The Writer’s Bare Necessities

Remember good ‘ole Baloo from Disney’s “The Jungle Book”?  He taught Mowgli about the bare necessities of how to live and survive in the jungle.  Many of us live in the urban jungle and have our own home-grown survival skills pretty much in place.

However, I began thinking about that little horrible word that we writers like to pretend doesn’t exist — writer’s block.  Some of the causes of writer’s block can be stress, concern over where your story/characters are headed, plotting quandaries, or any number of writerly concerns.

But, writer’s block could also be caused by trepidation over non-writerly pursuits such as livelihood, career — or your credit report.  Yeah, your credit report which feeds into your ability to finance a car (which you’ll need to use to get to your contract signing with your agent/publisher), or a house, or get into that fab condo complex you’ve always wanted to be a part of.

So, maybe you’re not writing because your credit score is not where you want it to be (or, need it to be).  What now?  Fix it!

If you’re not signed up with Credit Karma (CK) do it yesterday!  This handy FREE website will help you to get the upper hand on your financial life.  Once you enroll, you will need to put your personal information in so that they can find your specific credit profile.  (No need for inputting your credit card information! This site does not charge at all.)

Once that’s done, you can update your credit score every two weeks.  They will even send you an email to let you know it’s time to log in and update your credit score.

Now comes the good part.  CK even breaks down your credit report to make it easier for you to get a handle on each aspect of your credit picture that impacts your credit score.  For example, there are six categories that factor into your score:

  1. Credit Card Utilization
    Very simply your total credit card balances need to be below 50% of your total credit limit, or else you will get dinged in this category and your score goes down.  It’s best if your total credit card balances is no more than 20% of your total credit limit.  Specifically, let’s say your total credit limit over 2 cards is $1,000 (keeping it simple folks!).  That means that for each of your two cards your balance should not be more than $100 on each card.  Yeah, so why bother having a credit card? That’s besides the point.  This is how your credit score is calculated.  To get the “A”ranking, your credit card utilization should be between 1 – 20%.
  2. Payment History
    This is also a very simple one — pay your credit cards and all items listed on your credit report early, at the very latest on the day it is due.  Some of your creditors may give you between 1 – 4 days of grace but this is not standard.  You must communicate with EACH of your creditors to know if this is the case and which ones will grant you a grace period.  The best practice is to assume there is no grace period and pay your bill a couple of days early to ensure that no computer glitches/foul-ups affect the date your payment posts.  (Yeah, you’re dinged if they make a mistake and post later than you paid.  It would then be your responsibility to follow-up with them and correct the error and have it removed from your credit report.)  If you miss a payment, it goes down on your credit report in the next billing cycle (usually 30/31 days later) and will remain on your credit report for up to 7 years.  Yes, one missed payment can stain your report and lower your score tremendously!  Needless to say, to get the “A” ranking you need to pay every single bill on time — 100% on time.
  3. Derogatory Marks
    This is the not so fun one.  This is the area that messes up a lot of people simply because you are not informed when derogatory/negative information is added to your credit report.  At least, not in an official manner.  Derogatory marks are items that you did not pay through collection agencies, doctor/hospital bills that then go to a lawyer’s office (read collection agency) for payment.  This category will also include defaulted student loans, or any outstanding debt that a creditor wants to report.  Of course, a bankruptcy goes in this section.  Negative information can remain on your credit report for up to 10 years.  The credit reporting agency can take it off after 7 years but don’t hold your breath.  The “A” ranking is for have ZERO derogatory marks.  [Please note: You will have a very difficult time getting a mortgage if you have derogatory marks.  If you do have any, you will pay through most of your bodily orifices to get that house loan.]
  4. Age of Credit History
    There’s not much you can do about this category.  The longer you’ve had credit the better your score.  Only time will help you in this category.  The “A “ranking is reserved for those accounts which you have held for 8 years, or longer.
  5. Total Accounts
    This category infuriates me.  Why?  To receive an “A” ranking in this category you must have at least 22 credit accounts during the history of your credit file.  So, here again, only time will help you on this factor.  But here’s the thing, if you wanted to try and get into the higher rankings for this factor you would have to open a number of accounts around the same time and then pay them on time each and every month for the life of that account (Yes, you can pay the minimum but you know the story with that!  That needs an entire post unto itself to discuss that!)
  6. Credit Inquiries
    This category details how many times a creditor has publicly reviewed (looked) at your credit report in order to see if they want to offer you credit.  This can be done at your request, or if there are third-party creditors out seeking business they can pull your credit without your consent.  Whether you have given consent, or not, your credit score goes down with EACH credit inquiry listed on your report.  Hard credit inquiries remain on your credit report for 2 years.  That begs the question as to what a soft credit inquiry is, right?  From my understanding, a soft credit inquiry is when an existing creditor checks your report on an existing line credit in order to decide if they want to give you an increase in credit limit.A soft inquiry can also be you requesting to look at your own credit report (when you ask one of the three reporting agencies for it.  This usually is something offered to you after you have been denied credit.  Funny.  That’s usually when you find out you have a problem!).  To get the “A” ranking in this category you must have ZERO credit inquiries.  For the “B” ranking the number of credit inquiries is 1 – 2.  [Now you see why category number 5 irritates me!  In order to increase the number of total accounts, you will incur credit inquiries therefore your score will decrease with each credit pull to (ha ha) increase your credit score.]

Okay, I’ll stop my ranting here.

However, can you see how concerns over your financial life can impact your daily word count?  With so many “hidden” factors in this one area of our financial life imagine if you have other concerns that you are ‘pushing to the side’ in order to write?  It would be no surprise to anyone if you are not wholly successful in getting that book done, or finish that anthology of short stories, or enter those writing contests you’ve been eyeing.

Now, if this is not your issue with your writing — COOL!  Write on!  If this is a part of your issue, even a miniscule part — begin taking care of it today.  Your writing muse will thank you.

Ta-ta for now,

NB

 

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