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How to Survive as a Broke-Ass Writer: What to Do When You’re Robbed and Displaced

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I recently had my $2,000 2011 Macbook Pro literally stolen right from under me. I was living in some ghetto loft hostel space in the Tenderloin near Great American Music Hall, and I was relatively content there until the shady owner of the place began to raise the rates…and of course, he kicked me out when I was robbed and expected them to do something about it.

Three weeks later, I am mostly back on my feet with a new computer and a new outlook on how shitty this city can be. I learned a few tips on how to survive when you’re a broke-ass writer and lose your most important possession: your computer.


Being robbed or having your computer die is a traumatizing situation. It’s best to take a break for a while and find a place where you feel safe and comfortable. Book a room and have some alone time. If you feel better and safer with friends and family, spend a couple of nights in a comfortable place around people you love. They will comfort you through the slight shock if not PTSD you might experience after being displaced and losing your professional tools.

After you’ve gotten some rest you can make some phone calls and begin to devise a plan as to how you’re going to afford a new computer.


Libraries have two hour computers. This can get you through without you having to use your friend’s computer when they totally need it. East Bay libraries are less busy and give you 60-90 day temporary library cards if you don’t have an address for that city.

SF libraries are always full, and it will take forever for you to get a computer. If you are patient or can get there when doors open, you’ll be able to get some work done.

You can also find computer cafés that provide internet access at affordable prices. This may be smarter if you need more than a couple of hours a day on a computer.


Don’t forget to tell your editors that your computer died. I mean, you should be honest and tell them you got jacked. The more sympathy you get, the longer you’ll have to get your deadlines in. Just don’t make yourself come off too much like a victim, and let them know you’ll be back in business very very soon.

They will understand. Shit happens. Just communicate and keep them informed.



I almost forgot to write about smart phones because I don’t have one. I think hardcore writers and journalists should have a notebook (not a digital one, like a book with pages), a pen and laptop with them at all times. It will be impossible for you to write a full article on a cell (or really annoying), but they are good for pulling your research materials for your pieces.

If you have an iPad, that could help for a bit longer, but it is best you get yourself back on track with a computer asap.


You’ve got to buy a computer. You’ve got to get a replacement. There is no question about that. If you have a credit card, you can finance a new Mac or PC. You can pick up the phone and borrow the money, or take on some extra freelance work.

You can also buy a used refurbished lap top. Don’t knock them. You’re a writer, not a graphic designer or music engineer where you need a high quality computer to run your intense programs. You need the internet and a word processor.


The biggest reason to get a used computer is that it may already come equipped with a word processor. We all know MicrosoftWord is the best simply because it is industry standard. If you buy a new computer, make sure it has a word processing program.

You can’t live off Google Docs. Not for long. Keep that in mind when shopping for a new machine.


Let’s assume it took you a week of couch surfing and scrounging to afford a new computer. You’re finally ready to receive your freelance checks. Now, it’s probably going to take another week for you to sit down and get your past due deadlines complete.

Take your new computer to a café or library so you can concentrate and won’t be tempted to lie in your soft bed that is sitting right next to your very hard desk chair. Take the work load one day at a time. Don’t try to get it all done in a couple of days. It is better to pace yourself and hand in strong articles and essays If you rush, you may piss off your editors off with half assed work.


So, you got fucked over in San Francisco? Well, that seems to be all the rage in the media right now. Tell your story, particularly if you lost your home along with your belongings. Turn your tragedy into a twisted, depressing treasure.


San Francisco is a rough city when you’re broke. It can be a downright ruthless town if you’re an artist with no assets or a stable living situation. This is why I am writing to you. You’ve got to survive. If you don’t the man will win, and then we’ll all be forced to whore ourselves and write copy for some Japanese television station in Los Angeles.

Stay on top of your game here. Keep your eyes open and your shit close to you. Make sure you have close connections with friends, so if you do get jacked you’ll have people to come pick you up, and help you out.

Until next time. Keep surviving!

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Jordannah Elizabeth - Commonwealth Columnist

Jordannah Elizabeth - Commonwealth Columnist

Jordannah Elizabeth is a musician, music journalist, author, model and the founder of The Process Records Media Group. Jordannah started Jordan’s River Promotions in 2004 in Denver, CO where she specialized in art and music event coordination, and artist and model management at 18 years old.

In 2007, she moved to Los Angeles and started The Process: Net Label to organize her personal music catalog that was growing harder to manage each year. In November 2010, she started booking events in partnership with Hangman Booking for Fat Baby in Manhattan, NY and other clubs in the Metropolitan area.

Jordannah Elizabeth currently works as an arts and culture journalist and and the editor of The Deli Magazine San Francisco. She contributes to a plethora of reputable websites and print publications. Jordannah’s passion for music, fashion and culture is unprecedented, and her wide range of knowledge of indie, psych, and experimental rock makes her a sought after insider in the music industry.