What is my what?

I’m currently reading Emma Gannon’s ‘The Multi-Hyphen Method’ which explores the growing trend for ‘slashie’ careers – having multiple jobs or projects rolling simultaneously, rather than one job at a time. A portfolio career, but less briefcase-wielding than that sounds.

It’s nice to feel I’m part of a movement, instead of a person who can’t commit to doing one thing at a time. The book has also verbalised (although sadly fails to resolve) the issue of being unable to explain to your parents what the hell it is you do for a living, and the squinting and head-tilting that ensues. My favourite response so far has been from my dad (best imagined in a Black Country accent): “will it be alright though?”

I feel my multi-hyphen is more multi than most. I’ve had an immensely fulfilling working life so far, hopping from one thing to the next, following my heart rather than any sort of logical career path. I’ve made short films, I’ve worked in a drama script office, I’ve taught Pilates, helped women with their health and fitness, taught sports sessions for primary school children, I’ve lead a mass of gored-up zombies in a synchronised dance performance of Don’t Stop Me Now on the steps of Leeds Town Hall. I’ve worked in a press office, in internal communications, I’ve taught film-making undergrads at the Northern Film School how to nail their screenplay.

So what is my what right now?

I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the things I’ve done, and looking for ‘the golden thread’. The things I love that hold it all together.

Number one. Writing.

If I can’t write, I become unhappy. Whatever my work is, it needs to include words. Better yet – the telling of stories. I am obsessed with narrative structure, pace, plot, character. I am a pain in the arse to watch telly with. I am a forensic and enthusiastic analyst of everything you’re watching right now. I have opinions on all of it, and it’s best not to engage me in conversation on anything currently streaming if you want to get any work done today.

Number two. People.

Collaboration is huge for me. I am the opposite of an island. I like to be landlocked (maybe with a small stretch of coast to the south-east). Building networks and communities gives me energy, I love meeting people, finding out what makes them tick and being as useful as I can for them on that journey. I am a helper, a fixer, a “but have you thought about it like this”? A listener, a sounding board, a talker (so I’m told) of sense.

Number three. Engaging.

This is the top of the Penny hierarchy of needs. Creating something that makes a person laugh, cry, think, do. How good is it when you write or make something and you see the impact? You see the clicks go up, the emails start to open, the event starts booking, people start commenting, or your client reads your copy and says “this is exactly what I was looking for” (my first piece of feedback btw – I’m still glowing). Whether it’s getting people to move their bodies or move their minds, this is the dragon I’m always chasing.

These three things are my what. They are the umbrella that contains all my fun and chaos.

I don’t think I can condense all this into a soundbite that will satisfy anybody at a networking meeting, or a relative next time they ask. But I’m cool with the head-tilt.

And yes dad, I’m pretty sure it will be alright.