Does journalism still matter to you?

Carl Bernstein in Salt Lake City.jpg
Carl Bernstein in Salt Lake City.jpg (Photo credit: Jeremy Franklin)

Do you care about facts?

Context?

Objective truth?

As someone who’s been working in journalism for 30 years, I get up every morning assuming — hoping! — there is still an audience interested in learning something smart and thoughtful about the world they didn’t know the day before.

I say “day” because minute-to-minute “news” is often, unless it’s about a death or natural disaster, wrong, biased, misinformed.

Being the first to report something doesn’t mean being the best.

I don’t use Twitter. When I read my “news feed” on Facebook, I don’t substitute my friends’ opinions, videos and pet photos for an understanding of the world.

But many people now do. For them this is news, traditional media be damned.

Thanks to the Internet, to blogs like this and news that reifies hardened political views, too many people now turn to an echo chamber, listening and reading only those people whose shared vision of the world and its challenges — poverty, reproductive rights, defense, education, health care — comforts, soothes and reassures them that their worldview is right!

What we’re gaining — in a feeling of connectedness and community — we’re also losing by ignoring or shutting out the viewpoints of those with whom we disagree, perhaps violently. If you live in the U.S. and read the liberal New York Times, it’s worth also reading the opinion and editorial page of the Wall Street Journal to see a totally different view of the same issues.

Just because you lean wayyyyyy to the left, or right, doesn’t mean your opinion is accurate because it’s shared by those who shout your tune the loudest.

No matter how much you may disagree, if you refuse to examine and consider other viewpoints, how can you learn how other people think? With a Presidential election here in a few months, it’s certainly going to play out at the ballot box.

You can’t just cover your ears and shout lalalalalalalalalalalala and hope to have a clue what’s going out there.

I read a variety of media, and try to include British and Canadian sources as often as possible. If I were less lazy, I’d also read Spanish and French media. Nor do I assume that any journalist, or media outlet, has some exclusive claim to the truth. I know better!

When it comes to “truth”, there are many different versions.

Here’s a short video interview from the Guardian newspaper with American journalist Carl Bernstein about the issue; he was one of the two Washington Post reporters whose exhaustive, dogged investigative work on former President Richard Nixon led to his resignation.

In his view, the scourge of our era is this closed-eyes/closed-ears attitude. Our unwillingness to listen to one another in order to gain some sort of consensus.

Do you seek out views other than your own?

What’s your personal brand?

Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon, July 20, 1969
Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon, July 20, 1969 (Photo credit: Wikipedia) I’m also a fearless explorer, minus the helmet.

I recently attended a writers’ conference and listened to a panel teaching us “Brand You.”

Not the hot metal mark seared into your butt kind.

The “I’m unique because” kind.

I’m lousy at sound-bite self-definition, which is driving American business as never before, thanks to Twitter, (which I don’t use), Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media.

And tomorrow in Manhattan I’m attending a huge blogging conference, BlogHer, where I’ll have to tout yourself in a few pithy syllables.

I was raised, culturally (Canada) and by my (accomplished but quiet about it) family and by my profession (journalism) not to toot my horn all the damn time.

Have you ever heard of “tall poppy” syndrome? In Australia, the tallest poppy — i.e. the boastful braggart — gets its pretty little head lopped off for its temerity. The Japanese and Swedes have their own expressions for this as well.

Canadians just find chest-beating socially gauche, and assume you’re a pushy American. So that whole brand-building thing, there, is often considered about as attractive as passing wind. Modesty is highly prized, so how to “be a brand” and do so in a low-key way, somehow escapes me.

(Being modest is easier in a smaller nation with tighter social and professional networks. There are more than 300 million Americans, some of them breathtakingly aggressive. Remaining invisible often means professional suicide.)

I still think (yes, I know I’m wrong!), that the quality of my body of work should speak for itself. This constant, tedious “watchmewatchmewatchmeeeeeeee!” of a three-year-old at the pool — now considered part of “building your personal brand” — remains a behavior I find a little infantile. Even after 20+ years in the U.S. and near New York City, where sharp elbows are a pre-requisite for survival.

Here are a few phrases I think define me and my work:

passionate authenticity

insatiable curiosity

nuanced investigation

I love this song, Helplessness Blues, by Fleet Foxes:

I was raised up believing I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes, unique in each way you can see
And now after some thinking, I’d say I’d rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me

But I don’t, I don’t know what that will be
I’ll get back to you someday soon you will see

What’s my name, what’s my station, oh, just tell me what I should do

Do you have a brand?

