Long wait for a short story, 1979

Reading Time: 2 minutes
A flock at the feeder becomes a study in black and white on a snowy afternoon in North Hero, Vermont, March 14, 2023. By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

One of the things I’m learning from re-reading my journal entries from my first year as a freelancer is the value of a deadline. Any kind of deadline.

I benefited from deadlines by working for newspapers for 35 years. Weekly deadlines, daily deadlines, even self-imposed deadlines, all forced me to get the work done — even if it wasn’t exactly on time. But in my third month freelancing, with no editor breathing down my neck (including myself), I wasn’t doing so well. I was also giving in to temptation:

Another beautiful day! I even registered a sunburn today, basking outside from noon ’til 4:00, writing and (eventually) running. Big news of the day: I finished the draft of “Good King Wenceslas.” The plot is good, the style very weak. Definitely needs a rewrite, but it shows potential. I’m pleased, and can now get on to other projects. Today I also finished my letter and application for the deanship position — all I really need to do now is get permission to use [one professor and two editors I worked with twice] as references.

Journal, Volume II
22 March 1979

One of the perks of being a writer is that it’s a job I can do anywhere. Back in my post-lifeguard days I liked working outdoors, catching the rays. So I suppose you could say that the sunburn was an accomplishment of sorts, or maybe just another example of missing a deadline. I should have got out of the sun in time.

But seriously: I first started writing “Good King Wenceslas” on March 8. Here it was, more than three weeks later. Entry after entry showed I wasn’t being very serious about it, adding only a few lines or maybe a paragraph at a time.

I don’t know what became of that draft, or whether I ever completed a rewrite. If I do find out, I’ll let you know and perhaps share it here. But I haven’t read that far ahead in my own book yet.

And then there was the “baby dean” position that repeatedly popped up in these entries. I also wrote on March 8 that I had already mailed that application. Apparently that letter had elicited a response asking for three letters of recommendation and asking some substantive questions that couldn’t be answered by a resume alone. That shouldn’t have taken three weeks, either. But the job was still posted, and apparently had no deadline …

There’s more to that story, too. But no spoilers. I’ll put that off ’til tomorrow, legimately.