Tag Archives: writing

Who Reads this Blog?

On May 29, 2007, I wrote my first entry on HerEveryCentCounts — I titled it “Diversification?” I had about $27k in networth (before the recession of 2008, when it went down significantly) and my income was $35,000 a year (which, incredibly, is less than I make in three months today.)

It was in 2007 when I opened my first retirement account – a Roth IRA and a mid-cap Vanguard fund. My job didn’t offer a 401k, so I was limited to $5000 a year in retirement investment. I knew nothing about investing and finance – I just read another 20-something women’s blog about her investing a small inheritance, and suddenly felt inspired to sort out my future. I was spending 50% of my income on a studio apartment that cost $905 a month (the same apartment now costs over $1600 – that’s how much rent has gone up here in the last 9 years.) I was 23 years old.

Admittedly, this blog has gone months without any content, followed by weeks where I’ll post three or more times a week. I never intended this to be a regular publication — I started writing because I wanted to hold myself accountable for my future. And, since I didn’t have a lot of money for financial advice, I figured some folks out there on the internet would tell me if I was completely messing it up.

Nearly nine years since starting this blog, it seems to get some fairly regular visitors. I don’t get a lot of comments — and I’m not sure if that’s because my comment system is broken or if what I write isn’t the ideal content to start a conversation. By far, my most popular posts are the ones I wrote about getting a DUI. That was the lowest point of my life, but financially probably the most interesting from a blogging perspective. I still get tons of traffic to my DUI posts, which rank very highly on random search terms like “dui depression” and “how to get your life back after a DUI.”

What’s been most rewarding, though, has been the number of people who have commented or emailed me about their DUI stories. There are lots of intelligent and otherwise law-abiding people who made a mistake and are struggling with deep depression after getting arrested for driving under the influence. Many tell me that my story has made them be able to get through the darkest time in their lives. Although I didn’t expect that to be the result of my blogging about my DUI (which was now four years ago), and I get my fair share of hate mail from people who were injured in drunk driving accidents or knew someone who was hurt in one, I do feel good when I receive comments from strangers letting me know how I’ve helped them. Helping people is the only thing in this world the makes me feel happy, so this has been a strange positive side effect of dealing with my own mistakes.

The rest of this blog is typically me just cycling through the same series of complaints, so I’m not sure how entertaining it is, or how many people out there are repeat readers. I’m sure there are plenty of anonymous readers who occasionally find their way back here. I’m curious, if you read this blog, how long have you been reading it? How did you find me? Do any posts from the past nine years stand out in your mind? Would you like me to write about anything else?

If you read this blog, please leave a comment here – and if you’re having trouble leaving a comment, email me at hereverycentcounts@gmail.com. Looking forward to hearing from you and learning more about my readers!

 

 

Am I a Writer?

I write an awful lot, but unfortunately it’s all redundant non-fiction bullshit about life and admittedly rather benign. If you were to read any of my attempted academic content you would might have a good guffaw over my inability to successfully support a thesis. My college teachers, much like my high school teachers and middle school teachers before them, were vehemently confused over the nonsense I turned in for reports, which would often be rewarded a C at best, and the long musings which poured out of me in opinion essays, which most often received the highest mark, always punctuated with a +.

There is a musicality to language which I adore. I wouldn’t say I’m a great writer – my vocabulary is limited and often used incorrectly – and any content of mine that has been published in print has been thoroughly edited. But of all the things in the world one can do – if I’m inspired, writing comes the most naturally. I wish I could turn my little writing hobby into an actual career. Well, I have turned my little writing hobby into a career – and unfortunately that career required other talents which I do not have – playing well with others, maneuvering my way through corporate politics, maintaining relentless, unbridled enthusiasm for some product which, based on my experience, I will likely long outlive.

I’m angry at myself for not being able to write anything worthwhile. Even a memoir would be impossible – my life is yawn-inducing with the exception of a few non-memoir-length moments of my youth that shall be reserved for a never-to-be-printed appendix. I haven’t done anything special enough to merit a memoir – and the only illness I suffered through as a child put me in the hospital for a week and then I was fine. My own neurosis aren’t tragic enough to be considered art, they’re just cumbersome.