What is it?

How did you arrive at it?

Have we lost the art of conversation?

Talking in the evening. Porto Covo, Portugal
Talking in the evening. Porto Covo, Portugal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This recent think-piece in The New York Times argues that we have:

At home, families sit together, texting and reading e-mail. At work executives text during board meetings. We text (and shop and go on Facebook) during classes and when we’re on dates…

We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being “alone together.” Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another, and also elsewhere, connected to wherever we want to be. We want to customize our lives. We want to move in and out of where we are because the thing we value most is control over where we focus our attention. We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one, loyal to our own party.

One of the rituals my husband and I enjoy is my driving him to the commuter train station in the morning. It’s only about 10 minutes door to door, but it’s a nice chance to connect and chat before his 40-minute commute and a crazy life working at the Times, one with six meetings every day.

We talk a lot, usually two or three times, briefly, by phone and maybe an hour or two in the evening. That’s a great deal more than many couples, certainly those with multiple children juggling conflicting schedules.

But sitting across the table from someone, sharing a glass of wine or cup of coffee, seems to have become an unimaginable luxury. How else can we ever get to know one another? I’ve had two female friends tell me, only after many years of knowing them, that they had each been sexually abused as a child.

That took a lot of trust and courage. I don’t think most of us would want to share such intimacies only through a computer or phone screen.

I love road trips, six or eight or ten hours in a vehicle with my husband, or friends, or my Dad. You get a lot said, and the silences are companionable.

On a recent trip to San Francisco, (on Virgin Air, maybe the reason for such indie fellow travelers), my outbound flight had a career musician beside me, Homer Flynn, who has spent a long life making very cool music in a band called The Residents. Their Wikipedia entry is huge! We had a great conversation, for more than an hour, about the nature of creativity, about managing a long and productive worklife, about inspiration.

On the flight home — 5.5 hours — I had a similar conversation with my seatmate, a visual artist a little older than I.

Ironically, she’d just opened and started to read a book about introverts and I figured she’d never want to chat. But we discovered we had so much in common we talked the whole way! She had even attended the same East Coast prep school as my mother.

Another flight, from Winnipeg to Vancouver, placed me beside a coach for the Toronto Argonauts, a professional football team. Orlando Steinauer and I had a great time comparing notes on the world of professional sport and professional writing. We found it hard to decide which is more bruising!

As you can see, conversation is my oxygen. I love meeting fun new people and hearing their stories.

It’s why, after 36 years as a journalist, I still enjoy my work — and the comments I get here. I’m endlessly curious about people.

Do you make time in your life now for face to face conversations?

With whom and how often?

If not, do you miss them?

You Can’t Quantify Kindness: Our Statistical Obsession

Chicago graph clim
Like this....but with feelings! Image via Wikipedia

Great piece in The New York Times by Alina Tugend about our growing — and misguided — obsession with measuring everything in our lives:

Numbers and rankings are everywhere. And I’m not just talking about Twitter followers and Facebook friends. In the journalism world, there’s how many people “like” an article or blog. How many retweeted or e-mailed it? I’ll know, for example, if this column made the “most e-mailed” of the business section. Or of the entire paper. And however briefly, it will matter to me.

Offline, too, we are turning more and more to numbers and rankings. We use standardized test scores to evaluate teachers and students. The polling companies have already begun to tell us who’s up and who’s down in the 2012 presidential election. Companies have credit ratings. We have credit scores.

And although most people acknowledge that there are a million different ways to judge colleges and universities, the annual rankings by U.S. News & World Report of institutions of higher education have gained almost biblical importance.

As the author of a newly released book about working retail I haven’t once (honest!) checked my amazon ranking number.

Seriously, what good can it possibly do?

Will my hips suddenly shrink or my bank balance double? I wish!

My thesis about why retail associates are so horribly paid is linked to this data obsession: you can’t measure kindness!

Think about the very best salesperson you ever met — (or hotel employee or waiter or nurse or teacher).

The EQ — or emotional intelligence — the skills that really left the strongest impression on you, are probably not their technical mastery of that new Mac or their grasp of the essentials of calculus, but how they helped you: with patience, humor, calm, grace.

