Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Silence

Sometimes we have a good gig and it seems to be going really well for a few months, maybe even a year or two. Then comes The Silence.

They quit contacting you or when you contact the editor, there's often  no response. To many, this may present a challenge, so they try to email and contact like crazy. "You won't ignore me, Mister/Missy!" they seem to say, not quite realizing -- or maybe not caring -- how irrational they might seem. But if you aren't supposed to melt down, how do you handle this?

It could be that the editor is just busy, which can happen. Or it could be that the editor's email was changed and there's a new software system in place. Or s/he could have been kidnapped by Albanian militants that rode into the building on sparkly unicorns.

Generally, and I hate to say this to you, dear readers, you have been given your walking papers. Either  the freelance budget is cut, the publication is going under or there's some other reason beyond your control. If your work or professionalism has been shoddy, you may have a little soul-searching to do. If not, and this is usually the case, the editor just doesn't want to deal with explaining the situation. Most human beings do not like conflict, so they avoid it -- sometimes to the detriment of others.

So The Silence means it's time to be pitch other places and work on other projects. Sure, The Silence may end, and you will continue your relationship with said publication -- but just in case it doesn't, you want to be sure you have additional income to cover the loss.

Who knows? This lull may also be a sign that you should finish writing that book or polishing those chapters.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

5 Tax Tips for the Freelance Writer

If you are like me, it's tax season and you're sitting on numerous 1099s. Chances are you didn't even receive some of them, so hopefully you kept records of them or an invoice -- because even if they don' t notify you they probably notified the IRS.

I decided to write a few tax tips for the freelance writer because I was a bit overwhelmed with the amount of information when I first started. I am not a tax professional, and you should consult one for better information than I have, but here are some tips that have helped me in the past.


  1. Take a home office deduction. If you're like me, you have a space in your home or apartment where you were and it serves as your office. This square footage is considered your home office and may qualify for a deduction.
  2. Deduct all supplies. If I buy pens, notepads, paper and toner, it will all go on my taxes. I deduct water bottles I buy, plants or anything I've used to furnish my home office and make it a good work station.
  3. Invest in a decent tax software. I use TurboTax, but I will say that you likely do not need the most expensive versions. I buy Home & Business and each time I think I should have just gotten the Deluxe version and been fine. Even so, it makes doing taxes a breeze.
  4. Keep track of receipts. I practically use a shoe box, but if you're very disciplined there's Evernote, a free note-taking app, which lets you take photos of receipts and place them in a notebook. The technology is there for anyone who wants to use it.
  5. Don't worry about an audit. If you're off by a few dollars, don't panic. I was off because I forgot to add  revenue from a publication who didn't send me a 1099, so the IRS sent me a note to pay $45. I did and that was that. No home visit, no panic, no scare tactics.


Enjoy tax season and remember to relax!



Friday, April 05, 2013

On Fighting Depression

I don't often talk about it, but I deal with depression a lot. Apparently it runs in my family, from my grandmother to my mother and then to me. I've been battling it a lot once I hit my 30s. I couldn't ignore it any longer because it was having a tremendous toll on me and my marriage.

I felt crazy. I can't describe it any other way, because it's what I assumed being crazy felt like. Just racing thoughts, feeling and thinking negative things and always second-guessing what everyone was thinking -- even myself. I felt like garbage and was sure everyone saw me that way. My intelligence was still there, but I was wracked with self-doubt and was sure everyone knew I was a big fake. I was pretending I was normal, obviously, but they could see I was a roaring vortex of insecurity and failure.

They probably couldn't. But I didn't know that. My skin was raw and every raised eyebrow or pause in conversation was a slight. I used to be an extrovert who threw parties and loved conversation. Now I hated going outside of the house and dealing with people. Too many people judging me. It didn't help that I gained about 35 pounds.

But the worst part as the mind-racing and feeling scared. While for many this means withdrawal from life, which I also did, but it also made me irritable and angry. I screamed, I yelled, I threw computers downstairs. In short, my life had become unmanageable. And for the first time in my life, I decided to go on antidepressants.

