May 18, 2009

Writer's Block

This was an interesting read, although I disagree with some parts of it.

Yet writers are, as a class, extraordinarily at risk. They spend their twenties, and often their thirties, living paycheck to paycheck.

Boy howdy, was that true back during my first writing gig, a beat reporter making $6 an hour. My second writing gig for another newspaper netted me about $12 an hour. My editing gig after that made about $15 an hour, while my last writing/editing started at about $18 an hour and ended at about $21 an hour. I'm deliberately leaving out what I make now.

The trick is, however, with one exception, I didn't burn my previous bridges behind me. Some of the best advice I can give any aspiring writing out there is to never lose contact with the people and companies you worked for in the past, and always leave a writing position on good terms. Those past positions can be a treasure trove of freelance writing opportunities. Yes, you'll likely make peanuts for income in the early going, but keep looking for the next job upgrade while keeping the past positions in your rolodex.

It's very true that writing as a professional career choice is very risky, and you spend the early running pretty much jumping without a net. There's a lot of luck involved in parlaying writing of any sort into a sustainable living. However, if you're smart, patient and choose your moves carefully, while always operating under the assumption you'll be out of work tomorrow, you'd be surprised how well you can do.

You end up with a lot of friends who make much more money than you--who don't even realize that a dinner with $10 entrees and a bottle of wine is an expensive treat, not a cheap outing to catch up on old times.

Then you need better friends.

Our business is in crisis, and we lose jobs often. When we do, it's catastrophic.

Unless you actively prepare for losing your job by constantly updating your resume and making it available online wherever the hell you can and make extensive use of social networking tools so people may be able to give you a heads up. That kind of preparation and attentiveness can pay off huge. Having my resume on actually got me my last job one month after being laid off from my editing gig.

Everyone you write about makes more than you. Most of the people you know make more than you. And you come to feel that shopping at the farmer's market, travelling to Europe, drinking good coffee, are minimum necessities.

Well, then you're a materialistic rube. Living within your means is a pretty common sense endeavor; even at my most meager of jobs, I was ablle to save some sort of money, although I had a gaunt "Body by Ramen Noodle" look to me.

Your house is small, your furniture is shabby, and you can't even really afford to shop at Whole Foods. Yet you're at the top of your field, working for one of the world's top media outlets. This can't be so.

OH NO! Whole Foods is shut off to you? Whatever should you do?

And so the debts creep up, one happy hour or Colorado backpacking adventure at a time.

Look, if you can't afford a Colorado backpacking adventure. . . DON'T GO ON A COLORADO BACKPACKING ADVENTURE. Sheesh.

They are confessed in moments of panic: the 420 credit score that requires a cosigner on a new lease, the $10,000 in credit card debt, the car loan that can't be paid off nor recouped in a sale of the sadly depreciated vehicle, the deliberately bounced checks and collection calls.

$10k in credit card debt? YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG. And, don't buy a new vehicle; buy a $500 beater for crying out loud. Deliberately bounced checks? Well, now you're just whining. I've never bounced a check in my life.

The rest of the article has good advice for writers who are apparently morons when it comes to fiscal responsibility.

Posted by Ryan at May 18, 2009 03:40 PM | TrackBack
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