There’s been a lot of talk this last month or so about writers and money. Specifically, about writers and how they lose money or spend it unwisely. And this month while reading a couple of essays about finance I thought the authors did their readers a service by being so honest. Their insights will help countless others avoid making the same mistakes.
One of the mistakes mentioned is how a writer is given advances and other perks for their writing and then, when the future is looking bright and the author begins to relax and enjoy their new career, fortunes change. You can find stories like these in the sports and music world as well.
Author William McPherson penned an essay about finances a few years ago. This writer, a Pulitzer prize winner, journalist and former editor at one of the big five houses, wrote an essay called Falling about his descent into poverty. He bought AOL at the low and Apple too. Then in midlife he handed a financial adviser his account to manage (who purchased more stock on margin-another form of a loan) and hit it to travel Eastern Europe to watch and record the fall of communism. The line in his story that hit me was this:
From: McPherson, William, Falling, from Getpocket.com, originally published in The Hedgehog Review, Fall, 2014 (emphasis added).
It appears as though he realized later how this timing regarding profit sharing was a financial blow. While I’m not sure, it also sounds as though he came from a middle class family. A worrisome comment came through again in this sentence:
He writes: “There was always enough money. I’d assumed there always would be (I think this is called denial).”
I read that line and thought, “Uh oh.”
As the daughter of a jazz- singer- single- mom the line in our house was “Where’s your next gig?” The understanding was that as nice as the current gig was, it could all go away tomorrow. I brought this view into my writing career. But while the question is accurate and safe, it makes for a certain amount of insecurity and fear of taking risks. It’s hard to know just when your career is assured so that you can live a little. Balancing risk is an art, that’s for sure. And balancing a career in art is even tougher, because the usual signposts and assurances aren’t there.
Mr. McPherson had a major heart attack, which taxed his already stretched income, and he says he spent some of his years with “magical thinking.” Luckily for him his family helped and some subsidized housing. He passed away a few years after writing the essay, but his insights live on to inform others.
There are some good financial tip books out there as well. The Dumb Things Smart People Do With Their Money, by Jill Schlesinger is eye opening. She pulls no punches, and her explanation of the percentage of your income that you should strive to live on for a year, (while saving the rest), sounds so low as to be impossible, but she will definitely get you thinking. There’s also Your Money or Your Life, by Vicki Robin, which I’ve heard is good.
It always helps to learn. And I think a dialogue about how to manage money in these uncertain times and fields is worthwhile. I’m thankful to the writers who wrote these essays and books and their willingness to help us learn from their insight and experiences.
Perhaps I can reach out to more authors and writers on this subject and highlight their ideas in a future post. Also, if you have any financial books or articles that you’ve found interesting, please let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear about them!
All the best,