It seems, if I’m going to be a writer – a novelist, a screenwriter, a short story creator, a playwright – well, I need an imagination. You know those people – who you grew up with, who were just constantly inventing stories and ideas? Yea, I wasn’t one of those people. There was a story about a magical peacock I wrote in third grade, I think that might have been my last dose of sheer inspiration to date.

The challenge is I’m not much of a reader either. I’ve tried to get into fiction and I always return to reading the news. I watch a ridiculous amount of television so perhaps that is my calling, but attempting to generate believable dialogue when I barely interact with humans proved futile in my few attempts.

Maybe I just need to do a shit load of drugs.

Who am I kidding? Getting high leaves me sitting indian style on the floor noshing on a bag of avocados. That’s not quite the right writing nudge.

It’s just all those people out there who have managed to write – who love to write – who just fucking write, I am so envious of them. For their wild imaginations. For being able to close their eyes and envision whole new worlds, new people that never existed in real life – you know, the way they speak, move, and their own fears, hopes and dreams.

I have ideas, of course, but they don’t go anywhere. They’re not plots, they’re themes, concepts, visions of future worlds in which my story might live. I haven’t yet imagined one believable character, and I’m too terrified about pissing of people anyone I know to borrow them for inspiration.

So maybe I’m not a writer. Or, maybe I could be one. Some novelists do start out in their 30s. But how to even get started? I should have written that damn 50 Shades of Grey book. I’ve dabbled in erotica, but my erotica has been much less mainstream, even compared to that. And 90% of it was written before I so much had been to second base. So that’s out of the running.

I would love to write strong female characters for film – because they’re sorely needed. But I’m not sure where to begin. I have this one idea for a romcom – it’s actually a cute idea, one that could be quite mainstream, or indie if the jokes are a bit wittier – I’d like to start with that. Still, I just waste away my little free time writing about how I can’t write here versus actually being productive and churning out a few pages a night.

A few days ago I had an interview for a certificate program I’m considering applying to, and they asked me what is one accomplishment I am most proud of over the last 10 years. I had to stop and think because I’m really not proud of ANYTHING I’ve done over the last 10 years. I managed to talk about a few work projects and then the first show I directed, which was now seven years ago. The only thing I will ever feel proud of is my creative work – my completed creative work. Nothing else – I don’t care about my title or how much money I make or save – feels remotely rewarding.

It might be the outcome of narcissistic parenting, but maybe it’s my truth, and I ought to listen to it.

My hope was that my stock from my prior company would be worth enough to free me up to lead a creative life, but instead that turned into a loss. I’ve saved aggressively but it’s not enough. If I were to hit $1M in my 30s I’d be perfectly satisfied working part-time to break even on a monthly basis and allow my savings to compound while I pursue whatever art I find myself actually getting good at. But that $1M is so far off. Even if I were to keep my current job for the years to come, or one like it that pays as well, assuming an average of $50k savings per year, that will take me another 13 or so years.

That’s not horrible – at 44 I could retire and maybe by then I’d actually have something to write about. But I know I can’t mentally maintain work like this for long. I’m falling apart. I see the schizophrenics wandering all day on the streets of San Francisco, babbling to themselves, screaming at the world, and I think to myself — how far away am I from that, really? I often want to just grab a shredded blanket, wrap myself in it, and wander the streets screaming, maybe even sobbing – I think I’d fit in more with them than the people I work with who are far more civil and far less insane.

 

 

Ambition, Or Lack There Of, Or Partial

In business, there are the hunters, and then there is everyone else. The ambitious play life as a game, moving one piece at a time and never fully being satisfied. The rare few have a greater mission, some intention for greater good or art, but most just enjoy the game itself, and, of course, winning.

My current mass media obsession is Mad Men, the television show, which I’m woefully behind on – all the way back on season three. The lag is due to the fact that I only watch television these days with my boyfriend, outside of the occasional reality trash, and he can’t stand the show. At first, I didn’t understand why he didn’t like Mad Men – it’s well acted, it has a long, drawn out storyline, and plenty of television connoisseurs adore it. But then, as I let myself drift through the slow-moving episodes, it hit me why he can’t stand the show, and why my own engagement has lagged: the show is entirely about ambition, cut-throat, self-absorbed, occasionally sociopathic American ambition. The 1960s were much like present day, although a New York’s advertising agency could be easily replaced by a technology startup. Or maybe any business which blends creatives and sales. It is, at least up until season three, a story of ambition and the American Dream.

