Recently I read notes from one of Virginia Woolf’s lectures, where she talks about her process of writing reviews for various newspapers. She describes a ‘phantom’ who haunted her when she sat down to write, who she called “The Angel in the House.” This most charming Angel would visit her when she wrote, distract her, and plead with her to exhibit behaviour becoming to a woman:

“The shadow of her wings fell on my page…she slipped behind me and whispered: ‘My dear, you are a young woman. You are writing a book that has been written by a man. Be sympathetic; be tender; flatter; deceive; use all the arts and wiles of our sex. Never let anybody guess that you have a mind of your own’”

Woolf goes on to murder the Angel, to allow her to write freely, without being haunted by what society in the 1930s expects a woman should write.
This struck a chord with me. I have lately come to realise I have my own ‘Angel’ sat behind me, who has been putting his oar in over my work. As the owner of a video production company, I spend a lot of time doing creative work which is tied to client jobs. While we are as creative as possible with the work we do at NC, at the end of the day everything is controlled by the client, whether by sign off or budget or deadline. I realised that the amount of creative work I did purely for my own enjoyment had dwindled to nearly nothing.

So I set about to kill the Client in the House. I set up a new profile on my laptop called “Playground.” I set up a new folder for my creative work. I deleted the short cut to Mail from the dock. I logged in to my personal accounts on Flickr and YouTube and banned myself from ever logging in to anything to do with NC work. This started to get things whirring in my brain… and I actually started writing creatively again, the first time for about ten years. I doubt the screenplay will ever see the light of day, but the point was I was writing.

I took this a stage further and bought a new computer, set it up with nothing on it but creative programmes. I dusted off my Wacom tablet that I’d never gotten around to using and started playing with it. I now regularly sit down to play creatively with photos, video clips and writing. I’ve actually done some sketching, proper drawings using a pencil, scanned them in, and improving them further digitally. All for the sheer hell of it. When I’m sat down at my Playground computer, the Client in the House can’t look over my shoulder. He doesn’t judge whether the work is worth publishing. He doesn’t ask if we’re going over budget. He can’t suddenly spring a deadline on me.

So why am I writing about this on Clearly Crreative? Well, I think as a freelancer, you can become consumed by what will help you earn your crust. Working on a TV programme, while satisfying on one level, can also sap your creative energy and leave you nothing to spend on your own creative endeavours. You get home from a day editing and the last thing you want to do is start working on the same programme on your own project. And even if you didn’t, you only get an hour or two before other things get in the way. With that constant fear of looking for new work, you spend time on your showreel, on your CV, on what is going to help you win the next job.

My advice, if you’ve got a laptop, set up a Playground profile of your own. Don’t set up MSN or iChat on it, don’t log on to Facebook (except to upload your photos or movies!) and just leave it for creative stuff which has nothing to do with work. Enjoy playing with your photos. Enjoy creating short clips for YouTube that are going no where near your showreel. Do stuff for the hell of it and kill the Client in your House.

Gavin Ricketts is a Producer/Director with over twenty year's experience. His courses on finding work in the creative industries has helped hundreds of Film and TV Crew win more work.

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  1. Synchronicity or what? Some friends and I recently and more or less independently started ‘killing the Client in the House’ too and are currently enjoying our playtime without shame or guilt. No danger of us proverbial Jacks becoming the dull boys and girls, I hope!

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