But as I look at this ridiculous schedule, I wonder why, if I am so busy, I am so broke. When I say "broke", I mean that I do not currently have enough money to pay my mortgage this month. I am hoping that those who owe me money for work I have already done (some of it dating back to January) will pay me in time. If they do not, I will once again be scrabbling around trying to borrow the money to pay my bills. I'm so tired of having to chase people to pay the money they owe me....
Looking further ahead, I only have enough paid work to cover my obligations for the next month or two. The summer is coming, and everyone goes on holiday then. Freelance writing - and teaching - dry up. So it looks very much as if I will once again be staring bankruptcy in the face by the end of August. I should be used to this by now, I suppose. It has happened every August for well over a decade, with the exception of 2014.
What was different about 2014? Well, things seemed to be looking up then. I was Associate Editor of Pieria, which gave me a small but steady income. I had lots of freelance writing. And I still had significant amounts of teaching. Financially, the tax year 2014-15 was the best year I have had since I left RBS in 2002.
But then it all went wrong. I resigned from Pieria in May 2015 after the commercial director sacked me from a project while I was out of the country, then wiped everything I had written in the previous month off the site without explanation. And inexplicably, shortly afterwards my freelance work all but dried up. By September I was facing default. Fortunately, some of my wonderful Twitter followers donated money so I could pay my bills. And since then, other freelance writing opportunities have turned up. But it is thin, very thin. And my teaching has declined too, not least because of the relentless squeeze on performing arts that the Government seems to think is the best way of diverting teenagers into the study of STEM subjects. My income in 2015-16 was less than half that of 2014-15, and it shows no sign of improving.
And yet, I am busy. Very busy. So why am I broke?
It is very simple. All of my speaking engagements and media appearances in the next two months are unpaid. Some of my writing commitments are unpaid, too - including, of course, this blog. And others are very poorly paid. I am working damned hard for very little return.
There seems to be a general expectation that I will give my time and my expertise for nothing, or next to nothing. I will give up entire weekends to speak at conferences for nothing. I will cancel my evening teaching to appear on TV shows for nothing. I will annoy my students by reshuffling all their lessons so I can do a lunchtime radio interview for nothing. I will devote time and energy to producing a quality piece of writing for nothing.
Admittedly, there is nothing new about this. As a professional singer, I found that people wanted to hear me sing but weren't so keen on paying for it. As a teacher, I found that people wanted me to teach their kids, but thought I should do so for love not money. Now, as a writer and speaker, I find that people want to hear what I have to say, provided it is free. I've changed what I do, but people's attitude to me is still the same. I am still not worth paying.
This is a terrible indictment of me. If people will not pay me, then they do not really value me. It does not matter whether what they want from me is singing, or teaching, or writing, or speaking. What am I worth to them? Nothing. Nothing at all.
And perhaps the fact that I have accepted so many unpaid commitments - and that finding it difficult to persuade people to pay me fairly has been a pattern for much of my life - also says something about my view of myself. How much do I value myself? Do I really believe in what I do?
I have hit a wall called "Pro Bono". Pro bono means "for good". But whose good? Not mine. And I doubt if it is all that good for others either. It is not good for people to think they can get something for nothing. We should expect to pay for quality. If we get into the habit of thinking everything is (or should be) free, we have no way of distinguishing the gems from the dross. Gold is fool's gold, and diamonds are paste.
So I have reluctantly reached a decision. I cannot continue to accept large amounts of unpaid work. I will honour existing pro bono commitments, but after that I will expect to be paid for speaking engagements, and for all writing assignments except for this blog. I will require a guest fee for all TV and radio appearances from now on.
And if the result of this is that I disappear from the airwaves and the blogosphere, so be it. It's been fun, but I can't live like this any more. For my own self-respect, I need to know whether what I am doing really adds value. If, faced with the prospect of having to pay me, people decide they would rather dispense with my services, I will know that the value I thought I delivered was nothing but an illusion. For in this world, value is measured in money. Flattery is pleasant, but it is not a measure of real value. If my work is of value, then I am worth paying.
So if the world does not value my writing, speaking, teaching or singing enough to pay me for it, I must find something that the world WILL pay me for. At present, I have no idea what. But of one thing I am certain. I can no longer live on the illusion of value.
The "something for nothing" society
The end of the road
I am a bank