In Other Words: Season 2, Episode 10

Reading Time: 2 minutes
The sun rises through a misty morning on the first day of Daylight Saving Time, March 12, 2023, in North Hero, Vermont. By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

“Winners and losers, picks and pans, hits and misses of the week” is how my college friend Paul Gigot starts off the Hits and Misses segment of his weekly Journal Editorial Report on Fox News.

Yes, Fox News. Get over it. Paul has been editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal for the past 20-plus years. Before that he was the Potomac Watch political columnist, and before that, a reporter and columnist with assignments in in Chicago and Asia. If you want intelligent, fact-based, conservative political commentary without the snark and attitude, turn to Paul and his friends.

Paul gets the lede in this week’s episode of In Other Words for two reasons. First, he does the week-in-review gig well. Second, he’s a living example of one of the lessons I’ve learned, and I hope new writers will learn, from the series: networking.

With today’s social networks and media, keeping in touch with your professional contacts is much easier than it was when I was starting out in the business. Back then, it required typing letters and making phone calls. The latter has always been difficult for me; I hate envisioning those did-I-catch-you-at-a-good-time moments. (And with today’s cellphones, a “bad time” could easily be when someone is on the toilet: “Oh, no, just cleaning up some little details.”)

I have three goals in mind for this series, or what my friend J.M. Gifford, an author and educator, describes as a “story arc.” I hadn’t thought of a journal/memoir as a story, but I suppose the best memoirs are. Like a storyteller who makes it up as he goes along (a “pantser” in NaNoWriMo terms), I have only a vague idea where the story is going next as I turn each page of my journal. As I write this, anything after the next 10 pages or so is terra incognita. But I do know why I’m going there.

  • Historical research. I turned to my journals as a way of researching a book about writing a play. I finally completed, more or less, “Harry Houdini and the Witch of Beacon Hill” after starting it 45 years ago in a playwriting class. To date, Mr. Gifford is still the only person who has actually read the completed play. As fascinating as the Margery case is, I think the more interesting story today is why it took me so long to finish it. The early journals will contain clues about what I did with the manuscript and when.
  • Life lessons for writers (including me). These days, it seems everyone wants to be a writer. Technology has made it so much easier, but what I went through two lifetimes ago hasn’t changed much. Ideas good and bad. Rejection. Procrastination. Inspiration. Perseverence. These all face writers today as they did then. This gives me an opportunity for 2023 hindsight.
  • Writing for my audience. This blog has three main audiences: writers, my college contemporaries, and family and friends. Often these overlap. Some, like Mr. Gifford, are waiting to see themselves or their contemporaries. I’d hate to let any of them down.

In the coming week, I learn the value of $15, especially when you don’t have it. I also wrestle with new paths and with one of my personal demons: procrastination. I might even sing about it.

Stay tuned!

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