The Value and Cost of Time

If you’re a freelancer, much less a freelance artist, you become keenly aware of how many meetings you get invited to that really should have been an email, or meetings that are the activity not the prelude to action (a tick in someone’s box as one artiste said to me recently). If you happen to be that magical unicorn called a freelance artiste, or a freelance anything, you and you alone are accountable for your time and resources, and there is actually a cost involved in meeting time – the getting there and the being there (the actual costs and the time lost on other projects), the thinking about your contribution to said meeting at both ends (it takes up mental space that you may actually need to be giving to something else). This doesn’t mean you beg off of every meeting but it does mean taking a pause – which eats more time and mental space actually, so damned if you do, damned if you don’t – to consider things like what is the goal of the meeting, what is your role in the meeting, who else is participating, what are the consequences positive or negative of you participating/not participating etc. – bottom line: is it an efficient and productive use of your time? Some meetings are, some aren’t.

Why am I talking about meetings? Well, there are always meeting invites, aren’t there? For those of us who freelance and are artistes, and volunteer, these can be professional, creative, or community based (or some weird intersection of the three like that meeting of DeSouza Road, Whenner Road, and Valley Church/College road where no one’s clear who actually has the right of way). Just the sight of another invite in the inbox can be a stressor depending on how life is life-ing at the time of receipt. Some of these meetings may be about things we want to happen – a new project maybe; but if the purpose of the meeting isn’t clear then you’ve wasted time anyway, and then it’s another meeting and another meeting (and we know how free flowing our meetings can be – time, what time?). Maybe it’s about something we’re passionate about – the literary arts, say. However, while the person inviting you to the meeting is usually on somebody’s clock i.e. getting paid, there’s typically no consulting fee for your time (making it technically voluntary time that you alone can determine if you have the time to give just then; and seriously don’t feel guilty if you don’t). And it’s not just that meeting, mind, but the additional volunteer work that will be expected of you after the meeting – unless the meeting is the activity (tick!) and then you’ve still wasted your time. As passionate as you are about the literary arts, or whatever your cause is, you have to factor in your reality (like needing to make your bills) – because, say what they want, no one else will.

We who do the work on behalf of the literary arts (all of us out here doing the work), without resources and institutional support, do try to make ourselves available for meetings or other service when called upon; which means we’ve had our time wasted a lot. We’re thrice bitten.

Which brings me to my point: These links give some insight to the question, of what the arts and specifically the literary arts could benefit from in Antigua and Barbuda (what inputs or interventions would aid in its development – just the perspective of a couple of artistes); homework before the next “let’s meet” call to artistes. Since I’ve recently dug them up, I thought I’d share them in a single post:
https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/endorsed
https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com/2014/10/08/arts-registry-version-2014 
https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com/2014/01/30/arts-in-development

p.s. if you want us (artistes) to do something (a presentation, say) voluntarily, ask, we’ve done a LOT of it and will again (if the timing is right and it’s doable, it will be done); but understand if we can’t, offer to pay if you can (even a stipend or a nominal fee to demonstrate some recognition of the cost to our time and the value we bring to the activity), and, if you do offer (or begrudgingly agree) to pay for an artiste’s time, pay and pay in a timely manner (it matters) – respect the artiste’s time or don’t claim to value the arts… and, back to the beginning, consider if your next meeting is really an email.

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Fish Outta Water, and forthcoming With Grace). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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