I’ve forgotten what my American Dream is – or, quite frankly, I can’t make out if I ever had one. In Mad Men one thing surely that led to its success is that most everyone can relate to someone in the series – perhaps even more than one person. Peggy, the character who worked her way up from secretary to first female copywriter in the agency, who is awkward and an outsider, despite being successful for her gender and age at the time, is the one I can most relate to, in some ways. But her drive far surpasses my own. Maybe if I were a full-time creative I’d be equally ambitious. Maybe if I were born at another time, when writing copy for an ad meant coming up with the best content to fit in a 11×14 print, I could have found some other American Dream to pursue. Today, all I know is I feel entirely lost and ambition-less. I hate myself for it, for lacking that fighting instinct, for wanting to feel something, I don’t know, magical – that poof, here I am, I’ve made it, I’ve found where I’m meant to be. And the jarring, jagged edge of the reality that I’m no where near it, if it actually exists.

Maybe it’s just my millennial tendencies, my Achilles heal, the need to be credited for my work while ensuring that work is uniquely my own. I grew up at a time, in a community, where life was comfortable. Unlike my parents who grew up just on the cusp of poverty, I had everything, and thus sought to be different, to be – not a doctor or lawyer – but something – someone – outstanding and different. But ambition itself never painted itself clearly enough. I spent my life running blind towards a target I could not see or imagine.

I can’t say I’ve wasted my life because my bank account would disagree – but is this it? I should be grateful and thrilled to have the opportunity to thrive, I should shut up and keep my head down and fight to move up the corporate ladder because – that is what I should do. That is what young women in 2015 who were born without a trust fund do. We work and often our careers far outshine those of our significant others. Somehow we procreate and manage to keep a job that pays the bills of increasingly expensive households. We trap ourselves to never be free again, to be tied to the responsibilities of an overpriced life, or we settle for a life that is less comfortable than the one which we grew up in. Or we find a rich husband, perhaps, and likely watch our own Mad Men scenario play out and our marriages fall apart.

Perhaps this is all impossibly dramatic, but I can’t help but constantly returning to this fact that I feel so empty and lost. I have this great job, I am making more than I could have dreamed of 10 years ago, and I continue to save towards my lofty annual networth goals. Yet the only happiness I find in life is waking up cuddled up in my boyfriend’s arms. I imagine us together in some small town, far away from this expensive region, far away from our few friends, and even far away from family, and still there I’d have him, and our walks together and our crazy jokes and my horrible and likely offensive accents and his which are spot on, especially his british, scottish and slightly gay german.

But we do still need money. Of course we do. Life isn’t cheap, even if it can be cheaper. We’ve locked ourselves into another year of our rent, now $2400 a month for our 850 square foot one bedroom, cementing another year of who knows what life will bring, but at least I know where it will bring it. I foresee a summer floating in the pool, unemployed, not by choice, attempting yet again to figure out what it is in this entire world that might fulfill me, or how to shut my needy, whiny, self-absorbed self up long enough to grow up.

While my boyfriend was never ambitious, and doesn’t have an inkling of ambition in his blood, I believe I once was ambitious. I can still relate to the characters on Mad Men, I can taste the excitement of the opportunities ambition paired with a little bit of luck and the right timing can bring. I wonder how different I am from my peers – are they truly happy or they just doing what they fell into, just getting by. I struggle to find motivation purely for pay, which is ridiculous, but I know for me I’d be happier if I had a job which somehow intrinsically motivated me – and perhaps I ought to cool off the aggressive savings for a while. Ambition is useless if it doesn’t fulfill any of one’s needs beyond the basics of survival.

