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Put on Blinders Part II

TVSome time ago, in 2008,  I wrote a post about putting on blinders. In essence the post encourages readers to turn off the TV and all of its negativity and concentrate on goals.

Well, after a brief glimpse of the TV this morning, I feel it’s necessary to write an update to that post. This update is a bit more revealing and I think it’s necessary. Why am I writing this? I’m writing this because I’m sick and tired of negativity and the “Sky is Falling” hysteria that I see offline and online in the freelance writing community.

A Little History

We all have been through rough times and I want to share just a bit of mine. I’ve learned that my rough times were brought on as a result of lack of planning, short sightedness, ego and ignorance. Yes, market conditions contributed a small part to my hard times, but I realize I (we) brought it on ourselves.Money Trap

My hubby and I both worked in the city (NYC) and earned decent salaries. Our courtship involved spending a lot of money. Not necessarily the wisest of expenditures, but we spent a lot of money.

Because we worked near each other we would meet for $100 lunches (this was back in the late 1980’s so $100 or more for lunch was a lot). If we spent $100 for lunch, just imagine what our dinner bills were.

After we got married we spent money like crazy. Things started to change after we had kids. Children have a way of making you realize what is important and what isn’t. We started thinking; why work all those hours, pay ridiculous prices for daycare just so we can buy material things?

In a Deep Hole

Even though we had good salaries, we also had accumulated quite a bit of debt. Buying all of those material things was fun at the time of purchase, but we became slaves to the monthly payments. Our debt is what kept us on the 9-5 merry-go-round.

We decided to bite the bullet because the guilt of leaving the kids in daycare was eating us alive. We pulled in our belt and I left my job after the birth of our second child. Within six months of quitting my job, we got the horrible news that my husband was downsized. In other words, we had two kids, lots of debt and no income.

The Stripping of the Ego

We were both at an age and a salary level that made it difficult to find replacement income. With the ever-shrinking job market, finding a job at any salary level was nearly impossible. We had to make some tough decisions.

We gave back the cars we could no longer afford and bought two Hoopties. You guys know what a hooptie is. I’ll put it to you this way; we bought 2 hoopties for less than $1,000 and drove them for a year. They were ugly but we maintained them and kept them going.

Words of advice: If you ever run into financial difficulties and need to buy a hooptie, look for a Toyota or a Subaru.

My hubby and I have fond memories of our hoopties. We still get a great belly laugh every time we drive up a steep hill. In our old hoopties we would have to get a good running start while approaching the hill and then literally stand on the accelerator while going up the hill. I swear we left brain-sized dents on the roof of the car as we stood on the accelerator. They’re also fondly called Fred Flintsone mobiles.

Here we were, two corporate executive types driving hoopties and dodging calls from bill collectors. I knew things were really bad when I called a debt consolidation service and they told us our situation was too dire for them to help us.

Moving Forward

While times were financially tough back then, the one thing we knew in our gut was “this too shall pass.” Fortunately the kids were very young and they don’t remember much of these tough times. We tried to keep them fed, happy and loved.

Enough of the Hard Times Sob Story, Let’s Lighten Things Up

As my daughter woke me from a sound sleep this morning to ask me to drive her to the bus stop (it was raining and she didn’t want her hair Classifiedsto get messed up), I caught a glimpse of the news saying that the average household income has dropped 7%. When I got back from the bus stop, I watched as media big wigs and pontificating pundits went on at length about how bad things are.

The job market is tight, people are out of work, gas prices are rising, income is dropping, the sky is falling and …what about Timmy?

All I can say is give it a rest! My goodness, things are changing. The job market is drying up but is it really? The old job market is drying up in favor of a new job market. IBM, Bulova and the Horse and Buggy job market dried up too in favor of a new and different job market. The cheese moved (Who Moved My Cheese?). It’s time to take off the shackles of the old way of thinking and embrace the new.  This isn’t easy, but it must be done.

