Archives for category: Stress & wellbeing

Image courtesy of The Design Files

Lucy Feagins launched The Design Files, a daily blog in 2008, transforming her hobby into a business with 180,000 visitors every month. Lucy speaks about the challenges of managing a daily online presence and working from home full-time. She also provides great insight into the demands of running your own business and offers some great tips on how to manage your time more efficiently.

Interview by Nina Pether

What is the most stressful aspect of working in the blogosphere?

The single most stressful part of my job is e-mail! Having a daily online presence means people often expect you to be accessible at all times. I spend a lot of my week out and about sourcing and shooting stories, and inevitably, when I get back to my desk at the end of the day I have 200 or more emails waiting for me. It is impossible to keep on top of my inbox.

You run a daily blog and juggle a full-time job as a stylist and set dresser. How do you balance these varied creative projects?

In all honesty, it is so difficult balancing full-time work with any kind of demanding side project. You really have to be disciplined. My one rule when first embarking on this blog was to never miss a post. Once I committed to posting new content on a daily basis, I found my rhythm. It just becomes a part of your daily routine and then you cannot remember a time when you did not have to do it! I guess “The Design Files” is like a baby – it needs feeding and changing all the time!

When I was working full-time, I would come home every night and have about half an hour of getting my things in order, and then from about 7.30pm to after midnight spend time doing blog stuff; catch up on emails, photoshop images, create content, and upload the following day’s post. I would eat dinner whilst staring at the screen, stay up late to get it all done,and then get up in the morning and go to work! Luckily my boyfriend is a saint and I love takeaway food.

You produce a lot of online content on a daily basis. Do you find it challenging to meet this demand on your own? How do you structure your time and the various facets of your business to be efficient?

To be honest, these days, generating content is the least of my concerns… after all, that is the fun bit! There is no shortage of great stuff to write about, and I receive a lot of submissions and tip-offs which are really helpful. What I find more difficult is making time for the business side – bookkeeping, negotiating with advertisers, keeping on top of cash flow and all of that boring stuff.

I have decided to try and make 2011 the year for more delegation. I am such a control freak usually, but I am learning to get help more often, and especially in areas that are not my strengths – for instance, I got a bookkeeper this year. One other simple but super helpful thing that I have done this year is to try and lock in entire days to be at the computer screen, and entire days to be out and about. Monday is usually a computer day when I try not to schedule meetings or shoots. I find that once I leave my desk to go and photograph something or meet someone, the entire day is a write-off! It is much better to spend a whole day out photographing, and then a whole day at the computer screen.

Do you ever find your workload exhausting or overwhelming? If so, how do you keep yourself inspired when you are working on your own and to multiple deadlines?

YES! I am often overwhelmed by the workload, mainly because most of the work comes down to me and me alone. I try to organise things in advance but inevitably I still need to be connected to TDF every day.

Whilst the workload can be quite overwhelming at times, I generally do not have any trouble staying motivated or inspired. My number one motivation is all the wonderful readers.

Having said all that, it is my goal for 2012 to make the site slightly less dependent on just me alone. I would love more assistance for the administration, advertising and technical parts of the job.

Would you ultimately like to focus on “The Design Files” full-time?

This was my long term goal last year and I am there already! So my next goal is to retrospectively make a proper plan and some actual ‘systems’ for this business. In order to grow I really need an office, I need to get better at delegating and I need to hire some more regular in-house assistance. I am also excited to start taking TDF off the screen and into the real world a little more often – we have a super exciting pop-up event planned in Melbourne for early December – stay tuned!

Interested in more reading on stress and well-being?

Yolanda Finch is the Creative Producer behind the annual L’Oréal Melbourne Fashion Festival (LMFF). Each year the festival launches the Autumn/Winter collections of Australia’s top and emerging designers. The festival is considered one of the largest consumer events of its kind in the world and last year showed the collections of over fifty Australia’s leading design talents.