All of these are essential qualities we simply cannot put on a graph.

And that which we cannot measure, we do not value.

I was in the hospital in March 2007 for three terrifying days, on a IV with pneumonia, from overwork and exhaustion. (Don’t ever get pneumonia — it makes you cough so hard, for hours at a time, you can break a rib.)

I finally begged the nurse to swaddle me tight in a cotton sheet, like an infant, to ease my aching muscles. She never raised an eyebrow at my weird request, but did it at once, with a compassion that I will never forget.

That healing quality of care, invisible, unmeasured and therefore too often undervalued, is not inscribed anywhere in my medical records.

It should be.

Toot! Toot! Tooting Your Own Horn

Luis Arrieta - Tango aDeus
Every performer, by definition, seeks the spotlight. What about the rest of us? Image by Vivadança Festival Internacional Ano 5 via Flickr

If you work for yourself — and even when you work for someone else — you have to do it.

Do you dread it as much as I do?

The world of social media has made it much easier to spread the word, globally, about how fabulous!!!!! you are but sometimes, truly, I wish everyone would just button it!

I visit LinkedIn almost every day and I enjoy seeing what my contacts are up to. I loatheloatheloathe one woman who “updates” there every 13 seconds with work tips to make sure we do not waste even a single hour forgetting who she is. I know, I know, I can’t email her and say “Enough! Stop! You are boring and overbearing and horrible.”

But I’d sure like to.

With my new book out April 14, I have to toot long, loud, clearly, daily and — pardon the appalling biz-speak — across multiple platforms.Why? Because, in the U.S. where I live, 1,500 books are published every single bloody day!

Frankly, I’d rather organize the linen closet, but I did that last week. Or polish my shoes. Or go to a movie. Or make soup.

Yammering on about how amazing I am makes me feel a little ill. But if I don’t stake my claim, every single one of my loud-mouthed competitors will.

And guess who will sell more books? And get a bigger advance on the next book as a result? Not the shy, quiet girl in the corner.

I grew up in Canada, a nation — like the Aussies, Japanese and Swedes, to name a few with similar cultural values — that hates self-promoters and punishes them with the worst possible paddle. They ignore you!

I’ve lived near New York City for 22 years. You want pushy? Babe, we got pushy!

It’s been sadly instructive to watch the relative “Who gives a s–t? my book has been getting in Canada and the fantastic enthusiasm it’s been getting here. Which, and this is basic, is now fodder for more horn-tooting!

In Australia, it’s called tall poppy syndrome, where the highest flower, swaying happily in the summer sun, gets its gorgeous little head lopped off for — being the most visible. In Japan, they hammer down the tallest nail.

Don’t boast! Don’t gloat! Don’t tell people you’ve done some terrific work and people are liking it!

Yeah, be invisible.

There’s a strategy.

How do you reconcile the career-boosting need to tell others about your skills and work accomplishments and being (blessedly and attractively) modest about them?

The Cost Of Candor — $3,150

Albion Press printing press
Image via Wikipedia

That’s the quote I received this week for the liability insurance I plan to buy. It covers my new book, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” (Penguin/Portfolio, April 14, 2011) and freelancing for print and blogging for this site. It carries a $5,000 deductible.

While three grand is a petty sum to many people, it is not to me. It is a bloody fortune. But the drama and stress of being sued is so not worth it to me.

The fear of being sued is why most blogs are all about puppies and kittens and sex and recipes — safe stuff no one will come after you for.

Which is why most blogs have this effect on anyone hungry for serious, in-depth news, analysis or reporting: zzzzzzzzzzzzz. No one in their right mind is itching for a lawsuit and Americans are deeply addicted to the lottery ticket of a big fat win.

Not to mention the fear of SLAPP suits. These are Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, aka muzzles. If you piss off just about anyone, they can come after you and sue you to shut you right back up. Freedom of what?

In an era of staggering, growing income inequality, you can rest assured that anyone eager to rake muck is making a whole lot less money — maybe 1 percent? — of the people they might want to write about critically. This is, hmmm, how you say, de-motivating in the extreme. Do readers even know this?

Do they — you — even care?

Very few writers of any ambition want to keep biting their tongue, self-censoring, sitting on what they know to be a potentially explosive story. But, why bother? What’s the upside of being the writer or blogger best-known for becoming a cautionary tale? Oooops, s/he took a risk. Look what happened!