Things are Worse (or so they’d like you to believe)

Going back for a moment to my poor pitiful me story about how we got into our financial rut (I left out the part about the real estate market and our venture into landlordship and a few other real bone head moves), I’m in better shape now than I was a year or two ago. You see, the type of financial hole we dug is real deep. The hole is too deep to get out of in one, two or even three years. We’re still digging out of it but we owe less and make more now than we did a year ago.

According to the media, this shouldn’t be. The pundits would have me believe that I’m worse off than I was a few years ago. They’re wrong. Each year we get closer to becoming debt free and we continue to add to our income. So, for us, we see the silver lining. The glass is half full, not half empty.

OK, Now Let’s Talk about Freelance Writing

Think of the drama attached to the following words:

  • Panda
  • Demand Studios/eHow
  • Richard Rosenblatt
  • Suite 101
  • HubPages
  • Google AdSense
  • SEO/Page Rank
  • Plagiarists
  • Backlinks

And the list can go on. Each of the above invokes some sort of drama in the online writing community. There is hoopla, theories, pundits, hatters, lovers, brown nosers and more. Just the mention of the word Panda and online writers start wondering what they need to do to keep Panda happy (tame it, feed it, ignore it…pick one).

Some writers are down right pissed off at Richard Rosenblatt and his Demand Media empire while others quiver at the thought of an email from big brother Google. I’ve heard that Suite, HubPages and other online writing venues were scams and that a website isn’t worth a thing unless it has thousands of backlinks.

There are pontificating pundits, experts and advisors online too. If I spent my time following them all, I’d be dizzy from going around in circles. What I’ve learned in my time of writing online is that you (spelled Y-O-U) through your determination, focus and experimentation are the best person to decide how to become successful online.Photo by: Simona Dumitru

Here’s what I learned about online freelance writing:

  • Quality trumps quantity
  • My gut is a better indicator of what’s right and what to write than any expert I’ve listened to
  • Determination, focus and consistency yield results
  • Authenticity beats airs and ego any day (Ken at Blogging for Dads has this quality licked!)
  • And last, but definitely not least, the School of Hard Knocks is my best educator. In other words, you don’t need a college degree to be a successful online writer.

So there you have it.  My rags to un-tattered cloth story.  Geez, all this and I haven’t even had a cup of coffee.  I’m putting on my running shoes to run off the rest of this energy!

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{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Grandma October 14, 2011, 11:24 am

    Wow, and thanks for sharing! Many of us have been in similar hard knock places. As a single mom, I ended up in bankruptcy. Now one of my kids had to do the same due to a terrible economy and debt. I tell them both, and also note to self, get out of debt and stay out of it. You do not know what is going to come tomorrow other than another bill. Your future income is promised to others you owe. Keep that money for your own needs.

    Seriously, there is very little “stuff” that a person “needs” to buy. Video games, all that crap…I am certainly not keeping either the retail or car markets going.

    Recently, I have been reading up on the Buddhist way of thinking. Cause and effect, action-reaction, and not reacting to things that previously might have caused anger and stress. I think I like this better.

    Oh well, each to their own life lessons. As much as a person may know and/or be told about by others, most people (I believe) need to learn by their own experiences. What sets apart the successful person is that they are able to recognize, acknowledge and deal with their experiences rather than ignoring them or hoping problems will just go away. Debt does not go away. Better to pay cash.

    Yes, the job market is very different today than ever before. It requires a new way of thinking and a new approach to making whatever amount of money is necessary to live the life we choose or want to aspire to have.

    Gosh, now I AM feeling old!

    • Felicia October 14, 2011, 11:35 am

      Grandma, you have a point about everyone learning from experience. No matter how much you try to help or shield people you love from less than favorable outcomes, they have to go through the trenches to come out on the other side.

      As far as feeling old, don’t fret. I’m enjoying this aging journey. I sometimes wish I had gained some of my wisdom earlier, but better late than never. Plus the alternative to getting old is dying young and Lord knows I’d rather not do that. 🙁

      Grey hairs and gravity be danged! Let’s make the best of this aging process.