Finch has been working with LMFF for over ten years and, as Creative Producer, generates and oversees the fashion and creative content of all Festival productions. Finch discusses with arts interview stress in fashion and the arts, and finding the illusive balance between work and well-being.

Interview by Alex Bellemore

The world of fashion is typically portrayed as high speed, glamorous and stressful. Do you think that is a true representation and how do you personally handle stress in your job role?

Karl Lagerfeld said in Lagerfeld Confidential words to the effect that one should work hard, but not talk incessantly about working hard, for nothing could be more tedious. I love the Kaiser, and of course he is right, but in the interests of sharing…!

The high speed and stressful side of fashion industry is true almost all of the time and the glamour side is true some of the time. I think those of us who have made our careers in this environment have a kind of addiction to these aspects, because you actually cannot pay anyone enough to live through the harder parts; you have to live your job with true passion.

Now that I am a little older, I have realised that I cannot dedicate my entire existence to the job like I have in the past. This is because it often feels very social and you can easily confuse the lines that technically should be in place to achieve balance. I do now try to pull back on the hours when I can and try to leave work issues in the office so they are not part of my home life. Of course, when an event is running it just needs you to be there no matter what, and that remains the key to delivering it successfully. I have no ability to compromise on that and furthermore, I really enjoy it!

The very best release from the job is a holiday, so that I am physically and mentally separated from my desk and the industry by many miles.

In the arts sector, and especially for emerging arts practitioners, it seems everyone has their fingers in so many pies, often a lot of very under-funded and time consuming pies. Do you find the arts sector a stressful area to work in?

Under-funded projects are almost guaranteed to induce a significant amount more stress than comfortable resources would bring. Although, it does not have to be a given, and I think the way through those projects is creativity and using the right people with the experience to pull everyone through efficiently.

The arts sector has that unique characteristic not only of being universally under-funded but also of demanding very particular outcomes and standards for which there are no obvious substitutes. So we end up working harder and longer to try to get to that end point without the resources to make it easy.

It is hard not to over-commit because often saying ‘No’ to something can result in a lost opportunity for both networking and building relationships which are crucial in the arts sector. I think the key is to know when many projects become too much, and the rule is to never let anyone down, least of all your stakeholders or audiences. In the arts, expectations are high, critics are everywhere, and you are only as good as your last project, so being selective about what can be delivered well is the first rule of committing to a project.

In your opinion, is fashion one of the more stressful faces of the arts with such strict production deadlines for designers to adhere to? Does this pressure compromise the artistic integrity of designers?

I think fashion designers face similar kinds of stresses as many other arts practitioners, but in unique combinations and situations. Certainly, deadlines from production through to retail delivery are uncompromising and not meeting a deadline on a single season can send businesses under. It can happen to very talented designers and often for reasons outside of their control.

Artistic integrity is an interesting commodity in fashion. It is perceived as the highest jewel that must be protected at all costs in order for a designer’s vision to be realised. At the same time, an understanding of how to adhere to the demands of commercialism is vital to operating the business of a fashion house. There are many examples of how these mutual objectives can be cleverly realised.  Designers who understand the total picture will generally have a better chance of flourishing, both artistically and commercially.

Finally: you are super stressed and nothing else will do but to: open the liquor cabinet or host a personal pastry smack down or exercise?

I wish I was more original and I certainly wish I had more restraint, but it is probably the liquor cabinet!

Interested in more information on well-being in the arts?

Nicky in front of Eva Breuer Art Dealer – Painting Roland Wakelin, The bridge from North Sydney, 1939

Portfolio Careers, a fancy term for ‘multiple jobs’, are a growing trend, as for whatever reasons, more and more people take on various roles in their professional lives and also combine them with personal commitments. Nicky McWilliam currently has the ultimate Portfolio Career. She is a director of Eva Breuer Art Dealer in Sydney, her late mother’s gallery in Woollahra, runs a small mediation practice with another lawyer, is at the tail end of a PhD in law set for completion in the next two months, and has three teenage children, a husband and two dogs.

