How to Go Broke While Writing (A Satirical Approach to Financial Advice)

Doing a rerun post this week, the first part of my favorite series of posts so far. You can find part two here and part three here.

When I first decided I wanted to become a serious author, I’ll freely admit I lost myself for a time in dreams of money and financial independence that would result from writing. I was counting my books before they sold, or in some cases were even written. I decided to share some of the mistakes I made, and some I almost made, with all of you, but instead of doing so in my usual informative approach, I thought it would be more fun to practice my satire.

In 2012, Rick Reilly wrote for his column on ESPN a rather famous article “Weighed Down by too Much Cash? Don’t Worry, I’m Here to Help,” which took a look at exactly how so many NBA players go broke so quickly. In the spirit of that article, I’ve decided to spend some time making sure you knew exactly how to throw away all your money while writing. After all, popular culture has ingrained the idea of the tortured, starving artist in our minds, and if the only thing standing between you and that ideal is having too much money, I’m here to help.

It’s a bit harder to go broke as an author than it is to go broke with the other arts, because we don’t have expensive art supplies or cameras or other pricey equipment. In fact, if you can find a cheap notebook half full of notes from high school, and there’s a pen somewhere between your couch cushions, you’re all set. This means that going broke while writing takes real effort. Or at least, it would, if you didn’t have my foolproof guide to throwing your money away. So read on, follow this step by step guide, and you will soon find yourself looking at a dwindling checking account and the looming specter of complete financial ruin.

Take a good look. It’s the last you’re going to be seeing of this.

1) Quit your Job as Soon as Possible

Everyone hates the 9-5 grind. Almost every work-based sitcom that isn’t centered around a vocational job, like being a doctor or a cop, is all about how much the 9-5 grind sucks. Since you’ve decided you want to be an author, you should quit your job this instant. Don’t wait until you’ve started to achieve some kind of success, and certainly don’t wait until you are able to support yourself with writing. Save enough to pay your bills for a couple of months, because after devoting those few months to full-time writing, the royalty checks will be rolling in and you’ll never have to worry about punching a clock again! Justify it to to friends and family under the banner of “focusing on your writing,” because we all know the constant stress of wondering if you’re going to be able to afford to both eat and pay your bills is excellent creative fuel. Real writers live under a constant cloud of anxiety about their future, and produce all their best work while in a state of near constant panic!

This step is vital to do as soon as possible. If you keep your job for too long, you might build up a nest egg that allows you to write with relative freedom from stress for months or even years, and we absolutely cannot have that. No, you just want to work long enough to develop a seething hatred for the public and a few neuroses, as well as at least one substance abuse problem, so you’re all set for a life as a writer! Make sure you keep notes on who you hate the most during your time working, so you can recycle them as caricatures for later books, because wallowing in past grudges is critical to being an angst ridden author. Don’t worry about running out of fuel. You’re going to be going in and out of service industry jobs to pay your bills for the rest of your life, in a constant cycle of “too stressed from being broke to write” and “too stressed from crappy job to write.”

2) Blow as Much Money as Possible On Equipment

It’s entirely possible that, at this point, you still have some savings in spite of your best efforts. That’s okay, no worries! You should be able to burn through that  on equipment alone. Now, that might come as a surprise to you. As I mentioned earlier, it’s possible to be a writer using the entirely physical pen and paper – or, in a pinch, you can utilize the cheapest computer in the world to access Google Docs. But that’s not going to be what we’re doing!

Overblown PC
Everyone knows it’s impossible to write without a machine that is capable of running Skynet and the U.S.S. Enterprise at the same time.

No, we’re going to be throwing money away on equipment we don’t need. Start with word processors. Google Docs is free and easy to use, and Open Office is also free and doesn’t require an internet connection, but there are hundreds of word processors out there we could use to write. For starters, buy Microsoft Office. It’s the most commonly used program on the planet for writing, and if you don’t already have it you’re going to want it. Not to actually use it, of course. Just to have it. Then it’s time to buy a specialized word processor for creative writing. There’s tons of them out there, and the best way to figure out which one you want is to buy all of them. Scrivener and Final Draft are absolute musts. Don’t bother learning about their advanced features, just try them for a week and decide it’s too complex before junking it and returning to Office or Docs.

Don’t forget a high end computer! While a cheap chromebook or older laptop are enough for writing, we’re going to want to buy a high end PC – or even a Mac for maximum money spent – and never utilize it for anything other than writing. Don’t feel bad about spending the money; you definitely need 32gb of RAM to load a document.

3) Pay for Lots of Art

It’s entirely possible that you’ve completed the first two steps and yet, somehow, still have money. That’s fine! It’s time now to start buying art. After all, you have a ton of ideas you want to show you readers, and it’s not like your entire job is to figure out how to show them these things using words. No, you’re much better off describing them to an artist and then giving them money to bring your ideas to life! Now, you might be thinking that art can be a useful tool for marketing, and if you’re going to pay for it you should share it with your readers and on social media to build excitement for upcoming stories. And you’d be correct! Properly used, art can actually have a great return on investment, especially when used to build beautiful and attention grabbing covers that showcase the subject of your book.

So instead, we’re going to only share it on our private Facebook feed and Instagram. After all, if you want to go broke by being an author, you need to make sure you do everything possible minimizing the exposure your book could gain. To accomplish this, we should make sure we limit how many people see the art we paid for as much as we can. It’s theoretically possible that this could lead some friends and family to buy the book that wouldn’t have otherwise, but don’t worry! There’s absolutely no chance that enough of them will for you to actually make a living.

If you want to make absolutely sure you go broke during this step, buy all the art before the book is even finished! Not only will having the art before the book is finished inspire you to keep writing, but there is absolutely zero risk that you will commission art for a character, scene, or location that is cut in later edits. As long as you have the art, you’re certain to keep it in the story, no matter how much you wish you could remove it, because you already paid the money!

Credit Card
That’s right, Stock Photo Man. Fork it over. You can eat when you’re famous.

Well done! You’ve now gone broke just by being a writer. However, you might be worried you’ll make money from your writing. Don’t worry! Next week, we’re going to go over how to make sure you never finish a project, and the week after that, we’ll make sure that when you do self-publish, you sell as few copies as humanly possible!

Believe me, it’s even easier than throwing away the money in the first place.

Anything you think I missed? Other mistakes you’ve made or contemplated? Let me know in the comments below!

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