Earlier today I read an essay from the creator of Mad Men who didn’t manage to get his first job in television until he was 30. He received his masters in film from the prestigious USC, but couldn’t get his foot in the door. He eventually obtained a gig for $600 to help make a television pilot funnier, which he did well enough to get offered another job. Even then his script idea for Mad Men was turned down by virtually every television studio. But a few people believed in him enough to give him more work, and eventually AMC took a risk on the project. The point of the essay, which is a collection of stories from “mentors” that I must read, is that few who are successful are willing to share how hard it is to get where they are. Artists are especially ashamed of the “brushstrokes,” so to speak. But it takes time and a heck of a lot of grit to make it.

It’s not the fear of failure that is holding me back. It’s the fear of not living up to my own expectations of myself – as a creator. When you’re not the best shaped cog for a machine it doesn’t hurt quite as much in comparison to building a machine that is missing half of the parts.

Time for Creativity. Time for Pause. Time for Solitude.

One of my great regrets of all time, that is all time leading up to today, is my lack of proper time dedicated to reading. While I’ve wasted countless hours of my life transfixed in Jezebel articles, Facebook posts about hilarious dogs and babies being successful or unsuccessful babies, and magazine articles sunk into overflowing bathtubs with their wet pages stuck together before completion, the number of full-fledged novels I’ve read in my life – is something I regrettably can count on my own two hands.

Yet language and writing has always been a passion of mine, more than the drawing and painting my parents had pushed my talents towards. While as a child I stayed up late at night to read trashy childhood series such as Sweet Valley Twins and The Babysitters Club: Little Sister editions, I refused to read actual serious books. Why? I’m not sure where my rebellion of all things “adult” and “responsible” came from, but it sure started early. My father, with his stern aggression and judgement around my own interests, made me hate authority and turn against it at all costs. Although my father was a man of physics textbooks and oft right-wing historical non-fiction and editorials, for some reason literature got mixed up into the world of authority, my arch nemesis, the land of academia and maturity, of all the things we should do with our time when we have it in between hours staring at the second hand of the clock hung above the school door and the darkness that is our daily rest.

Continue reading

My Book Deal — It’s Really Happening!

My life goals have never been all that realistic — perform on Broadway and win a Tony, start my own billion dollar company, be the next Warren Buffet, write a book before I’m 30…

Well, I’m certainly not going to belting out Anything Goes as Sutton Foster’s understudy anytime in the near future. But I am going to be writing a book! This is completely freaking me out — me, write a book? Like a real, published-on-paper book? Yes, after nearly a half year of proposals, with a revised table of contents finally getting sign off, I’ll be a published author, before I’m 30. Of course, first I need to actually write the book.

I wouldn’t have thought of pursuing writing a book, but the opportunity came knocking on my door (ok, it came into my inbox.) An acquisitions editor reached out to me per a recommendation from a very respected person in business who I’ve never met. Apparently he had heard of me and made the initial recommendation. One thing led to another, and here I am, with a contract for a book deal in hand, and just a whole bunch of legal mumbo-jumbo to agree to, signing my life way for the next six months to write a real, legit book. Continue reading

Personal Finance Advice? Do I Have Any To Give?

My latest blogging kick has me obsessed with frequent updates to this blog. But sometimes I wonder what I should be writing about. It’s too easy for me to complain about money — not having enough, having enough but not knowing what to do with it, not having enough and not knowing what to do with it — but who wants to read a monologue of complaints? My financial life isn’t filled with massive drama, debt… I don’t have a mortgage, or a husband, or kids… and I try not to shop. So what should I write about?

Sometimes I think I should try to be like I Will Teach You to Be Rich or Living Off Dividends — but, what brilliant advice do I have to share? I’d love to be a resource for personal finance advice, but the best I can do is to tell my peers to “save money,” “invest in a Roth IRA early,” and “negotiate for higher pay when your living expenses are low.” That’s about all the personal finance advice I have for everyone. If this blog can be inspirational as an example (maybe my networth growth chart, in the left sidebar, will inspire someone?) then great.

Otherwise, I don’t want to turn this into a blog with posts like “The Top 10 Ways to Save On Taxes.” I don’t know the Top 10 Ways to save on taxes and honestly there’s a thousand other places where this information exists. I’ll write about it if I actually have saved using certain strategies, but I don’t want to write something just because I read it somewhere else, and need more link bait SEO content.

