Deafworks is a well known company run by Laraine Callow and Nicholas Callow. They are a specialised consultancy specifically aimed at deafness and deaf issues. On their website, they say:
The partners and other professionals (all freelancers and associates) who work for the consultancy are either D/deaf themselves or else have a sustained experience of issues concerned with D/deafness. All have a considerable amount of experience in their particular field (education, social work, the arts, play, counselling and so on). Deafworks’ advice and support is sought by the major charities, national and local government departments, and commercial organisations right across the UK.
98% of freelancers and contract staff who carry our work for Deafworks are D/deaf themselves. We do not advertise jobs or vacancies – we contract D/deaf freelance experts as and when we have a specific task or project in hand.
For a while now, I have been struggling with my direction as a writer and journalist. As a young up and coming writer, seeking advice and support about where to go next, it can be difficult to know where to go and who to look to for answers. Sometimes, no matter what our aims and goals are, it is overwhelming, and the places you can get advice from often don’t understand the issues you are facing. For example, it has been difficult for me to find understanding or information from the local Jobcentre plus – they are much more likely to hand you leaflets or put you onto Work Choice, who then refer you towards another company that might not be as well equipped for giving advice to deaf people. At a time when benefits and support are being cut, it is no wonder that young deaf people might feel at a loss.
On Monday 3rd September, I had a session booked with Laraine Callow, at Deafworks HQ in Peckham. Granted, it was a long way to go from North London, but it doesn’t seem like such a hardship when you consider how valuable it is. I had been working on a business plan and had forwarded this with my CV onto Laraine before our meeting. I was a little nervous – knowing my shy and introverted nature, I was worried that I might find it hard to focus on myself. However, when I arrived, Laraine made me feel welcome and relaxed. Interestingly, I found it difficult to articulate my issues clearly, because all the stress and difficulty of the past few months crashed down upon me. It was a relief to talk to someone and get some expert advice about how I could move forwards with my career as a writer and what my options were. Most of the time, I listened and answered some questions that helped me to think about research I needed to do, what my next steps were, and how to define myself. Laraine was concerned that I wasn’t talking much, but part of that was perhaps that I hadn’t had any good advice for a while and wanted to absorb as much as possible.
What I came away with was this: that planning is all well and good, but it is much more important to keep working and start now. Particularly, if you’re a writer, it does no good to sit by and plan. Writing comes from the doing – of course I knew this, but it was good to be reminded that ideas are all around me, and that I can use my experiences as a mine of information. Networking is of paramount importance when you’re a writer, and sometimes deaf people find this difficult. Laraine suggested finding out about the Deaf Professionals Network and attending the talks that they give. Meeting new people is important, so that you’re visible and people come to know you better.
Finding your niche or a couple of niches is important too. I already know that I write mainly about deaf issues and women’s issues. It’s hard for me to acknowledge that I might have to shelve some things I write about, but that’s not to say that I can’t write about them – just that they are not my ‘main’ specialisms. Defining yourself has to be the hardest part of the process – although I thought I knew what my profile is, it was harder than I thought to zone in. It is worth spending a bit of time thinking about this. What will people think of when someone mentions you? What is it that you’re known for? This changes over time as people change.
I also came away with some ideas to get me started – things to get me going and to help me develop my writing. For a start, my website needs some work. I originally wanted it to be a portfolio website, and it still is, but I would be the first to admit that I tend to neglect that blog and write on this blog. Cats and Chocolate is still my home of homes when it comes to blogging. I feel that the website needs a revamp, and it needs better content. So that is one of priorities. Upping my blogging productivity is another. I’ve always been someone who blogs as and when the inspiration strikes, preferring to write when an idea comes along. This has changed recently with the Writing Advice Series – something I intend to keep doing because writing is a long learning process.
Although I didn’t say as much as I would have liked, I came away from the Deafworks meeting feeling inspired and relieved. Inspired because things were clearer, and relieved because finally I had received good advice that was both practical in the short term and long term.
Deafworks has set up a new blog called ‘Deaf Auntie‘ that invites people to send in their questions and have them answered (by none other than Deaf Auntie Laraine Callow!), as well as giving people the chance to offer their own advice in the comments.