When you’re waiting for funding decisions on a project, it both exists and doesn’t exist simultaneously - like the cat in the box, the project is both dead and alive.
In order to press ‘submit’ on a funding application you have to live through the entire project theoretically often months ahead of the project start - building a team, setting up partnerships, thinking through every single stage from pre-production to final evaluation while creating an activity timeline, talking about how it will benefit your company or yourself as an individual. You dream it. You dream the whole thing in minute detail.
And then you wait. And wait. And wait. Watching time tick away. This project exists but, currently, only in your head - you play out the various scenarios of funding decisions over and over again:
You get the money - full steam ahead, you imagine calling everyone on the team and sharing the good news - you imagine the relief, the excitement, the fear that now you have to actually deliver what you said you were going to deliver even though 6 months has now passed and the world keeps on changing.
You don’t get the money - all that dreaming, all that planning, the brakes screech on, you imagine the calls, letting people down - they’ve kept time aside (either actually or emotionally) for this project and now it’s not happening - and it might happen at some point in the future, but there are no guarantees. There are never any guarantees.
And meanwhile the world hasn’t stopped, you’ve seen other people get their funding in, started their projects, carried on.
But you’re stuck in limbo - if you book other work in and then the funding comes in you won’t have the time or energy to focus on making the project. But that is the reality - constant overscheduling, always overcommitted, thrashing around from burn out to burn out.
This is very much the experience of many many freelance theatre makers - and it’s really really unhealthy and doesn’t help people to create their best work. I’d like to think it will change - but the nature of our funding landscape is such that unless we radically shake up how freelance artists and non-core funded companies apply for funding then we’re stuck with it.
This is uncharacteristically gloomy so I want to turn my attention to how to cope, how to be kind to ourselves while we’re waiting on these funding decisions, how to face success or failure with a healthy attitude.
I’m not sure I have the answers - but asking the question is definitely the first step.