Los Angeles, CA
I can't recall the last time it rained in Los Angeles.
That's the entire point of living in this plastic City of Angels riddled with mind-numbing traffic. Blue skies. Abundant sun. That's the Southern California experience. It's really tough being a miserable writer when it's always sunny and 76 degrees outside.
It started to rain on Tuesday morning and hasn't really stopped. The last time I saw rain in SoCal? At least since May. I got dumped on plenty of times while meandering on Phish tour this summer. It was sprinkling in Seattle, I endured a downpour during two nights at Jones Beach, survived an insane lightning storm in Indiana which destroyed our camp site, gutted out one rainy windy and cold Colorado night at Red Rocks, and got pissed on during an excepted monsoon in Saratoga. Aside from those stints with Mother Nature -- I spent a significant amount of time in rain-free Nevada and Southern California.
I don't mind the rain. God knows we could use it but no one knows how to effectively drive in it. SoCal is riddled with terrible drivers to begin with, who drive even worse in the rain. Accidents spike at the slightest hint of rainfall. If there's a time not to be on the roads, it's during the first big rainfall after a dry spell.
This week started out in the worst possible way -- with the heavy machines next door ripping up the floor. I was too busy on Monday to really complain and kept my head down. On Tuesday, we had to evacuate because the illegal immigrants on our slumlord's payroll were sanding the entire floors in the adjacent apartment. The shrill sounds were to stomach but the little particles were enough to drive us out of our apartment for the day.
We took up shelter at Nicky's parents house for the entire afternoon and set up a makeshift office in their living room. I got about the same amount of writing done (had I stayed home) because I worked at a quicker pace even though I felt a bit out of my element for the entire time. I had to wear pants. No Miles Davis. And I couldn't rip bingers in the dining room. I had to excuse myself to step outside for a smoke and most of the time Nicky and I sat at opposite ends of the dining room table and wrote. It felt more like we were working in a library that our normal routine.
Several of my friends work at home. I prefer to be alone when I'm working but there are times when it's nice to have some one else around. I'm selfish in that matter. When I'm in the zone, I don't want anyone to bother me. I reduce the number of distractions and tune out the outside world. You would be amazed to learn how much more productive that I am when I turn off my cellphone (and hide it so it's not in plain view), log off of email, and don't even consider firing up Twitter. No birds and fail whales. No texts. No emails. Nothing. Just me wandering down the cluttered hallways of my mind and trying to create something from nothing.
On those instances when work is kicking my ass, it's nice to have some one to chat with for thirty seconds before I returned to work. I like having the ability to sound off ideas and concepts. Nicky is perfect for allowing me to interrupt her work to ask those random and odd things. But the majority of the time, we don't bother each other and stay out of each others' way. I like that. When my door is closed -- it's a powerful message. Don't fuck with me.
Ah so now it's Wednesday. Hump day. I'm treading water with today's deadline. I have to spice it up before I submit it to my editor. I have another deadline tomorrow, but I wrote 95% of that yesterday and all I have to do is give it one final polish and send it off to that editor on Thursday morning. Friday's deadline? I haven't even started the column. I don't even have a topic -- but I have some ideas after a quick brainstorming session with Nicky at lunch. She liked the story that I pitched her and we decided that it could actually be two different stories. I have direction. I just have to finish the other two pieces before I can tackle that one.
I have another deadline on Saturday for a European publication. The assignment fell into my lap on Monday. It's difficult to say "nyet" to the Russians. In these strange economic times, it's also hard to turn down free money. Plus, there are only a handful of people that I admire and respect in my industry, so I tend to gravitate towards those people... and vice versa. I'm thrilled to collaborate with a Russian editor friend of mine, but, one year ago I would have declined the last-minute assignment. Times are changing.
The shorter the time period for a particular assignment -- the greater edge that I have over my peers -- because I'm a faster writer and can effectively work without sleep. Imagine if I were an actually speed freak? The overall quality of my copy would diminish, but I would be able to tackle dozens of more clients and assignments per week that in the end I'd end up making more money. Sheer volume.
My client in Russia paid me for last month's work before I had the chance to invoice the magazine. Let me tell you... that never happens. These guys must have a positive cash flow. Or they probably knew that they were about to pull a shitty move and dump a last-minute assignment on me when they know that I'm swamped with other work, so they decided to pay me for last month's work as an appreciation of my stuff. Regardless, I was thrilled that they paid me before I asked for it.
When I get paid in a timely fashion, I snap to it. Most of the time I have to wait several months to get paid for freelance work. I always have nag clients to pay me on time. Shit, Fox Sports took me nine months once to pay me and they finally paid me after I hit them with a late payment clause.
A handful of delinquent clients try to make me seem like the bad guy for harassing them -- but I never let them bully me. They set a writing deadline and I met their needs. Why can't they do the same with a prompt payment? In the last 18 months, I dumped those extremely late clients. It wasn't worth my time.
And when things got rough, I played hardball and hit clients when they are the most vulnerable... under the gun as a deadline is rapidly ticking down. I call this the "Fed Ex" move which I resort to drastic circumstances. When I reach a threshold with a client who hasn't paid me for months, I send them an email three days before my next deadline saying that I am withholding my piece (I tease them with an excerpt) until I am paid in full within 72 hours. The result? An apology followed by one of two things; 1) immediate transfer to my online poker account or 2) they forward me a receipt for a Fed Ex tracking number for a package send by their billing department containing a check for past due services.
I have never had to call out the big guns... which is a phone call to my brother and The Rooster. Those two guys are extremely effective at debt collection. Yes, don't invoke the wrath of my bag men.
Which reminds me, those assholes at High Roller magazine stiffed me for at least $4,000. (I know -- the irony of a magazine billing themselves as "High Roller" that can't even pay their writers). They better watch their backs because The Rooster and Derek are cagey mofos.