Sunday, January 22, 2012

Lost in New York


Growing up I always felt a pull toward California, hoping one day to be discovered as a talented writer (yes, I realize now how ridiculous that sounds – I didn't have "writer" tattooed on my forehead after all), but lately I find myself visiting the east coast, most recently because my Marine son is stationed there.   

I was once lured to New York by someone who made me a promise – he would introduce me to writers and editors he knew – if I moved in with him in Queens. Imagine being able to start a writing career knowing writers and editors without ever having had anything published yet!

He turned out to be a temporary roommate, however, because his promise came with strings attached. I wasn't interested in pulling those strings, and, as a result of his lies, needed to save money so I could return to the midwest. 

A temp agency in Manhattan, which was not far from Queens, would prove to be my ticket home. I switched jobs several times in that 3-month-period. One of those jobs landed me at Penthouse Magazine where I worked in their research department (that's another blog), not exactly the form of entertainment I was comfortable writing, I thought, but then again, nobody hired me for my writing skills. No, I was hired to work in the Statistics Department where I would learn about advertisers and demographics (yes, Penthouse is a business).

The train ride from Queens to Manhattan was very short after my mile walk to the train. After work, I would return to Queens, but because I was unfamiliar with the New York train system, the train I thought I was supposed to board proved to be the wrong train. 

The sun fell below the horizon as the landscape outside my window became darker and darker and more and more unfamiliar. In the days before cell phones, I was helpless in reaching my 10-year-old daughter to tell her my ten minute ride had somehow become several hours long. I think I ended up somewhere near the JFK Parking lot, which was on the opposite side of the state.

In the three months it took me to save enough money to return home, I met someone from California and with sparkles in my eyes, moved to Cali – for a week. After the realization hit that I needed an automobile to get to a job, I returned to the Midwest. 

Something continued to pull me to New York, though, because years later I found myself in New York once again – to attend Robert McKee's Story Seminar. I had some screenplay ideas twirling around in my head, some of which had already made it to the page, and I wanted to learn the proper way to write a screenplay. 

Fast forward to last year. I had earlier met a woman online whose sense of humor was similar to mine, and I thought her contribution to one of my screenplays would be extraordinary. I was right. Though she had never written a screenplay, she agreed to help me with one of mine – it needed a LOT of work. 

When we completed the screenplay and were happy with the results, we entered our screenplay in a competition. I also entered, in a different competition, a teleplay I wrote myself. While I await the final results, I continue writing blogs.

Competition results won't be determined until next October, and win or lose, I will post them in this blog. Who knows, maybe my writing partner and I will end up in New York again, this time to promote our movie with actors speaking the words we put on the page. How exhilarating!

We won't have to worry about getting lost in New York though; we'll probably have a chauffeur. ;)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Texas Teacher's License


The Author of this post is Solomon Dejesus

At least electricity rates in texas are not very expensive, they are about the only thing that is not. We recently relocated to Dallas because my husband is doing his residency at University of Texas Southwestern. I was a certified middle school English teacher in Georgia where we lived before. I figured that getting a teaching license in Texas would be easy and would not cost a lot. I was in for a big surprise. Luckily, I was able to find a job teaching at a small Christian school, but they still asked that their teachers be licensed by the state. I did not have to take any of the teaching exams again, they honored the exams I took in Georgia. I was surprised that I had to pay a five hundred dollar license transfer fee! That is more than it cost me to take the Georgia teacher’s licensing exam. On top of the license transfer fee, I had to pay for the actual license. That was another thirty-five. I hope that we don’t move again anytime soon.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Writers, Bookkeeping, and Tax Time: The Business Side of Writing


Writers tend to forget that what we do is not only creative, informative, and entertaining, but also business – a small business, yes, but also a serious business. And if you're the type of writer I am, though you write a LOT, you probably get paid very little for your efforts. However, you still need to keep track of what you make in order to prevent an audit.

I'm looking forward to the day when I can actually make enough money to file an income tax return, because making that much money will mean that I can deduct a portion of my mortgage, heat, electricity, telephone expenses, other household expenses, all writing related products, the cost of relevant transportation, and so much more.

However, I would have to develop better bookkeeping skills, because I doubt if my rounding up or down would please the IRS. When I add money to my checking account – let's say the amount is $20.50 – I round down and, though I record the actual amount, I add only $20 to my balance. When I write out a check for the same amount, I record the actual amount, but I subtract $21 from my balance. 

By recording money in my checkbook in that manner, I have hidden money that acts as a buffer to protect my account from becoming overdrawn. But my method isn't accurate and it won't help at income tax time. 

One of my previous employers had considered me for the company's bookkeeping job (in addition to my designing job) until she discovered my method of bookkeeping. Though I told her I would alter my methods for her, she thought I might be better suited for designing.

A lot of writers write for more than one site and have a portfolio of organizations who use their services. Keeping track of income and expenses makes good business sense, but for writers devoted to their art, bookkeeping and budgeting can seem a little out of our comfort zone and a lot overwhelming. Besides, we have WORK to do and taking time away from writing means making less money.

