to that. But finding out how to get work has been harder than I expected.
It doesn’t help that I don’t feel very enthusiastic. This is partly because as time goes on I feel more distant from that world. And partly because there are some aspects of theatre that I feel like I’ve had enough of, at least for the moment; I don’t want to devise theatre in a group again for a long, long time. And it’s partly because I’m more picky than anyone on the bottom rung of the acting ladder should be. I don’t want to tour the country in a van for no money. I don’t want to appear in dumb adverts (although the money would be nice). I’m not even sure I want to spend ages rehearsing a play unless it’s a fantastic one with brilliant people in a convenient location. Picky, me?
I enjoy being on stage and in front of the camera, and I like the difficulty of creating a performance that works. But when I look at colleagues who devote their whole lives to this stuff I feel like I don’t deserve to get anywhere. I’m not sure I want it enough. Not right now, anyway.
I haven’t had much internet-related work for the past few months, which I’ve put down to a combination of the financial situation, the fact many people wrongly think I’m now an actor, and me just not trying hard enough.
But making websites is what I always come back to. After realising I didn’t know what to do with my masters in Future Studies I returned (happily) to websites. And while sitting in LISPA’s windowless rooms my mind would often wander to things I was doing online, while the converse — distracted by acting stuff while at the computer — never happened. After all these years the Internet still excites me.
So I expect to continue making internet things for some time. But I don’t want to return to exactly the same web development I’ve been doing for years as it was getting repetitive — the same scale of sites, the same problems, usually working alone. I’m not sure what direction to take but I want to do something new. New and exciting challenges are needed but I can’t see what shape they will be yet.
As a start I’m learning Python and then on to Django — it’s been nine years since I started on PHP and that’s much, much too long only being able to think in one way (with a dash of bad Perl). I don’t want to be solely a web developer — and am pretty sure I have other relevant skills — but for my own projects, at least, I want to be able to make things in different ways.
Aside from that first step, I still need to define the shape of the bigger changes. Maybe it’s got nothing to do with the Internet. I don’t know what I want.
Despite all that Futures training I’ve always been reluctant at looking to my own future. I have zero idea what I’ll be doing with myself in six months, never mind ten years. Despite the financial mood I feel optimistic about the year ahead. Many friends seem perversely excited, Obama’s arriving to save humankind, I’m getting married in a couple of weeks, and I want to start new things. 2009 sounds promising, if uncertain, so far.