Here arts interview discusses with Nicky the ways in which such disparate, yet equally significant positions are juggled, and most importantly, how she maintains her own personal well-being in such demanding roles.

Interview by Vi Girgis

Given your multiple priorities, how do you manage your time between your various roles to ensure all goals are met?

I think everyone has multiple commitments and priorities and everyone leads busy lives with whatever they are doing. I sort of fell into these multiple roles – it was not really by design, however I enjoy every bit of what I do and am excited by all the opportunities. So even though it is hard work, it is fulfilling and interesting. These multiple roles are also very new for me so I am learning every day and taking it all week by week. Normally on Sunday nights I sit down and work out what I have to do for the whole week with work, family and study. The gallery is not open on Mondays so I have a day to get organised with mediation and other stuff. I try to start work at the gallery during the week at about 7:45am or as early as I can in the morning and work there until about midday. I do mediation practice work in the afternoon. I try to share out the load, if possible, at the gallery, but only when I know that I can follow up. At the moment my Uni work is at the wire, as it is due in September, so I am feeling a lot of pressure with that. Due to this, I am reducing my work load with my mediation and delegating as much as I can at the gallery. At the gallery I have a fantastic team of people, and we try to have weekly meetings so that we can all share the load.

How do you balance professional commitments with family commitments, ensuring that you meet the needs of those around you?

I do get engrossed and energised by all my projects, so weekends and evenings are just for my children and husband, if possible. And it also helps me to share what I am doing with my family, so that I am not closing off what I am doing from them. My kids are a little older now – they are fourteen, seventeen and nineteen – and they enjoy hearing about my work, as I do about their things, so we often sit down and have discussions.

What are some steps that you take to ensuring your own personal well-being?

I need my sleep! There are times when I work late at night, or go out late at night, but I do try and get to bed early as much as I can because my day always starts at 6 o’clock. Although it sounds very clichéd and boring, I also try to eliminate anything negative. I really enjoy what I am doing and I try to be positive about work and life. If I feel that there are people who I come into contact with, who are only criticising or being closed and negative, I try to give them space and time – as much as possible; sometimes it is a tough call. If I am feeling stressed (and I often do) – I say to myself, “Take it one step at a time…you will get there!” It is easy to say, I know, but I do try. Of course, my husband is also a great support to me and he is so helpful and always very supportive!

What advice would you give to any future arts practitioners with regard to balancing multiple roles?

I am very new to the art world and I am on a very steep learning curve, but with the gallery, it is multi-faceted. Even though it is such a little gallery and business, there is a lot to be done because we like to ground everything we do in academic scholarship. My mother, Eva Breuer, was very thorough with research and the accuracy of information. She was amazing and she upgraded systems which the gallery still follows. With every painting that comes in, every artist that we are reviewing, we always look at the academic side of things. We look at how it fits into the history of art, how it fits into the Australian spectrum (because we only deal in museum-quality Australian art). Then there is researching and checking provenance and condition reports followed by looking after exhibitions, and meeting and discussing things with artists. Also, there is the practical side of making sure that the exhibitions are hung beautifully, and that paintings being stored are wrapped and looked after really carefully. And of course, we are a normal shopfront, so there is just the normal retail part to it. It is so multi-faceted; you have to treat each of those things as separate. You have to take it slowly, plan very well and be very thorough. In addition, it is important that everyone is working together as a team, and happy, and also that everyone feels recognised for what they are doing.

Interested in further reading on juggling multiple careers?

Current collection shot. Photo: Sam Crawford

Marc Moore is the Creative/ Design Director and one of the founders (along with Dan Gosling and Luke Harwood) of New Zealand label Stolen Girlfriends Club (SGFC). This uber cool cult label is expanding rapidly, with stockists in fourteen countries and a full ladies, men’s, jewellery and accessories collection. Moore talks to arts interview about stress in the fashion scene and the future for SGFC.