Bupropion
Honestly, the antidepressants weren't a miracle cure. At first, it really seemed like it. I seemed happier and kind of normalish, but then the side effects came -- and made me a little manic. I ended up buying $5,000 in gold jewelry because I was convinced our nation was heading into a financial apocalypse and gold would be the standard. (Luckily, this happened in 2007, so I actually made money five years later. But at the time it was more than a little koo-koo for Kokopuffs.) After about four years of experimentation and three psychiatrists, I finally found a cocktail of citalopram and bupropion that worked. And I seemed mostly normal.

However, it wasn't until recently that I began changing my thoughts based on a bet with a fellow writer. I told her I was going to try to think of the best of people rather than the worst for Lent and she told me, "Why don't you just approach the world with connection and compassion? I did that when I went on my trip to Italy and I had the best time." She said it was the same thing I was doing except leaving out the negative -- but I was so comfortable with negative! So, I said I would try what she asked.

Now it's past Easter, and I still find myself doing it. I'm not as angry or irritated at people (except in traffic) and seem a great deal more carefree. And lately, as I go outside to dump something nasty in the garbage -- which seems to be the only time I just walk outside -- I've been seeing the bees hurriedly working in the mountain lilac and the faint scent of wildflowers. There's been ladybugs and birdsong, a crop of gold and white freesias and I've been thinking, "Has the world always been this beautiful?"

I now think back to the tense, scary times of my 20s and very early 30s and think how much easier my life would have been with this feeling of calm.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Back before it's too late!

Well, I did get a teaching job, so I guess I'm fortunate. That or I enjoy putting off writing my YA novel. I think I need to write it and I need to come up with at least one chapter for a writing conference. I think that's my goal for the summer.

I am having my students read Maus by Art Spiegelman and several of them have problems reading a graphic novel. I'm trying to find some teaching resources on this, but essentially I'm supposed to caution them to go slowly and take in the visuals before reading the speech bubbles. I mistakenly thought this would attract my visual learners, but I think it also gives them too much to take in, too.

I'm still freelancing, probably more than I need. Still debating taking another assignment for $1,200 because it means two more weeks I won't be writing my novel. I shouldn't have to choose, right? But that's what happens when you work a day job and freelance. Those who are able to write a book in these conditions are far more awesome at time management than am!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Right before the end of the year!


Hi, all. I'm not sure I like this new blogger interface, but hey, I will survive.

Speaking of surviving, I have to deal with unemployment because the teaching isn't doing as well as I would like. I keep telling myself that it's the world telling me that I need to finish my YA novel. I really do. I kind of view it as my federal arts grant -- I think more people should.

I am on a lot of drugs right now in order to have a baby, so in many ways it may be fortuitous that I don't have a regular job. On that note, freelance work is heating up and I'm always surprised at that. I always figured the freelancing would dry up and the teaching would continue. Perhaps it's a sign?

My SO says "signs" are basically rank superstition, but I find primarily logical people/engineers/computer programmers to be tedious. They lack imagination and are mired in solipsism. I prefer to be around people who don't think they know everything. (This is not really the SO, but he has shades of this.) So, I'm still looking for signs of what I should be doing. So far, it's looking like I'm writing about business and technology.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Ray Bradbury: "Writing is almost as fun as sex!"

Ray Bradbury died at 91 this week and I spotted this piece in Bloomberg Businessweek about him by Alec McCabe. McCabe's father knew Bradbury and the author wrote Alec some words of encouragement on a science fiction story.

Ray Bradbury . . . had some advice for an aspiring writer during the summer of 1989: “FINISH YOUR NOVEL, START ANOTHER TOMORROW!” he wrote in a paperback copy of “Fahrenheit 451.” “REMEMBER, WRITING IS ALMOST AS MUCH FUN AS SEX!”

Friday, June 08, 2012

Skills the Modern Freelancer Needs

Why haven't I been blogging? I've been busy freelancing. That's a good thing right? Anyway, I've found that I have a gift for creating odd slideshows and I get paid for it. Not bad a bad gig, but I had to learn a few skills to do it. So I decided to do a post on what skills a freelancer needs right now (or yesterday.)

1. You need to know a content management system.

If you have a blog, you have experience with a CMS. Quite a few companies (and media outlets) also use WordPress. Other systems include Drupal, MovableType, etc. Essentially you need to be able to take your text and put it in a database.