The irony is that everyone now thinks that being able to blog at will means being able to say anything you want. Mwahahahahahaha.

As if.

It really means you have all the freedom in the world, certainly if you have little to no understanding of media law, to get your ass sued.

It used to be said that freedom of the press belonged to those who owned one. Now that freedom only truly resides in the deep(er) pockets of those who can afford to get sued and defend themselves — people who work on staff for major news organizations with in-house counsel. More importantly, their copy is “lawyered”, vetted carefully before print or broadcast to avoid such debacles, a luxury — when top New York attorneys can command $700+/hour — most bloggers and freelancers can only dream of.

So, instead of muckraking and investigative work, the sort of thing you’d expect from someone independent, free of corporate ties, most freelancers are stuck cranking out polite, celebratory crap.

This is progress?

Call Me! No, Text Me! No, IM Me…How (If At All) Do We Communicate?

Young passenger pigeon.
Now this is a reliable medium! Image via Wikipedia

I just read a great new book, out in September, by a friend, Daylle Deanna Schwartz, called “Effortless Entrepreneur” that distills the wisdom of two college friends, Nick Friedman and Omar Soliman, who founded College Hunks Hauling Junk.

What struck me most was their management advice — that when you hire and manage people under 25, maybe younger, you have to gently coax them (!) into actually talking face to face to real people, i.e. clients and customers, which also involves (!) looking them in the eye, shaking their hand, listening and showing that you have heard them.

What a concept!

These two business owners learned the hard way they have to consciously and carefully train their young employees how to interact well and courteously face to face and by telephone using their voice with others, who are likely somewhat older and expect what they consider civility.

Sounds really basic to me but apparently not so much because so many young people (love that phrase!) now only communicate through texting. Not speaking by phone (LOL) or even face to face (ROFL.)

Sht Me. Srsly. (Fill in that first word as you see fit.)

Whatever tribal customs work well in high school or college, it must come as a terrible shock when not everyone communicates in the same fashion.

Some of us geezers actually enjoy face to face conversation instead of living attached to a piece of technology. So, entering the workforce, which often shows all the flexibility and willingness to accommodate your very own personal needs as, say, an I-beam, will also mean picking up some new, even uncomfortable social skills as well.

I got stood up last week by someone younger than 25. They did not telephone me, eschewing both cell and land-line. Nor did they email. They said they sent a message on Facebook, (I do not own a Blackberry), but there is none there to be seen. I drove an hour each way to meet this person, ate alone, then drove home, really annoyed.

No phone call? No email? I only found out this person wasn’t dead by emailing (after I made several calls and FB messages.)

The problem with Facebook? If you decide to blow someone off and are chatting away on FB shortly before and after, we know you aren’t bleeding arterially or lying anesthetized on an OR table. In geezerworld, those are the only two reasons I wouldn’t show up, or expect someone else to, possibly without letting the other person know you’re severely ill or injured.

When I asked some people older than 25, they said they’d experienced similar behaviors.

Have you done this? Or experienced this — a total mismatch of communication styles? How (if at all did you resolve it?)

Maybe this works really well for the younger set, but if or when they try to work with or be-friend others even a decade or so older than they, they need to remember that we don’t all communicate using the same tools anymore.

I’m thinking passenger pigeons myself…

Is Blogging A Dying Art?

Image representing Blogger as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

An interesting piece from The Economist:

Signs are multiplying that the rate of growth of blogs has slowed in many parts of the world. In some countries growth has even stalled.

Blogs are a confection of several things that do not necessarily have to go together: easy-to-use publishing tools, reverse-chronological ordering, a breezy writing style and the ability to comment. But for maintaining an online journal or sharing links and photos with friends, services such as Facebook and Twitter (which broadcasts short messages) are quicker and simpler.

Charting the impact of these newcomers is difficult. Solid data about the blogosphere are hard to come by. Such signs as there are, however, all point in the same direction. Earlier in the decade, rates of growth for both the numbers of blogs and those visiting them approached the vertical. Now traffic to two of the most popular blog-hosting sites, Blogger and WordPress, is stagnating, according to Nielsen, a media-research firm. By contrast, Facebook’s traffic grew by 66% last year and Twitter’s by 47%. Growth in advertisements is slowing, too. Blogads, which sells them, says media buyers’ inquiries increased nearly tenfold between 2004 and 2008, but have grown by only 17% since then. Search engines show declining interest, too.