Interview by Alex Bellemore

Can you tell us about SGFC and about your own background?

I came from competitive surfing, got old (too old for competitive surfing), so started working for one of my sponsors on the marketing side of things, I also started helping out on the design side.  I started painting in my spare time and had an art show called Stolen Girlfriends Club; the show was a success and everyone loved the name.  We started thinking about making tee-shirts – ones we couldn’t find in the market, so started a small line of tee’s, jeans and jewellery and called it Stolen Girlfriends Club because everyone loved the art show title. Boom, here I am seven years later (still making tee-shirts).

Do you think that fashion is one of the more stressful creative pursuits?

Yes definitely.  Fashion moves so fast, you have to keep up with it otherwise you risk stagnation.  So there is constant stress- not being able to sit still.

What are the broad stress factors of working within fashion?

Production lead-times – getting your product designed in time for shows, and getting bulk product made in time for store deliveries.

How do you balance the realities of running as a business whilst maintaining creative integrity?

We have to apply a ratio/percentage to all the collections we do now, to maintain enough commerciality to sustain our business. We work on around 20% more forward/directional product- this product works well for editorial / fashion shoots. Then we have the core part of the collection which is around 60% of the range, this product is true to brand, wearable yet still cool! The bottom 20% is semi-basic product- accessible in wearability and also price.  This ratio generally will ensure we can sell enough product to survive but also keep the fashion media happy with novel product for their magazines.

What do you do to relax?

I go surfing.  It’s hard to stay stressed when you’re in the water.

What is the future for SGFC?

We are in the process of setting up our own retail store in Auckland which is exciting.  If you’re ever in the neighbourhood please stop by and say hello, it will be our very first retail venture. We are also working on our new Winter 13 collection to release at New Zealand Fashion Week in September; I always get excited to show the collection on the catwalk, we get to show everyone what we have been working on.

I have been talking to the artists Kozyndan from LA about collaborating on our next Summer range which will be amazing- fabric prints like you’ve never seen!  I also have an upcoming collaboration with a musician from the US which I am excited about.  I can’t say anything more – I don’t want to jinx it!

http://www.stolengirlfriendsclub.com/

Photo: courtesy of Tomahawk Studios 

Having just recently returned from tour in Jakarta, Van She percussionist Tomek Archer is not only a musician but the award-winning creative director of Tomahawk Studios furniture design and practices as an architect for a commercial firm in Sydney. His signature furniture piece, The campfire table is now held in the permanent collection of the Art Gallery of Western Australia. Tomek talks to arts interview about working with others and stress.

 Interview by Lydia Bradshaw

What are the broad stress factors of being a musician on tour?

Well you put a lot of stress on your body, because you’re mostly sitting around waiting, really inactive. Then you have about an hour of really intense activity, and then that’s it. You probably drink too much, and are usually dehydrated, so it’s mainly a stress on your body. It’s more of a physical stress than a mental stress.

I suppose the only time things really would ever get stressful for musicians, or for anyone, is when you have difficulty focusing upon the present and what is straight in front of you. Stress is when you are worried about something that might happen or something you cannot help. So it’s pretty important when doing anything to be able to put all that aside.

How does working across different mediums affect your perception of stress and how would you describe its affect upon wellbeing?

I think of music and design more as being complimentary – as two halves of a whole. But it means that I am always working- one seems to always be the downtime from the other.  All of my breaks from design are on tour and all the down time from touring is filled with design. So it’s pretty rare to have a holiday that isn’t at all design or music related.

It’s common for people working in creative industries to have many projects all going on at once. How important is flexibility when you are working on a number of projects?

Flexibility is the ability to adapt, and sometimes it means that everyone around you who you work with is required to be a bit flexible as well. It can definitely put a strain on other people you’re working with. I have found that everyone I work with has been pretty flexible, other wise I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’ve done.

