Tuesday, December 23, 2014

This Writing Life 18 – Holi-Whats?

(Note: Wow did I lie to myself about how long it would take to finish editing True Magics. But it's done! And now, a blog post!)

It’s the time when income slows down to a trickle and expenses are blooming like dandelions in a Kentucky Bluegrass lawn in spring and you wonder how in the world you’re going to survive until January when everyone realizes that there’s a ton to do before year end and wonders who is going to write their annual report (hint: me) or whatever.

So as I sit here in my kitchen at 4:30 a.m., regretting my movie night snack choices over a cup of mint and ginger tea, I thought it would be a great time to talk about holidays. Or, as I like to think of them…

Selective Unemployment

Because let’s face it, if you’re freelancing, you don’t get vacation pay, you don’t get retirement pay, and you don’t get health insurance.  You get work, you get a pay cheque, and with a little luck you get by, at least for the first few years. Who has time for a holidays?

You do.

You Need a Holiday

If you’re a writer, your world can become very small. Mine consists of a kitchen and a computer, most days. Even if you love your job (and I really, really love my job), you need some time away from it.

Holidays allow us to see beyond ourselves. They refresh body and spirit, and expand horizons and let us see some of the world and our fellow humans. All of this feeds you creatively, recharges you and becomes grist for the mill.

The nice thing is that holidays don’t have to be expensive. You don’t always need to fly off to a foreign, exotic destination (pauses to imagine…. OK, back now). Going hiking or touring your own city’s tourist spots or visiting the relatives you like can all be just as nice.

But no matter how little or much you spend, holidays do mean taking a break from your routine, which means not earning money.

So Plan for It

The space between Christmas and New Year is a great time to sit down and say, “what do I want to do next year?”

I’m not talking namby-pamby “resolutions,” here.  Those are for people who don't want to commit.

I’m talking hard-core, project-management-style planning, with a white board and sticky notes and a spreadsheet and whatever other tools you need to get where you want to go.

Five steps:

  1. Figure out what you want to do and how much it’s going to cost
  2. Figure out what you need to spend to survive (food, shelter, bills, debts, taxes, retirement savings, education funds, insurance, whatever)
  3. Figure out the difference between the two.
  4. Develop a S.M.A.R.T.* plan to either:
    1. save the difference or 
    2. earn the difference.
  5. Commit to saving/earning that money and stick to it.

Yeah, I know that last one is the hard part. But it’s worth it.

Be Realistic

Sorry to be a downer here but yes, you need to put some realism in your planning. If your take home is only exceeding your expenses by few cents a day, now is not the time to drop $100,000 on a week on a private island.  Plan for something you can afford, or something you can reasonably work toward affording without selling organs or your children.

(Seriously, don’t sell your kids. I know it can be tempting sometimes but the market is down and you’ll never get back what they cost. Also, what sort of a bad person are you?)

That’s it until the New Year. Happy Holidays, whichever ones you celebrate, and I’ll blog at you again in January.

Next Time… I have no clue. So come back in January to find out!

*S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Measureable, Actionable, Realistic, Time-Specific

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