People are not tiring of the chance to publish and communicate on the internet easily and at almost no cost. Experimentation has brought innovations, such as comment threads, and the ability to mix thoughts, pictures and links in a stream, with the most recent on top. Yet Facebook, Twitter and the like have broken the blogs’ monopoly.

I am about to start a new blog, for an Australian website, on women and work (only twice a month, luckily) and have been sadly neglecting/ignoring the blog I began at theopencase.com, which covers crime.

How much can anyone have to say?

Blogging, for me, has a number of challenges:

1) I need to be paid for my work and most blogs don’t pay; 2) I need what I say to be intelligent, amusing, helpful. I don’t feel that everything I think is worth posting. That slows my production. 3) There is an insatiable quality to blogging, the feeling that you have to be on top of your issues all the time which (see point 1) is lovely if you’re independently wealthy and can take lots of unpaid time to opine on-line or you are OK shooting your mouth off and knowing it’s out there for all sorts of people to see; 4) people whose opinions can make a difference to my career are reading this stuff. Which is good. It’s very flattering indeed to see some of the links to major websites that analyze journalism, but it reminds me that I need to be thoughtful — not just fast or first.

This blog began July 1, 2009 and this is my 844th post. Crazy. I’m pooped!

I don’t think I’m that fascinating, so the frequency isn’t a reflection of my ego, and need to be heard (which it may well look like!) but my desire to hit the numbers I needed — 5,000 or 10,000 unique visitors per month — to reach my T/S bonuses. My best month was May, with more than 15,000. That was pocket change to people like Matt Taibbi, but a lot for me.

Today, more people are tweeting or using Facebook to communicate their own thoughts and personal data, while blogs are becoming niche or micro-niche areas of specialty, like the one referenced in that story from Sweden on how to paint your house.

Now I’m becoming even more of a dinosaur…if I used to be Stegosaurus (being a generalist in a hyper-specialized medium) I’m starting to feel like a trilobite…primordial ooze, even.

I still read very few blogs, but I do read Facebook several times a day, and have found many items I use here — like this one — from others’ posts there. I have FB friends in Bhutan, Paris, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and many of them are fellow journos or photographers, people traveling or noticing fun stuff. A few (sigh) are endless, tedious self-promoters.

I’ll soon start tweeting (saying what exactly?!) as instructed by the publicist for my book publisher. I need to (further) build a set of readers eager, one hopes, to reach for my retail book when it appears next spring. I wouldn’t tweet unless ordered to do so. But this is the new world. Many writers now spend as much time, sometimes more, publicizing their work than actually producing it.

Do you spend more time now on Facebook and Twitter than reading or writing blogs? Why?

Weary, Happy, Ready To Surgically Detach From The Computer — My Book's Done

It’s a weird feeling to know I’m done — although “done” is a relative term because that decision will be up to my editor.

Let’s say, I’ve finished writing, revising, writing and revising. For a few weeks anyway.

I attach a photo taken by the sweetie last weekend, a document of the revision process. I print out my work in hard copy, using both sides of the paper, then satisfyingly crumple it into a big ball when I’ve entered my corrections and changes. (Here’s a recent New York Times piece about John Updike and his writing process.)

Every writer, and book, is different. Some people have tremendously sophisticated filing systems; I have two sofas — notes used (check mark) and notes not yet used. Some people write the whole book and only then start revising it from first word to last; I write chapter by chapter, revising each one, then read several sequentially to see how (if) they flow smoothly into one another and then the whole book itself.

Many months ago, I chose five people as my “first readers”, four of them fellow professionals, two of whom have also written books, one of them a best-seller. If everyone hates the same paragraph or page or chapter, I’ll have to figure out what to do with it. If there’s anything more scary than writing a book, it’s turning it over for consumption and comment.

I’ve seen my cover and we’re tinkering with it. I love the title they gave it: “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail.”

The challenge of finishing a book is, just when you really want to sleep for a month, it’s time to crank up the publicity machinery. I’ve registered the domain name malledthebook.com and have yet to design or build the site. Then, (sigh) Twitter.

I love writing books and hope to write several more — as journalism sinks beneath the waves, there are increasingly few places left to tell smart, serious stories in depth. Some journalists hate the idea of writing a book because they fear they’ll get too bored. In both instances, I’ve found the subject so compelling I hated to end.

