From 2022 to 2023, reflections on freelancing, anarchism, creativity, and hope

Well here we are, I’m sitting at a keyboard and the date is 2023. It’s quite a nice year to type to be honest, a certain flick of the fingers to it, and slightly easier than the repeated keypresses of 2022.

I ended the year in a gentle fashion. Once the rains of yesterday morning had wrapped up their charade, I went for a short walk along Eastbourne’s seafront, out of town and down past the wooden groynes to where the cliffs start.

I walked by myself, in and out of my own thoughts and other people’s dogs. Many years ago, I read that the most important meeting you can have is with yourself, and I let my mind wander of its own accord as I pushed through the strong winds ahead.

Wooden groynes on Eastbourne beach under an overcast sky

Realising anarchism

Two "realisations" remained with me as I walked back into town with the wind at my back.

First, I am actually more … "fiercely individualistic" than I would otherwise think. Not that I hate other people, or working with others – quite the opposite. More that I desire some level of control over my own life, in terms of both the creative side of what to do, and the structural side of how to do it.

It feels somewhat "selfish" to admit this, perhaps, but at the same time it’s important to understand what drives oneself, and also helps explain a lot of my own philosophy, including leaning to a liberal-anarchist politic, through to the importance of mutual respect, mutual aid, and distributed and equal learning and opportunities. This quote from Errico Malatesta sums it up well:

“By definition an anarchist is he who does not wish to be oppressed nor wishes to be him self an oppressor; who wants the greatest well-being, freedom and development for all human beings. His ideas, his wishes have their origin in a feeling of sympathy, love and respect for humanity: a feeling which must be sufficiently strong to induce him to want the well-being of others as much as his own…” — Errico Malatesta

Over time, I’ve ended up working in smaller and smaller companies, and going freelance feels like a continuation of this trend. It’s been hard work mentally at times, to not have a lot of the safety net of an employer, but I can’t deny that I enjoy setting my own destiny and not having to negotiate a lot of daily routine with bosses and HR departments. That is a shift that I’m profoundly grateful for, whatever else has happened.

Doing and not doing

Second, I had a realisation that productivity when you’re self-organising is much more a matter of thinking "I will" rather than "I must", "I should", or "I want to". This last year, I’ve spent too much of my time thinking and planning in the manner of "Oh, I should do that", or "I’d love to do that", but a pattern I notice in people I follow and admire is a different intent, one in which you "do or do not, there is no try".

Yoda surrounded by business chart, a mug reading "World's Best Boss" and in a suit, with a poster saying "Do or Do Not. There is no Try."

If I had a new year’s resolution, it would be to simplify things somewhat. I’m bouncing around a lot between contexts and tasks and projects and thoughts and content to read and watch and play. All of that can often leave me feeling somewhat bewildered, tired, and like I’m running in circles. Some of it is necessary, of course, but a lot of it isn’t.

I wish I was more able to retain just one project/book/game at a time, for instance – my brain has always jumped around a lot but I’m at a time of life, and humans are at a point of societal evolution, where this is easier than ever, and it’s no excuse to let a naturally busy brain be exploited by an unnaturally busy culture.

Negotiating hope

At 11.59pm last night, I ritually and ceremoniously finished off a bottle of whisky. Not just any bottle of whisky, this was a leaving present from OCSI, and so it had been on the go for the last year at least – I’ve been sipping from it when I hit certain work-related milestones, such as first client, first payment, first tax return, etc.

With the 2021-22 tax year out of the way (barring some minor admin tasks), I wanted to stop looking backwards. I have an excitedly progressive feel about 2023, but I realise that in order to really jump on my own bandwagon, so to speak, I need to bring my full self and my whole energy to it. I need to use those meetings with myself to fire myself up, check myself over, and really make sure that what I want and what I’m doing are, if not totally defined, then at least in alignment.

I’m also "secretly" positive about 2023 in general. I know it’s not particularly easy or fashionable to feel positive about the world, hence the "secret". But at the same time, I’m a great believer in Hope, and believe that without it, we sink rapidly into bitter depression and uselessness – something I’ve been repeatedly close to as I’ve watched the news in 2022.

So I think there must be an inherent mental resilience that hangs on to that – "Hardcore Hope Negotiation" as I put it – even if others tell you that things are so, so awful right now. We need a productive form of optimism right now, both spiritually and societally. And we need tools and practices to encourage and capture that, which channel imagination and creativity into the world.

For every tablet and smart speaker expecting us to buy something, we need a blog post that kicks back and publishes something fresh. We need games that deliver new ideas, and music tracks that break economic models. We need to think outwardly more than inwardly. To have confidence that we can produce something around the nugget or an idea, a feeling, a thread of humanity.

Change is coming, whether we like it or now – governments will be forced to work out their (within and between state) details one way or another, and they will do it among a background of increasing difficult weather patterns that get harder to ignore. The future is already here. And it’s better to get ourselves prepared, and to be on its side.

Alright, here we go.

Graffiti on a red brick wall reflected in a puddle.