Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Writer's 401(k)

I was perusing through my dad's "Practical Accountant" magazine today (something ever writer does on a daily basis, right?) and I started to wonder how I could relate all this financial mumbo-jumbo to writing. Well guess what: I came up with something. It's one of those "sounds nice but is really tough to get yourself to actually do" type things that are oh-so-prevalent in writing. But maybe this new spin on what is essentially "write down your ideas when they come to you" will help you to focus, because your survival as a writer depends on it.

Is everyone familiar with what a 401(k) is? I'm not even sure I know exactly what it is, but I think it's this account that you put money in and it accumulates and then when you're done working you have plenty saved up to use. And if it's not, then let's pretend it is for the sake of this ramble. Well, my friends, the same saving principle applies in writing. When you are writing your first draft, you (if you're like me) riddle it with cliches and horrible dialogue, basically just working on hammering out that story arc. Also (if you're like me...I guess I'm assuming everyone writes like me. Maybe a mistake, but go with it) little nuggets of (what I consider) awesome dialogue or scenic description or emotional details sprout into your mind as you ramble about your normal day.

Here's where the 401(k) plan comes in. And it's not: Save up a bunch of money so that when you retire you can finally work on your book and then get published when you're 85. While there's nothing wrong with that, this isn't what my plan entails. Think of your manuscript as your 9-5 job (which you work on do, don't you?) and those little nuggets as the money in your retirement account (because it really is those unique lines that make your story come to life and eventually earn you those royalty checks). Your Writer's 401(k) is the little notebook that you MUST always have with you. If you regularly put those nuggets in your Writer's 401(k), then when it's time to retire from your bland first draft and do the stuff you really enjoy, you will be able to draw from your Writer's 401(k) at your heart's desire and have an infinite wealth of brilliant writing material. Makes sense, yeah?

So open your Writer's 401(k) today, and let your manuscript live its later stages in comfort!

(disclaimer: 401(k) plan does not include funeral costs for your novel, because it is implied that you will never give up on it!)


orrgroup said...

I would suggest that you actually do what you love now, not wait until retirement. Presumably, that means writing. However, if it does not mean writing, then definitely pursue that enjoyment earlier or sooner not later.

Doing what we love and earning money doing it is the ultimate I think.

As far as a 401k, I would advise that you should still save 20% of your income in some type of tax-advantaged plan or a ROTH IRA/401k. This can be your plan B in case your plan A never pans out and you never receive any royalties. You can fall back on plan B.

I wouldn't wait to age 85 either. Plan B could start cranking out money at age 65 for instance.

I do agree with keeping the notepad with your wherever you go. Nuggets come and go no matter where you happen to be.

Andrew Orr, CFP, AIF

LizR said...

Sounds like a plan. I've got notebooks in every room in my house and in the car, heheh, so I'm set.

Only thing - please tell me we don't have to include the originals of all of these nuggets with the tax return . . . er, manuscript, before publication. Specifically, the ones that were more like gold-painted rocks :D.

Good post :).


Tyler said...

Thank you, Liz! :)

And no, your original gold-painted rocks need not be included in your retirement fund, only the actual gold coins.

Also, savings need not all be blown on one big purchase (manuscript). I have several saved up that I know will work in later books down the line much better than the current book I'm working on. The important thing is that they're in the fund for future withdrawal.

Andrew, I meant this more as a metaphor rather than an actual 401(k) plan, but thank you for your input!

Katie said...

Aaahh Fresh insight from the 401 writing K.

Thanks for the info about nanowrimo - or whatever those initials are? I am gonna maybe try it!

Are you doing it?