What to do when you’re running out of money (tips #1 & #2)

The first stage is to get your finances in order, as follows:

Tip #1. Don’t panic!

This process is not going to be fun, but getting completely wigged out and running around won’t help. Being as calm as you can and approaching things methodically can make most of the problems more manageable.

Tip #2. Stop using your credit cards as much as possible.

Most people don’t have a good idea of what it costs to use their credit cards. If you’ve $10,000 of debt and you’re getting an 11.99% interest rate, you’re spending $100 extra every month in interest. It’s difficult to survive without at least one credit card—try buying something online without one!—but you should use them with caution and care. Dump the ones you don’t need and look for credit cards that will offer you a better interest rate and pay them off as fast as possible. You may even be able to get a better interest from your own company; phone them and ask. There are pitfalls when shopping for credit cards and consolidating your debt but there are advantages, too. Google “reducing credit card debt” for details on what to do and how to do it. (The two best tactics for this are to always pay more than the monthly minimum payment and reduce your highest interest debts first.)

What to do when you’re running out of money

It doesn’t matter if you’re a contractor or a captive, the economy sucks right now. There’s a very real chance that you may find yourself out of work or underemployed. Maybe it’s only a sub-prime mortgage that’s nailed your finances, maybe your property taxes have gone up, maybe your car’s died. Maybe you aren’t actually in debt but you don’t have any savings and you feel like you’re riding on the edge of disaster. No matter, you’re suddenly looking at a lot of debts and not enough money to cover them.

Almost everyone I know has been there. I’ve been there. It’s no fun. But I am fortunate enough to have survived this and I want to pass on a few tips to you about things you can do to weather the storm with your stomach lining intact.

Prison and writing

There are many connections between being in prison and writing for a living. A few of them are good, most of them are not so good, but none of them are the things I’m going to talk about.

Some years ago, I was talking to my stepmother on the phone. I was near the end of a book at that time and I asked her if, as I suspected, she had noticed a stage in the writing of any book that I just became really grumpy with the project and had a hard time working on it, regardless of how much fun the book was and how much money I expected to make from it. She said, “Oh, yes!” and told me a story that I think will be interesting and educational for all of us in this silly business.

(Background: my stepmother was on the police force for 20 years. She was the first woman to graduate first in the class at the Tucson Police Academy and she worked her way up through the ranks to become one of the very few woman police chiefs for a major metro area in this country. I’m enormously proud of her.)

Elaine said that the worst point for escapes and attempted escapes is right before prisoners are due to be released. This has been recognized in incarceration for decades. This is because you’ve been incarcerated for however long and you can see the end in sight but it’s not there yet and it really pisses you off.

What they generally do for prisoners as they get to be short-timers is put them in solitary and lock them up tight so they can’t get out. This isn’t really done out of any sense of charity for the prisoners, who don’t appreciate being put in lockdown at all for some odd reasons. No, the jailers’ idea is to prevent escapes because it looks bad on their records. But it’s still the best thing you can do for the prisoners, too, who don’t need to try to escape and get time added to their sentences.

Elaine said that this can and does happen as close as 2 weeks before release: The prisoners just hit the wall and they say to themselves “I’m due to get out of here and I can’t take it any more!” She says that you can see that the end is in sight and you really resent the last effing bit!

Elaine went on to say that this is much the same with any major project. She went through much the same thing, she says, when she retired from the force some years ago. As she was getting down to the last couple months of her 20, she was having more and more motivational problems with heading to work. However, she had structured it so she had enough vacation time to give her an escape hatch if she just couldn’t deal with it, so she could phone in on vacation for her final 5-6 weeks if she needed to. 🙂

What can we learn from this?

1. Writers will always feel cranky right near the end of a project.

2. Possibly the best kindness an editor or publisher or manager can do for a writer is to tighten the thumbscrews and make sure they don’t leave their desks as the deadline approaches.

How to Be Famous in Your Profession–Summary

Being famous is really all about extending your reach. It’s great for hearing about that next job or finding someone with hard-to-get information. Fame even lets you get a free drink or lunch occasionally, but it’s not a substitute for having a life of your own. Relax and have fun with it.

Fame is not a zero-sum game. Everyone can be well-known if they want to be. Because of this, never make the mistake of assuming that because you’re famous you’re entitled to more than anyone else. And remember that it’s not enough to be famous just for being famous; you need to be famous because you actually have something that you do reasonably well. If you forget to do things for yourself, you will soon discover that you don’t have anything new to offer… and you’ll become a parody of what you once were.

Make connections between people

One of the values of being known by a number of people is that you can make connections between people and increase the networking. For example, as your own circle grows, people will often ask you questions like “How can I get started in this business?” or “Who do you recommend I talk to for a job?” Knowing a lot of people allows you to introduce people in your network to each other, making them happy and increasing your own prestige in the process.

Have some opinions

Having opinions is part of being human. You don’t have to tailor your opinions to what is popular, but you should be willing to discuss your point of view with other people. But be ready to disagree with people appropriately: Having opinions is part of what makes other people human, too. Your opinions are guaranteed to brush up against someone else’s opinions. It will broaden your horizons to hear that someone disagrees with you keenly on some fundamental issue (even if you’re sure in your heart that they’re a jerk for doing so ~grin~). Be professional in your disagreements and try to accept the people that disagree with you. Remember Hedtke’s Law: a person who doesn’t offend somebody couldn’t possibly interest anybody.

Publish articles

Articles get your name out to a wider range of people than doing public speaking. It’s also a different audience, too: the folks that hear you speak are the ones who, like you, like going to conferences. The people who read articles are going to be the ones who stay at home (and the ones who go to the conferences and enjoy learning everything they can about the profession).

Speak at events

Fame is largely a function of who knows you. Being a speaker at events is one excellent way of getting people to know who you are and what you think about things. Don’t forget to answer questions and talk to as many people afterwards as you can.

Remember peoples’ names

Everyone likes to think they’re special and they’ve made an impression on someone else. Try to remember as many names as you can. When you do the business card swap with people, be sure to make notes on business cards about who the person is, when you met, or what you talked about as a trigger to memory, too.

Tip: There are several slicko smart phone applications that let you snap a photo of the business card with the cell phone camera and file the information in a database.


Good listeners are hard to find and will make themselves welcome almost anywhere. Men in particular have a cultural tendency to interrupt. If you make a point of listening to whatever the other person in a conversation is saying until they’re all done and then replying, you will differentiate yourself from 99% of the rest of the world. (Hot tip for men: being a good listener will do you worlds of good in your relationships, too.)