  • Crystal October 14, 2011, 11:43 am

    Hoopties, huh? Never heard that term but sure have had a few! I actually drove a 68 Chevy Malibu for about 10 years. It had been salvaged and looked pretty rough (you know, mismatched fenders, etc) but I got it AND $400 for my Capri, so who cares about looks? What I was after was two doors, enough room in the back for two car seats and a third child, and a bench seat with three seatbelts in the front for two adults and the fourth child. I know – only two doors with car seats back there? Well, I didn’t want my kids to be able to open doors at will – no doors, no problem. The beauty of that car was I could usually make it run myself. For instance, won’t start? Pour some pepsi on the battery terminals and give the connections a little twist. Which reminds me of my first car, a 66 Mustang. Imagine me and two friends, all under 20, opening the hood and starting it with a screwdriver. Those were the days!

    On a more relevant note, you are so right, Felicia. Why the media always insists the sky is falling is beyond me – I guess the gloom and doom attracts more readers. But where’s the good news? What about those of us who AREN’T worse off? Like you, I am better off than I was a year or so ago. And this has been true consistently over time. We live and learn, weather some financial setbacks and come out stronger. If this isn’t happening, we need to take a hard look at our financial decisions and lifestyle choices, and then make needed changes. After all, with very few exceptions, we do get to choose our reality.

    • Felicia October 14, 2011, 11:54 am

      LOL, Pepsi on the battery terminal? That’s a new one for me.

      I like your last statement and am borrowing it to put in my favorite phrases book, “…with very few exceptions, we do get to choose our reality.”

  • cashflowmantra October 14, 2011, 11:50 am

    Another inspiring post as usual. Sounds like me. I am just sticking my head down and barreling forward one day at a time.

  • Diane October 14, 2011, 12:02 pm


    This is great advice about putting on blinders, especially if you are out of work.

    I went through a period 3 years ago where my husband was laid off the first week of December and rarely had more than 2 days of work for the next 8 months. We stopped watching the evening news because it was depressing.

    The same with Demand Studios. I wrote articles for Chron, Motley Fool, eHow Business, and Home & Garden. The $25 titles dried up a month ago without notice, and the garden titles dried up more than a week ago. Rather than complain that there is nothing to write, I go with the flow and write $16 appliance repair articles until I reach the amount of money that I need to earn. The sky is not falling – it simply has some cloudy days.

    • Geoff October 15, 2011, 1:49 pm

      “The sky is not falling – it simply has some cloudy days.”

      Great quote Diane!

  • Loretta October 14, 2011, 12:37 pm

    Felicia, What a wonderful post. I like your mantra, “This too shall pass.” It is one that I have recited many times in my life. I always look forward to your post, because you never fail to enlighten and educate your readers. You give of your wisdom. You give of your spirit. You give of yourself. If there is a Mother Teresa of the Blogosphere it would be you. Thank you for continually teaching, inspiring and motivating us. Karma will return the blessings. In the meantime, keep doing what you do so well.

    • Felicia October 14, 2011, 1:23 pm

      Wow, Loretta, thanks for the compliment, but Mother Theresa I’m not.

      I’m just a middle-aged “kid” from the Bronx that’s finally getting comfortable in her own skin and is too silly to be quiet about it. 🙂 I use that term middle-aged loosely, LOL!

  • Dawn October 15, 2011, 7:52 am

    I believe that messages come to us when we need them, and you’re message was just what was needed this morning! I was laid off from the corporate world yesterday, but have been following your blog for a couple of years now. Why? Because I had a feeling this was coming, and I too, wanted to stay home with my kids. I signed on with Textbroker and CA, created a blog, and started dabbling.

    Layoffs hurt, but now is the time to pull up the ol’ bootstraps and start writing. You have proven it can be done, that there is a life outside of 9-5! Thank you, Felicia!

    • Felicia October 15, 2011, 9:17 am

      Dawn, I’m sorry to hear about your layoff. Unfortunately, it seems to be happening all too often.