What do you do to relax?

I’d like to say travelling, but every time I go travelling I’m working so it doesn’t really count. I haven’t been on a long holiday in a while. I’m not that good at sitting still for a very long time. I think it’s different for people who work primarily for money, but I guess I’ve designed a life for myself where I will probably never stop working. I’ll probably never retire. I like watching films. I like going to the snow. But, whatever I’m doing I always keep my eyes open as well. My brain doesn’t turn off. I should probably start meditating. I’m totally in control all the time- like Patrick Bateman.

http://www.tomahawkstudios.com/

http://www.vanshe.com/

Nadine von Cohen is a Sydney-based lifestyle and pop culture writer, who regularly contributes to the Fairfax Digital online sources; The Vine for the arts and entertainment industry, and Daily Life for busy Australian women. She has also read short stories at Erotic Fan Fiction events and provides freelance services as a digital communications specialist. Nadine speaks with arts interview about the hurdles of being a freelance writer and how she copes with and manages stress.

Interview by Heather Jennings

What are the stresses of being a freelance writer?

 The most stressful aspect of being a freelancer is the uncertainty of income. There are times when a lot of work will be coming in with a decent amount of money, and other times when things are slower. For this reason I rarely say “No” to work, which can cause further stress if I have several deadlines on the same day or week, but I have to make it work.

I think one of the least obvious things about being a freelancer is that the job never ends. If I’m not writing then I am pitching new stories and ideas, and trying to make new contacts to ensure there will be enough work in the future. I rarely have sick days, because if I don’t work then I don’t get paid. Being a freelancer may seem as a more relaxed way of working in that you can sit at home watching TV and get out of bed at midday. However, this is far from the case for me, but having said that I chose this path myself and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Do you find that writing reduces or increases your stress levels?

Mostly, I found that my stress levels have been reduced since I’ve started writing full time. I worked in the corporate world – in advertising and marketing – for many years, and the pressure and pace were extremely stressful. So for me writing is a much calmer career, except of course, when I have multiple deadlines within a short period of time, or when I’m suffering from a writer’s block or a lack of inspiration.

What are some of your favourite procrastination methods?

Since I’ve started working from home my house has never been so clean! I have a rule about turning on the television or reading for pleasure before 6pm – so cleaning, going to the gym and online shopping are my main sources of procrastination.

What are the three things you would typically do to relax?

I wish my answers to this question were more original, but these are my top three things:

1. One of the great things about working from home is the ability to have a bath in the middle of the day. If I have anything to read for research I will often do so in the bathtub. It’s indulgent but cheaper than a massage.

2. I am also a big advocate of gentle exercise, such as yoga, pilates, or a long walk as a form of relaxation. However, if I am particularly stressed then a spin class or a run will help me unwind.

3. And the third thing is to spend some time with my nieces and my nephew. They’re all under seven years old, so it’s not exactly relaxing, but it’s hard to think about work when playing with them.

What advice do you give others when they are stressed?

I used to give too much of my energy to the “little things” and let the stress of work really get to me causing extreme anguish. But then some things happened in my life to make me realise that it’s not worth it. I want to be successful and respected for my work, and known as someone reliable and pleasant to work with, but I no longer wish to do this at the expense of my health or sanity. So my advice to people about stress is to step back and think about how important whatever they’re stressing over really is. If you’re saving lives then stress of course is a lot harder to cope with – but if not then try to keep calm and get through it all with grace.

https://twitter.com/#!/nadinevoncohen

Current collection shot. Photo: Sam Crawford

Marc Moore is the Creative/ Design Director and one of the founders (along with Dan Gosling and Luke Harwood) of New Zealand label Stolen Girlfriends Club (SGFC). This uber cool cult label is expanding rapidly, with stockists in fourteen countries and a full ladies, men’s, jewellery and accessories collection. Moore talks to arts interview about stress in the fashion scene and the future for SGFC.