However, for those of us who have difficulty with bookkeeping tasks, investing in a program that helps us perform those tasks relieves us of that duty. I'm all for anything that helps me focus on what I really enjoy – writing, while giving a bookkeeping software program the job of handling the details for me –  bookkeeping.

So if you're a writer who actually makes a living at writing and you enjoy writing more than you enjoy accounting, consider using a program that will lighten your load.

Here's something that might bring a smile to your face: This year we have been given three extra days to file our taxes! Why? February gives us one extra day this year (2012 is Leap Year), April 15 falls on a Sunday, and April 16 is a federal holiday (Emancipation Day).

Smile! 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Writing Under Stress

Many factors contribute to stress – lost income from a "real" job, diseases that wipe out your savings, natural disasters, a bad credit report, and an assortment of other stress-causing circumstances. 

As the saying goes, "When it rains, it pours," and when you become drenched in debt and/or worry, you have to challenge yourself to overcome the obstacles before you. If you are also raising children, your stress is compounded, and the decisions you make now will affect you and them for years to come.

Whatever stressors have contributed to your current situation, writing while under stress adds only more stress, especially when you have deadlines to meet. While you attempt to work through your day, surprises (and not the good kind) sometimes occur behind the scenes. For instance, creditors have been known to turn clients into collections with absolutely no warning whatsoever (happened to me) and the minimum payments they require are so high you almost have to get three jobs just to break even.

With no transportation because you lost your car, and with no electricity, gas, or water, because everything has been turned off, your stress level skyrockets. You are now even more ill than you were before the initial stressors occurred. 

Don't allow stress to devour you whole, though. Figure out how you can release it. For writers, writing can be a powerful tool in releasing stress.

Writing is actually one of the better forms of release when it comes to alleviating stress, because writers can use this art form to release pent-up anger, frustration, and hostility. Or, we can slam a humorous spin on our disadvantages and attack them in a blog.

Of course the optimum way to avoid stress is to work proactively to prevent it. Alleviating all stress is impossible, but one way to help yourself deal with stress is to ask yourself if you can afford your current lifestyle. If you can't, consider downsizing. 

You need money to stay afloat, but ask yourself, can creditors trust you enough to lend you money for a smaller home or a less expensive automobile? Request a copy of your credit report and get a free credit score so you will know where you stand financially.

As writers, we keep track of our ideas and our plans, but we also need to keep track of our income and our expenses. If one of your clients pays late, will your mortgage payment suffer? When will you get paid? Getting paid on time is an ongoing problem for many writers. You'll have to learn how to factor that in when budgeting.

If writing seems to be a lonely occupation for you, gather troops of supporters around you. They may not be able to support you financially but they can offer you hope and possibly instill in you a little faith in yourself when none seems to exist anywhere else.

As a writer, creative or otherwise, you have at your disposal your mind, your emotions, and your words. Break your projects into little bits. Learn how to divide your days into easily digestible bites. I know, it sounds like a computer program, but as writers, we need to be as efficient as computer programs. We have to know our strengths and our limitations, though, too, and not take on more than we can handle. And we need to set achievable goals for ourselves, so that when we meet that deadline, we can congratulate ourselves on a job well done.

As in any profession, we need to take breaks throughout the day and stretch our legs, our back, and our minds. Though this next step doesn't work for those of us incapable of napping (like me), taking a nap may replenish the spirit and refresh the soul. Exercising and meditating helps too.

Alleviating stress is difficult, especially when deadlines – self imposed or demanded by others – loom before you, but rewarding yourself with enjoyable tasks will help to lessen your stress level, and it will give you something to look forward to. We cannot always be prepared for everything that happens to us, but we can learn how to alleviate our stress and alter our circumstances.

"Circumstances – what are circumstances? I make circumstances." – Napoleon Bonaparte

Thursday, January 5, 2012

AutoCorrect Does It Again!


Everyone I know! But busy days, heavy workloads, crammed time schedules, kids, and so much more take up so much of our time, we hardly give ourselves room for laughter. 

Every once in a while we need to take a break, though – and laugh – and by laugh, I mean laugh heartily. You know, the kind of laugh that comes when you practically double over and cry because you're laughing so hard?

Well, here it is – AutoCorrect. I previously wrote an article where I provided a link to another site that posted Auto Correct mistakes, and a lot of what I read had me cry-laughing. That blog was part of a blog challenge and you'll find it by clicking Jokes Accidentally.

And then a friend of mine posted on his FaceBook page the top 25 Auto Correct mistakes from 2011 (thanks again, Mark). 

If you have any "funny" in you at all, I can almost guarantee that you will LAUGH OUT LOUD when you read these mistakes. So, if you are in the mood for laughing, click Funniest Auto Corrects of 2011.

(Photos are from damnyouautocorrect.com)


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