11/02/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Creative Career Advice for the Newly-Broke

For the first time in a lot of years, I'm doing better financially than my friends who work - oops, make that worked -- on Wall Street. They're losing millions, suffering anxiety attacks, panicking that their entire worlds are falling apart, whereas for me, things are pretty much the way they've always been.

That's the advantage of not having any money in the first place, I've discovered: You don't have any to lose. Plus, earning my living as a writer for all these years has taught me a lot of desperation-style financial tricks that most Wall Street softies have never had to learn.

Here, a creative person's advice on keeping your head above water:

If Everyone Says Your Business Is Dying, Ignore Them -- It's been dying for years. It will keep dying for more years. Chances are, you'll die before it does. And what are you going to do about it anyway: Become a hairdresser instead?

Work for Free -Every artist knows that the very best work is the stuff nobody will pay you for. Writing the epic poem or the opera set in North Dakota in 1926 may not earn you the big or even the little bucks, but it's where you'll find creative satisfaction and, potentially, make the major score. Wall Streeters need to view their mergers, their acquisitions, their capitalist ventures with the same pro bono spirit.

If They Pay You, Expect Hell - If they're paying you at all, it's half what it was last year. For twice as much work, in half as much time. And then you'll have to redo it three or four times, and even when you get it perfect, they'll change it again. Oh, and your check won't come until next April. If it comes at all.

Cut Your Own Lawn - My neighborhood is always full of lawn guys (one is blasting his leaf blower away outside now), babysitters, housecleaners, housepainters, carpenters, and landscapers keeping everything perfect at all times, at houses where nobody's ever home. But now that you're going to be home a lot more, you can scrub the bathtub, call the plumber, and deal with homework between getting your work done.

Send Your Spouse Back To Work
- If part of your compensation package as a hedge fund manager has been underwriting a full-time spouse who can devote herself to getting your kids into Harvard or himself to perfecting his tennis game, neither of you have that luxury any longer. Your spouse can go back to the accounting or environmental law job he or she kissed goodbye, because you need the steady paycheck and the benefits.

Benefits? What benefits? - That's right, boys and girls, you're going to have to live without benefits. If you're blessed with a spouse who gets medical coverage, bravo, but you're still going to have to live without expense accounts, bonuses, 401k's, stock options, sick leave, and paid vacation.

Stop Buying Clothes - Hell, you can stop wearing clothes, once you enter the exciting field of creative freelancing. And there are big savings to be had once those four-figure shoes and cashmere sweaters are red-lined from the budget.

Forget Saving
- Saving money is for the rich and the pessimistic. Not to mention those who actually have some money to save.

Cultivate Irrational Optimism - Most writers and artists I know believe, really believe, that any minute now they're going to be rich beyond their wildest dreams. Even if they're 75 and haven't published anything in a decade. You must have been a little bit like that yourself, back before you hedged your first fund. Rediscover that irrational optimism. It's all you've got left.