I’ll keep you posted on the book’s progress; publication date spring 2011.

Sharkproofing 101: Seven Lessons For New 'Entrepreneurs'

Picture taken at Georgia Aquarium, pictured is...
Just when you thought it was safe to go into business for yourself....Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been thinking a lot about this “entrepreneurial” thing of late.

One of the enduring challenges, sometimes the primary challenge, of working on your own, is knowing how to discern the predators and make sure you protect yourself from them, or stay out of their way. Whatever their motives, sometimes without motive — you’re just collateral damage — they can inflict serious harm to your income, your confidence, sometimes your reputation.

An an entrepreneur, without an excellent credit score, you’re toast. If people don’t pay you, (on time or ever) and you’re late paying your bills, kiss your excellent credit score goodbye. Bottom of the food chain, baby.

Welcome to planktonworld!

I learned this sad lesson when I was only 19, still in college, and working freelance like a madwoman to make as much money as possible; I lived alone and paid my way through university. One of the magazine publishers — this happens a lot, I would see over the next few years — screwed a bunch of us out of earned income for work used. We had to sign some “we won’t sue” document to collect pennies on our pay.

I ran into this guy at some party a few months later. Silly me! I thought he was…broke! I had pictured him wearing a barrel, begging for apples on the street, living in his car. Hah! Useful and memorable lesson. In the fall of 2008, two magazines in the space of two months tried, again, to screw me out of more money. Thank God for lawyers!

I recently heard — chutzpah! In the heartland! — from another deadbeat publisher who I had to sue to get my money from. Turns out I gave her all rights to my unpublished material in so doing (about four stories) so she made out like…a bandit. Now she asks if I’d like to work with her again.

See: snowball, hell.

Every single person who works for themself, for now or forever, needs to know these.

Sharkproofing 101

1) Join every possible professional group in any way related to your field, specialty, industry: alumni groups, LinkedIn groups, professional organizations. Even if you’re a fresh grad with no connections, make some, today. They have listservs and newsletters and on-line forums and chat rooms where pro’s will dish freely and name names. How else will you know who to avoid?

2) Because knowledge — of the deadbeats and cheaters — is power. For fear of being sued, very few professionals will name names publicly. But, for example, within the American Society of Journalists and Authors (on whose board I sit), we have a Warning List, available only to our members. Several Very Big Magazines are on there so we know not to bother working with them. It costs a fat $200 a year to join ASJA; saving your butt, if you meet our qualifications, is surely worth $16.66 a month. Freelance Success is also a great resource.

3) Know a lawyer who will answer your email and call promptly. Use them whenever necessary.

4) Keep an excellent FICO score and five-figure, low-interest line if credit open and available to you at all times. I am about to ditch Chase — hellooooo? — for their appalling, greedy new habit of charging me $30 every time I access my line of credit. The one they already cut and won’t restore and charge me double-digit interest on — and, wait there’s more! — told I was lucky it was only $30. After $90 in charges in one week, I took this issue to TD Bank where a banker said, “Hm. Sounds like extortion to me.” You have clout, use it.

5) Attend conferences and parties and events, nay, even the opening of an envelope in your industry — or the one you are trying to break into. You need to meet as many people as possible because some of them, yes, are going to be lying cheats — and some are going to be amazing, kind, cool mentors. The latter will help you suss out, or recover from the flesh wounds of, the former.

6) Be a lovely person. I mean it. Kind, funny, generous, helpful. What’s in it for you? Karma, baby. When the next deadbeat bites your ass and that line of credit just got cut and no one is hiring — you’re going to need a friendly voice on the phone or Facebook. I recently got asked for help by someone very new to me. Sigh. I have very little free time and a crummy income. Can I afford it? Can I afford not to? When it’s just you and your Blackberry and your sweatpants and a lot of prayers and talent, you need backup. We all do. If you’re likeable and have freely given it before, and now ask for help, odds are you’ll get some.

7) Create a posse. The minute I heard True/Slant was…mutating….I called three smart, tough, savvy friends, one of whom I’ve never actually met face to face. They have been advising me since. Corporations and non-profits have boards of directors. This is yours. Like all boards, they add a fresh perspective, multiply your brainpower and, occasionally, talk you off the window ledge.

There, now…..Doesn’t a full-time job sound grand?