Instead, I’m just me. I do manage to run into the typical personal finance issues we all have to deal with (hey, my car engine started doing something really weird tonight, it might be time to retire my ’99 Toyota soon) but I’ve yet to get deep into the bigger personal finance issues of life. The second I start shopping for a condo or a house, this blog will probably get a lot more interesting.

For now, I really wish I could provide good advice on finances, career, etc. I get so giddy when someone who reads my blog e-mails me with a question and asks for my advice.

Today, a blogger I respect and read often asked for some advice on working in technology marketing & Silicon Valley. I’m thrilled to offer that kind of advice, especially by phone or Skype, because I do know a bit about how things work in this industry and have some wisdom to impart. That wisdom I’m hesitant to write on here since I’d like to maintain some level of anonymity around here.

Would you like more articles on personal finance advice here? Or am I doing ok just writing about my life as it relates to money…?

In Happier News

I finally got paid after weeks of negotiating post negotiating my fees with the one company. I might not have made as much as I expected, but at the very least it pretty much directly covers the extra $500 I had to spend today on my dental care that I didn’t expect.

It was nice to see that paycheck in the mail today, especially since today I also got my first iPhone bill statement which is $134 (for about 1.5 months.)

So I have $1050 worth of checks in my purse that I need to cash. My current credit card balance is $1700 (yikes) so all my side income this month is going directly to jail and not passing go, I mean, to the credit card company.

I had some old invoices I had to send out so I’m expecting a backlog of paychecks including the two I just got…

$550: company A blogs for October
$500: company B blogs, press release, etc for November
$450: company C illustration and copyedits
$475: company A blogs for November
>=$100: company A blogs for Dec (I’ve written 4 so far at $25 / blog)
>=$120: company B blogs for Dec (two written so far)

So my “side job” income from October to December will be at least $2195 and if I can get my act together and write 16 more blog posts this month it may be $2595 or $863 a month. Not bad… if I could keep that up I will be able to hit my goal of $10k side income in 2010… but it’s unlikely I will make this much every month next year (and this year’s income doesn’t count.) I just had some really good months for my freelance business.

If only my freelance income could add up to enough where I could quit my job. I’d give anything to have a flexible schedule again… I just want to be able to work when I want and take classes when I want. I want to take a painting class and a few web programming / design courses at the community college but they’re only offered in the middle of the afternoon or all morning, which is not possible right now. If my company goes under the first thing I’m going to do is see about building my freelance career again and taking some classes.

Why I’m Glad I’m not a Full Time Freelance Writer

I was reading a post the other day about setting your rates as a freelancer, and it made me ever the more grateful for my current full time employment. As much as I love the freedom of freelancing, negotiating fees is a pain in the ass and something I’m not good at.

Case in point, I obtained a new client by responding to a posting on Craigslist for a blogger. Originally, we agreed on a fee for the blog posts which was a little on the high end for them but what I thought was fair for the amount of work and the going rate for this type of work. Then the marketing guy decided that I would be writing all sorts of content for the company, and that’s when things got messy. I quoted them a rate for some specific types of projects which was obviously higher than they wanted to pay, but they agreed. Or so I thought they agreed.

A month or so later and my main contact has apparently either left the company or doesn’t want to be involved in managing the marketing writing anymore. While there seems to be some recollection of our agreement around the office, no one thinks the work I did should be paid what we agreed on. I asked originally if they’d prefer to pay per hour or per project, and they said per project. The per project fee is designed to include edits, but they chose ultimately not to give me a chance to edit any of the work and instead do all the edits in house. That’s when things got really messy.

I wasn’t sure what to do in that situation. Do I offer a lower rate because they chose to do all the edits in house without sending the work back to me with feedback? Maybe I should have, but it seems like regardless of what I quoted them they would have been upset, and convinced themselves that I did little work on the assignment and basically they shouldn’t have to pay me much of anything.

On top of that, I was assigned blog posts that were structured a certain way and rather short. Again, I was going to offer a lower fee, but had I offered a lower fee for these posts they would have probably come back and asked for even lower than that. So I put the posts on the invoice as full blog posts. Honestly, I think this is fair because some blog posts are longer and others are shorter – and that is what happens when you pay per post instead of based on length (word count) or hourly.