      Yes, there is life after the 9-5 merry-go-round. It’s not always easy, but if you keep working at it, it can be done.

      Motivational books, tapes and CDs borrowed from my local library were lifesavers. Reading and listening to successful people who overcame the same if not worse situations than I faced helped me put my life into perspective.

      During this period of time my husband and I found out that we were survivors. We called (and still call) ourselves Weebles because Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down (don’t know if you’re old enough to know that commercial). We named ourselves Sniff & Scurry (characters in Who Moved My Cheese) and consider ourselves to be scrappy folks.

      Another phrase that we use quite often is, “At least we have our health.” We laugh every time we say it because that’s a phrase folks use when they see an ugly baby, “Well, at least he’s healthy.” Some people take their health for granted, but when you’ve lost your job and are on the verge of losing a lot more, your health becomes even more important. You learn to appreciate the little things in life that you were too busy making money to appreciate before.

      We’re not where we want to be financially, but we’re dang sure not where we were before. Our financial setbacks taught us a lot about ourselves as individuals and as a couple. As long as you keep your eyes on the prize, you’ll make it through to the other side. You’ll have a few bumps and bruises, but consider them battle scars and wear them proudly. (I’m off my soap box now. Sorry to sound preachy)

  • Ken Muise October 15, 2011, 9:57 am

    Holy Crap! You mentioned me!

    • Felicia October 15, 2011, 10:20 am

      Yep, and a well deserved mention! 🙂

      • Ken Muise October 15, 2011, 1:59 pm

        Thank you, ma’am…

  • Angela October 15, 2011, 11:02 am

    Oh, my goodness! This is my absolute favorite post from you of all times. It’s so deep on so many different levels and has a level of personal resonance for me that’s way too complex to share without taking on a veil of transparency that I’m not ready to don at this time.

    Felicia, you continue to inspire, motivate, and encourage us. You make us laugh, you make us cry. You point us towards guideposts that will propel us to success.

    Thank you for all that you do. I’ll probably be back later to comment further, but for right now I’m just going to dab the tears that slipped from my eyes as I was reading this and get back to work.

    • Felicia October 15, 2011, 11:53 am

      Angela, glad this one was helpful to you.

  • Terr October 15, 2011, 12:36 pm


    I wanted to also comment that this was a much needed motivational post. I’ve shared with you a bit about my story, but I’ll share a little tidbit here, as it relates to this post:

    Three years ago, I became homeless. I stayed in a couple of shelters for homeless veterans. I moved from the shelter world to one of those suite/hotel thingies that you pay for by the day, by the week etc. I’ve been here a year and some change. It’s been a tremendous challenge when I’ve had to process so much, try to motivate myself, no support system, and not receiving the disability check I should have.

    Anyway, I woke up super early to get on the bus, as I have no car ( I would KILL for even a hoopdie, haven’t heard that term in a MINUTE!)and I was trying to talk myself out of feeling bad. I was super stressed, and figuring out how I can stretch a few dollars (literally) to get what I needed for food and for toiletries. Then, as I was riding the bus, I saw that I rode past one of the shelters that I used to stay in. The window was open. I saw the residents getting their breakfast. Then it hit me.

    I had a few dollars but at least I had re-gained my personal freedom. I was going to come back to my home/room, eat the breakfast that I wanted to eat, and work the job of my choice, from my home/room.

    I saw the last part of a documentary where a guy was saying that he grew up extremely poor, and his mother used to tell him that when life knocks you down, you’ve GOT to get back up. I thought to myself that it’s not about getting knocked back down, it’s the GETTING BACK UP. It’s being content in what I have, and I told myself, “I swear before God, this WILL get better”. (this being my currently having my back against the wall).

    My journey now is learning how to not get knocked down so much. It wears you out. However, I’m glad to be in a place of strength of being able to say what you did, that this episode,moment,day, etc. will pass.

