Budding Writer, 1979: Preemptions and premonitions, 1979

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The sun sets over Lake Champlain, February 8, 2023, in North Hero, Vermont. By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

As this young writer continued his journals in his first year as a freelancer, he continued to press on with his Big Break. A humorous piece for TV Guide about the three “Animal House” style campus comedies would launch me into the major markets.

Or maybe not. I should have seen some things coming:

Still cold, again tired. Made significant progress on TV Guide article, although I suffered another setback: With the tube room full of pseudo-psyched “Delta House” fans, ABC pre-empted the show. So I’ll just have to coast on what I already have, which won’t be too dificult, now that I know what form the piece will take. I will have to work tomorrow to whip it into shape for mailing Monday, though.

Aside from the “Delta House” crump, a pleasant evening with [fraternity friends] …

Howard W. Fielding, “Journal, Volume II,” 17 February 1979

There’s no word on why the show was preempted (the correct spelling, and why everyone needs an editor). I don’t think there was any special announcement that it was to ‘bring you this special presentation” or anything like that. A quick check of the date in history shows no major news stories.

But in retrospect, the most likely reason was that “Delta House” — the official “Animal House” spinoff and by far the edgiest of the three shows — was running into trouble with the network.

With one of the three already canned before its debut, I was certainly under pressure to finish my own project before it, too, was preempted. That forced me to work on Sunday, which I was trying to reserve as a day of rest back then.

Uneventful and restful Sunday … Finished draft of TV Guide article and first revisions tonight — but still does not flow very well, needs work tomorrow before typing.

op. cit., 18 February 1979

It could have been worse. I could have been drafting everything in longhand. Writing and rewriting an article involved literally cut-and-paste to rearrange sentences and paragraphs, or retyping the whole thing. Apparently that’s what I was doing.

Eventually, though, Monday arrived and with it, my self-imposed deadline to mail the article, for better or worse:

Wow! It’s almost above freezing out there! I’m thawing out my writing, too, having completed the manuscript for the TV Guide piece for mailing tomorrow. Also wrote a cover letter and a letter to Kilmarx. Otherwise unimpressive day, slight headache and nausea set me back a little. Tonight I had an interesting talk with M about religion in general and the end of the world in particular. Are there really too many signs for our own good? We’ll see…

op. cit. 19 February 1979

Although I didn’t have a diagnosis yet, the headache and nausea were undoubtedly a migraine from the long-delayed and stressful First Big Break manuscript.

But it wasn’t the end of the world. Four decades later, my friend M and I are still wondering about that.

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