Within a month the contact I had at the company handed me off to another woman (who seems to be much better at advocating for my cause, though she is in a tough spot because she also writes for the company and is undoubtedly getting paid less than I would be on an hourly rate, even though after you look at insurance and self employment taxes perhaps her rate is closer to mine than she thinks). She is working with me and now assigning me blog posts and I think a lot of the drama has passed. I dislike that the company now thinks I charge too much for my work, but I personally think I don’t charge that much for a for-profit company and for marketing and PR writing. If I were a full-time freelance writer, I’d need to charge that much to get by. Luckily I’m not one anymore, which makes it easier to step back and say, ok, I’ll take $400 less than you’d owe me if you paid what I thought we had agreed on. I’m glad I have the luxury to accept that with only a tiny bit of bitterness and be done with it. I won’t be writing anything other than blog posts for the company, and this is best because we all agree on how much I’m owed per post. Everything else was getting too confusing and uncomfortable on both of our ends.

I’m also compromising because otherwise I wouldn’t get paid, or I wouldn’t have the opportunity to keep doing work for them. It still pays fairly well and it’s a nice side income stream. It’s worth compromising here, but makes me more hesitant than ever to go back to full time freelancing.

Freelance Side Jobs: Am I in Over My Head?

My basic personal finance rule is that if I’m going to splurge on something, I need to earn at least that amount in freelance income over the year. My base salary ($60k) pays for my rent, food, bills, and savings. Anything on top of that should be earned separately.

While I put 45-50 hours into my full time job each week, there’s always extra time when I’m sitting around thinking I could be earning more money.

Freelance writing work has always been a great side project for me that pays fairly well, but I need to be careful not to sign myself up for too many extra gigs. It’s easy to do that — as the potential to earn extra income and increase my pleasure spending per year is great.

I currently write for a blog and earn $25 / post; each post takes me about 30 minutes to write. I can write up to 20 posts or $500 worth per month. I’ve been on and off with it for the past year, but I’ve been trying to hit the 20 post limit each month now by writing in the early mornings before work.

Last week I replied to an ad online for a blogger and found out this blogging job was more like writing long feature articles than quick blogging. They take me a lot longer to write than the short ones for the other gig, and require more research, so I’m charging more for them. At first I thought it was just a few blog posts they wanted, or maybe a couple a week ongoing, but it turned out the CEO liked my writing and background and wanted to meet me and discuss an ongoing writing gig including some tech writing, article writing, and press releases. He knows I have a full-time job that is my priority during the day, but if I can do some extra side work on the weekends, then I’ll do it, and do it well.

It’s just that I don’t want to spend every waking moment of my life working. It’s not that bad because I enjoy researching technology news and writing about it, and I hated doing that full time, so it’s fun as a hobby almost to do it on the side. Yet I want to make sure that the quality of work I do meets my personal high standards. And that means my life becomes devoted to work.

On top of that, I’m taking these classes and just extremely busy. I like being busy, and I like making money, but where do I draw the line? How much free time do I really need each week? I’m so often bored on the weekends, I’d rather be earning extra income than being bored and probably going out and spending money.

If you earn freelance income on the side, where do you draw the line? How much extra work is too much?

Balancing Freelance Losses Due to Economy

My stable $400 a month gig has been reduced to… well, I’m not sure yet, but $250 or $300 a month. I’ve come to rely on that extra cash (it covers almost all of my rent, which is, by the way, going up from $612 to $670 in January) – so I’m exploring new cash-making opportunities and side projects.

The latest is a blogging gig that pays $25 a post. I’m starting out at twice a week with 200 word posts, and that’s pretty easy to do. Even if it takes 45 minutes a post, that’s $50 for less than 2 hours of work. I can write more too, if I have time. I like that, I just don’t want them to come to expect 5 or more posts a week from me. That’s why I left my blogging gig, and that paid a lot better.

Still, if I could make an extra $200 a month in blogging that would at least balance my losses. Supposedly I could make up to $500 a month – which would be good to strive for if I can do that and still maintain my 40-hour a week gig.

Plus, I need to keep writing things that I can share professionally (like, stuff other than this blog.) It’s good to stay in the writing habit. The analytical section of my brain needs to be worked out again. It’s getting flabby.