From looking at my CV and reading the introductory email I sent him before he began, my manager was able to deduce that I am creative and that my art and writing is important and key in my life. As a result he looked at how I could be more creative in my day to day work whilst also benefiting the charity but not neglecting the requirements of the role.
I have done various bits of administrative work for the charity since I originally started as a temp meant to cover two and a half weeks of annual leave. I've process cheques, kept track of invoicing, monitored research grants, filed, organised and sorted all sorts of documents and done PA duties for the CEO. I've answered phones, made coffee and tea, helped with conducting of interviews, ordered catering and booked meetings. Primarily, however, my role has been fundraiser support. I send emails to fundraisers, provide them with sponsorship forms, shirts, merchandise, promotional materials and tips and I send them thank you letters when the donations come in. In amongst this I have also been asked to help out with the design and production of two newsletters, a fundraiser support pack and the website.
Day to day my time has been almost entirely consumed by emails, phone calls and data entry. I've had to develop policies, procedures and processes, implement systems and then take them all apart and start over when someone new started or we began using a new database or we realised the way we were doing it simply didn't work.
From 8 - 4 I felt like I was doing a job simply because I don't have the capacity to slack off when I'm getting paid. I was exchanging my time for money and putting up with it largely because, for the first time ever, I was getting paid what I'm worth. A pay cheque allows me to buy art supplies, pay for courses, visit museums, purchase books and travel.
From 4:30 - 9 and on most weekends I would paint, write, draw, blog, tweet and journal, desperate to get my creative energy out. Desperate to feel like an artist, not an office whipping girl.
Good things do come to those who wait. I weighed out all the pros and cons and on the basis that I pretty much make my own hours, I can eat all day at my desk and the pay is enough that I'm not really stressed about money, I figured I could put up with administrative work. Then my manager started and within weeks we had discussed the possibility of getting me design programs so I could work on the development of the newsletter and other promotional materials. I could be a paid graphic designer part-time, fundraiser support the other part and of course, a moonlighting artist and writer.
To look back on it I'm amazed at how patient I was able to be. CS5 was ordered. The first time it arrived they'd sent the PC version, not the Mac version. It was sent back and the next one arrived over the holidays. I returned to the office after a pleasant break to find that my poor manager's holiday was significantly less stress free. Between a burst pipe and Swine flu there had been a burglary and one of the items taken was the shiny new box containing CS5. I honestly think he was more distraught about it being swiped than I. Thankfully there was insurance coverage on the order and it was re-sent. It arrived a few weeks into the new year but was the wrong version, lacking the essential InDesign.
We ordered it online as a download and voila:
I was able to start work on the newsletter.
I still have a lot of fundraiser support to do each day but I probably spend about a third of my week doing layouts, cropping and editing photos and designing headers and images. I come home and I no longer feel an intense need to sit down and paint. I still enjoy painting, of course, but I feel as though I've spent much of the day just being me. Playing with shapes and colours, adjusting the look and layout of a document, throwing together a quick example of a promotional item.
When I think back to that course I took in the early winter it seems like it was ages ago, even though it's only been three months since it finished. Three months since I had the heady rush of *glee* at the thought of doing design work and getting paid for it.
I love what I'm learning and I love that I have a manager who appreciates the energy and passion I've got for it. A tip to anyone in management: If your employees are passionate about what they do, they'll do it very well.