Interview by Alex Bellemore

Can you tell us about SGFC and about your own background?

I came from competitive surfing, got old (too old for competitive surfing), so started working for one of my sponsors on the marketing side of things, I also started helping out on the design side.  I started painting in my spare time and had an art show called Stolen Girlfriends Club; the show was a success and everyone loved the name.  We started thinking about making tee-shirts – ones we couldn’t find in the market, so started a small line of tee’s, jeans and jewellery and called it Stolen Girlfriends Club because everyone loved the art show title. Boom, here I am seven years later (still making tee-shirts).

Do you think that fashion is one of the more stressful creative pursuits?

Yes definitely.  Fashion moves so fast, you have to keep up with it otherwise you risk stagnation.  So there is constant stress- not being able to sit still.

What are the broad stress factors of working within fashion?

Production lead-times – getting your product designed in time for shows, and getting bulk product made in time for store deliveries.

How do you balance the realities of running as a business whilst maintaining creative integrity?

We have to apply a ratio/percentage to all the collections we do now, to maintain enough commerciality to sustain our business. We work on around 20% more forward/directional product- this product works well for editorial / fashion shoots. Then we have the core part of the collection which is around 60% of the range, this product is true to brand, wearable yet still cool! The bottom 20% is semi-basic product- accessible in wearability and also price.  This ratio generally will ensure we can sell enough product to survive but also keep the fashion media happy with novel product for their magazines.

What do you do to relax?

I go surfing.  It’s hard to stay stressed when you’re in the water.

What is the future for SGFC?

We are in the process of setting up our own retail store in Auckland which is exciting.  If you’re ever in the neighbourhood please stop by and say hello, it will be our very first retail venture. We are also working on our new Winter 13 collection to release at New Zealand Fashion Week in September; I always get excited to show the collection on the catwalk, we get to show everyone what we have been working on.

I have been talking to the artists Kozyndan from LA about collaborating on our next Summer range which will be amazing- fabric prints like you’ve never seen!  I also have an upcoming collaboration with a musician from the US which I am excited about.  I can’t say anything more – I don’t want to jinx it!

http://www.stolengirlfriendsclub.com/

Photo: courtesy of IMDB

Felicity Price is an Australian actress with a long list of television, film and theatre roles. She recently co-wrote and played the lead role of Alice in Wish You Were Here, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January 2012. The screenplay is her first collaboration with husband, Kieran Darcy-Smith, and was filmed shortly after the birth of her second child. Felicity discusses the process of making their first Australian feature film under such potentially stressful circumstances.

Interview by Eliza Muldoon

What were some of the most stressful parts of making the film, Wish You Were Here -pre-production, filming or post-production?

When I look back on it all through my rose-coloured glasses – once we were financed and in production – I don’t remember it as stressful. It is such a big deal to get a feature film up and running in Australia, and I was just so happy to be making our film and to be telling this story. The writing process (about four years prior to this) was fantastic, but the sheer effort of spending a number of years writing a project and earning no money from all that effort was at times stressful.

I do know that while we were shooting I lost a heap of weight and got very used to having about two hours sleep a night – it was taxing. When we started shooting the film, our baby was five and a half months old and our son was a two. We had a live-in nanny, but because my husband was directing the film the most difficult thing was that both of us were away from the kids so much. Both of us were on set everyday and after we wrapped Kieran was going off to view rushes and prepare for the next day’s shoot – so for him it was a 22 hour a day job. I was still breastfeeding as much as I could AND we took the kids with us to Cambodia when we shot there – so the shoot was pretty chaotic!

In what ways did having your family together help the process?

Because film is such an all-consuming job I think it was wonderful that Kieran and I got to experience making our first feature together. This was the first feature he directed and I loved being on set to experience that with him. This project was our baby and we were bringing it to life. The whole experience -including the writing – has been wonderfully enriching for our relationship.

