Budding Writer, 1978: Confronting the inner critic

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About this series: I revisited my journals from my first year as a freelance writer and found they told a story of their own. In this series I get the rare opportunity to give myself and other writers career advice with nearly 50 years of hindsight. Enjoy!

I am pleased that few days go by without my writing something these days, although I am having problems finishing things. This is probably because I am so self-critical, and don’t give myself a chance to get around to rewriting. ‘The Club,’ for instance, was abandoned when today I undertook to write an agit-prop IMPC play, “Intolerance II,” based on D.W. Griffith themes and the faculty fraternity decision. It is decidedly agitational, but equally amateur. I must constantly remind myself, however, that in order to advance in creative writing skills, not only must I be an apt critic but I must finish the works so I can evaluate them.

20 December 1978

Good self-observation, bad inspiration. I’ve completely forgotten what “The Club” was all about — probably a campus satire, I was full of those back then. So I dropped that to write another campus satire. The Dartmouth faculty had just passed a resolution to ban fraternities on campus. I had been president of a coeducational fraternity and saw this as the kind of hatred that D.W. Griffith had skewered in his epic silent film. I was going to write a script for the Intramural Play Competition satirizing it.

Remind me someday to tell you my “Hubris, deadly pride!” story.

Later in the same entry, I wrote this:

Talking with Mom today I examined my fate as a writer and critic. This was also prompted by a vivid discussion on Dick Cavett about English usage and abusage. My problem: The themes I wish to deal with are highbrow at times, but I am decidedly not a high-powered intellectual writer or critic. Where is my audience, then?


In retrospect, a satiric one-act based on a campus brouhaha (frats are still on campus, nearly 50 years later) is not exactly highbrow. The inner critic eventually figured that out and it never got beyond the concept.

But the rest is true. And I’m still dogged by the question: Where is my audience?

Sunset over Brookfield, Vermont, December 20, 2021. By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

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