It sounds like a parody of the superhero comic / film genre from the start:
By day, a desk-bound grammar Gestapo agent, silently eliminating superfluous commas and dangling participles. By night, a creative free spirit roaming over stages and genres from gypsy goth in Camden to Romantic in Warminster. The editorial fine-tooth comb and the irrepressible fiddler; a riddle from either side … but how long can he lead a double life?
And while I wouldn’t seriously use that kind of purple prose about myself, there’s some truth to it. Like the fact that I more or less literally do my desk job in daylight and the public, participative part of my music work after dark (emails and private practice are another matter and may easily start at 9am – surprisingly my housemates and neighbours have yet to complain). Or indeed the difference between steady fixed-hours work for predetermined pay and the constant insecurity of uncertain freelance income in a very fluid market.
There are times when the two do collide, even doing both part-time. (I’m not entirely sure what the part-time label means applied to the music to be honest; perhaps just that I only need to be half as worried about the amount of money it makes.) Today I was asked could I do a to-be-confirmed gig tomorrow daytime – paid, from my point of view pretty much an add-on to tomorrow evening’s gig. Not an opportunity my musical self is going to pass up cheerfully; but my desk self is obliged to book time off in advance, so I couldn’t commit to the gig without getting confirmation before the end of the working day.
The real question, though, is do they require different personalities? Is there a real Jekyll and Hyde duality going on as I flit between the two? Well, to some extent I hope so; the main reason for going into music was after all that my desk job requires a working personality that is significantly artificial for me and that I was finding it too much of a strain to maintain (or be subjugated to) full-time. There’s certainly a difference between the making utterly certain of things that’s usually pervasive in my desk job, where the core of the job description is really to overlook absolutely nothing; and the rat race of freelance paying music, where you have to throw your hat into every ring, not only claim but believe you would be totally right for anything you might at all believably be equipped to do, never pull out of something because you’re scared of messing it up or you’re underprepared or you’ve been hired 36 hours before the concert – and at the same time be a total sceptic in order to spot when you might be ripped off or exploited because you don’t have enough safety margin to fall for it often.
Even the points of overlap can be equivocal. Yes, working in a big corporate and being a successful freelancer both require getting on with people well; but the sort of people and relationships that drive offices with over a thousand people in them are generally rather different to the sort that drive sticky-floored indie music venues, web-based entertainment agencies and shoestring semi-professional classical concerts. I’m not sure whether some of my bandmates would be more startled by how I am around my day colleagues or vice versa sometimes …
And only some of this can be kept impersonal of course. I’ve done reasonably well at keeping my publishing career out of my personal (including personal online life); it would be probably impossible and certainly utterly stupid to try and do the same with my musical freelance activity. As illustrated by the fact I’m about to share this post on my personal Facebook wall. This, and contemporary social media, does mean that if I want anything to be useful commercially, it has to be of a nature to be safely put where my brother or the woman who ran my church group when I was a pre-teen (and is now in close contact with my mother) will quite likely find it. Or if it isn’t I have to either take the business loss or take the personal risk. Erm, I mean, that sentence should have been in a different tense … any such happening is purely hypothetical … and of course I would never engage in such … what guilty conscience? … me? …