Often people will ask, “Wow, how could you do that as a couple, weren’t you fighting all the time? But it was exactly the opposite. We loved having this project that we were all-consumed in together. We’d love to do it again. And with the kids – they will always be part of the experience. They have grown up with us making this film, they came with us to Cambodia and we’ve all moved over to LA now – the film has made their lives more adventurous.

Were there any times where you felt like giving up? When you thought that you faced insurmountable obstacles?

I never felt like giving up, but there were tears. With our fourth or fifth draft we were accepted into the Screen NSW Aurora script development program. That was a real turning point for the film’s development and after that program we got financed pretty quickly. But previous to that, we were knocked back from a couple of similar script development programs and funding rounds, and at times like that it all felt very hard. But we always picked ourselves up and got back into it – usually with more vigor!

What strategies do you use to keep life in balance?

I’d like to say – yoga, meditation, good cardio exercise, regular day spas, massage – but who has time for any of this with toddlers?? In reality, I eat pretty well, try to drink lots of water, try to get good sleep, try to get in a good long walk a couple of times a week, try to have a stretch every once in a while and occasionally get in a dinner out with hubby and friends. But sometimes I don’t do any of these and I am a frazzled mess!

Finally, what is more stressful - being busy or not being busy?

Hmmm… Such a good question. For me personally, I struggle with not being busy. That’s when my mind goes into overdrive. When I am busy, I am focused and all those other petty little worries fly out the window.

To find out more on Wish You Were Here:

http://www.hopscotchfilms.com.au/films/out-now/wishyouwerehere-thefilm/

Willow Neilson’s adventures as a Jazz saxophonist have taken him from Nimbin, to Armidale, Melbourne and the Sydney Conservatorium, to Jazz competitions from Brussels to Montreux and now to China thanks to Asialink /Australia-China Council funding. Willow chats to arts interview about the stresses of not only adjusting to life in China but also about juggling life as a professional musician.

Interview by Eliza Muldoon

How would you describe what you do? Does Saxophonist or Jazz Musician adequately cover it?

Saxophonist and jazz musician covers part of it. These days we can’t just lock ourselves in a room practicing and then step out into gigs anymore. My career requires me to be a promoter/personal pr person, writer/blogger, teacher and then I have had stints being a tv host, voice over person, and am about to go train to be a yoga teacher.

I have a lot of interests and feel that in order to evolve as an artist these days I need to become more of a renaissance man, both in terms of my ability to make money- earning from a variety of skills other than just those associated with performing and teaching music, but also learning new skills such as multi media software applications and visual art concepts. All of these are centred around my primary passion- music- and it is my hope that all of them feed into one another. The playing is the fun part, dealing with all the other stuff is the drag.

What are the most stressful aspects of working the way you do? Do you find that being stressed affects your work?

Some people think that being a musician is all fun and messing around but many aspects of the job are stressful. Dealing with abusive personalities on the bandstand (whilst still having to smile), dealing with terrible sound teams, terrible agents and all manner of people that often seem hell bent on undermining the effectiveness of your performance is a constant hassle. In China we have a thing we call “hurry up and wait,” where an agent who knows nothing about music asks us to be at a performance 3 hours early, rushes us around only to then have to sit and wait for everyone else.

The unpredictability of freelancing is also a stressful factor, it is hard to turn down work as you never know when a dry patch will arise, sometimes I will work a series of 18 hour days including multiple shows and teaching. Finding the right balance is a constant juggle.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced developing a career as a musician? Did you ever consider studying something else or moving into another career?

In Australia the biggest challenge was simply not working enough. I went back to school to study education but hated it, not the teaching but all the other stuff around it. That’s why I live in China now. If I could find something reliable that I loved I would do it but music is my passion and as much as I would like to find something else I will have to make this work because it is all I have.

What strategies do you use to keep life in balance?

I like to meditate, exercise (a huge part of my life now) and have started praying a lot recently, I never thought I would get into that but it has really been making me feel good. I also have a group of people I meet with regularly where we talk about life etc. at great length.