    I’m looking at tightening my belt. I really don’t have disposable income, but even that $2.00 treat for breakfast, the $4.00 every now and then fast food treat, the however many dollars I spend at the corner store for candy bars, a package of pop-tarts, etc, I can cut those out. These figures don’t seem like much at all, but when you’re THAT BROKE, that money can be spent elsewhere on things I certainly need.

    Anyway, not to hog the post, I’m going to speak on my thoughts more on my blog, but I just felt like “the spirit” is moving amongst like-minded people this morning. I’m trying to work but the server is down. I took the free time to read this post. It was exactly the encouragement that I needed, so THANK YOU.

    • Felicia October 15, 2011, 3:59 pm

      Terr, thanks for publicly sharing part of your story. I find sharing to be cathartic and helpful to those reading it.

      I admire your spirit and although things are very tough for you right now, keep at it. As hollow as it may sound, “This too shall pass.” You are an inspiration and we look forward to hearing about your progress.

  • Gip @ So Much More Life October 15, 2011, 4:08 pm

    I do have a college degree in communication, but much of what I learned isn’t completely valid anymore. Like any field, experience is what gives you an edge.

    Experience is also what shows you that the sky is always falling on those who aren’t good at their jobs and never falling on those who are.


    • Felicia October 15, 2011, 4:57 pm

      “Experience is also what shows you that the sky is always falling on those who aren’t good at their jobs and never falling on those who are.” Another phrase to add to my favorite sayings document.

      Thanks Gip.

  • Amanda October 16, 2011, 3:18 am

    I remember reading some you-have-to-fail-to-succeed article the other day. I think there is something in common between the article and your story. Apart from persistence and positivity, I think having someone close to you to support you is also important.

    • Felicia October 16, 2011, 11:15 am

      Absolutely, Amanda. Having a support system is important.

  • Alexander October 16, 2011, 5:09 am

    I don’t have any high earnings at Hubpages because I haven’t written enough and been too involved, but I can say that ever since I signed up for HP’s ad program (almost completely replacing Adsense ads), my monthly income has been rising steadily. I’m guessing that single digit dollar amounts probably don’t prove anything one way or another, but it translates to a 60% rise of income since I joined the HP ad program. Either I have enough traffic, articles and comments that it’s a self feeding beast (more like a fruitfly with those numbers 🙂 ) – or my writing is just amazing and the rise reflects that on a miniscule scale. Either way, so far for me, this has given me confidence that it is possible to create residual income streams and that it is possible to do so even in this economy (I know that’s a worn out phrase – it hurt my ears to write it).
    I completely agree that success is different for everyone, some might find their niche on Demand (definitely not me!), others on Squidoo, Hubpages and Suite 101, and others with their own blogs. I will still be working on my blogs because I like to be untethered, but I think I will continue to write for Hubpages also and see what comes of it.

    • Felicia October 16, 2011, 11:16 am

      LOL! Alexander, you have a way with words. May your fruit flies multiply. 🙂

  • Melissa October 23, 2011, 1:06 am

    Great post! I connected with the post, as most of us have, in that been there/done that sort of way. In fact, I am still in the been there/working to be done with that phase. Except my debt came from a previous, young and dumb marriage right out of high school. I was in college, got massive amount of student loans and credit cards that were spent on everything but an education.
    But, hey, hindsight it worth a million dollars and if I had had a million dollars, I wouldn’t have all this debt.

    • Felicia October 23, 2011, 9:39 am

      There’s no better teacher than experience. At least we’re learning from it. Some folks only repeat it and never learn.

  • Natalie November 16, 2011, 11:47 am

    Wow, thanks Felicia, this was right on time for me! My husband and I are going through similar financial difficulties right now and this post was so motivating for me. I also feel that it’s such a waste of time to listen to all of the negative headlines, they will only get you down and keep you constantly wondering what will go wrong next. Living like that will kill you! I’ve learned that I must stay positive and make the best out of MY OWN situation. There’s a silver lining for everyone, but sometimes you have to look at the cloud from a different direction to see it.
    I LOVE this site! You have provided much inspiration & motivation for me on my journey to being a fulltime WAHM!

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