Visiting my friend’s kids also helps to feel more grounded- kids know how to enjoy life effortlessly. Lately I have been playing chess with an 8 year old that trash talks when he takes your pieces. Good fun.

How did you find adjusting to life in China? Has moving to China changed the way you deal with stress and anxiety?

Life in China comes with positives and negatives. Positives are cheap massages, cheap cost of living, easy work and good food (although the produce is not so great but it is cooked well). The negatives are pollution, cultural differences and very different ways of handling issues, pollution and noise, noise, noise, traffic, traffic, traffic, chaos.

Learning the language is always fun, Chinese people are really supportive of others learning Chinese and life changes more positively as your language skills grow.

I think Shanghai is a bit of an emotional/spiritual accelerator. Whatever your issues it will magnify them and you will either fall into a frustrated heap or you will deal with what you need to deal with. China has made me change in more ways than I maybe am even aware of, one of them is I’ve learnt to not freak out, to just stay calm and if you have done what you need to do then let other people do the freaking out.

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Nadine von Cohen is a Sydney-based lifestyle and pop culture writer, who regularly contributes to the Fairfax Digital online sources; The Vine for the arts and entertainment industry, and Daily Life for busy Australian women. She has also read short stories at Erotic Fan Fiction events and provides freelance services as a digital communications specialist. Nadine speaks with arts interview about the hurdles of being a freelance writer and how she copes with and manages stress.

Interview by Heather Jennings

What are the stresses of being a freelance writer?

 The most stressful aspect of being a freelancer is the uncertainty of income. There are times when a lot of work will be coming in with a decent amount of money, and other times when things are slower. For this reason I rarely say “No” to work, which can cause further stress if I have several deadlines on the same day or week, but I have to make it work.

I think one of the least obvious things about being a freelancer is that the job never ends. If I’m not writing then I am pitching new stories and ideas, and trying to make new contacts to ensure there will be enough work in the future. I rarely have sick days, because if I don’t work then I don’t get paid. Being a freelancer may seem as a more relaxed way of working in that you can sit at home watching TV and get out of bed at midday. However, this is far from the case for me, but having said that I chose this path myself and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Do you find that writing reduces or increases your stress levels?

Mostly, I found that my stress levels have been reduced since I’ve started writing full time. I worked in the corporate world – in advertising and marketing – for many years, and the pressure and pace were extremely stressful. So for me writing is a much calmer career, except of course, when I have multiple deadlines within a short period of time, or when I’m suffering from a writer’s block or a lack of inspiration.

What are some of your favourite procrastination methods?

Since I’ve started working from home my house has never been so clean! I have a rule about turning on the television or reading for pleasure before 6pm – so cleaning, going to the gym and online shopping are my main sources of procrastination.

What are the three things you would typically do to relax?

I wish my answers to this question were more original, but these are my top three things:

1. One of the great things about working from home is the ability to have a bath in the middle of the day. If I have anything to read for research I will often do so in the bathtub. It’s indulgent but cheaper than a massage.

2. I am also a big advocate of gentle exercise, such as yoga, pilates, or a long walk as a form of relaxation. However, if I am particularly stressed then a spin class or a run will help me unwind.

3. And the third thing is to spend some time with my nieces and my nephew. They’re all under seven years old, so it’s not exactly relaxing, but it’s hard to think about work when playing with them.

What advice do you give others when they are stressed?

I used to give too much of my energy to the “little things” and let the stress of work really get to me causing extreme anguish. But then some things happened in my life to make me realise that it’s not worth it. I want to be successful and respected for my work, and known as someone reliable and pleasant to work with, but I no longer wish to do this at the expense of my health or sanity. So my advice to people about stress is to step back and think about how important whatever they’re stressing over really is. If you’re saving lives then stress of course is a lot harder to cope with – but if not then try to keep calm and get through it all with grace.

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