Budding Writer, 1979: The easy way out

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Featherlike clouds pick up the sun’s afterglow on April 15, 2023., in North Hero, Vermont. By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

A visit home after four months as a freelancer found me still wondering whether this was all going to work out or whether I should give up, move back, and look for a real job. I took a wrong turn and wound up on the Saw Mill River Parkway outside New York:

Passing by the R.D. offices in P’ville got me thinking about working for them again if things don’t work out in Hanover. I could come back to Wayne, too, as I mentioned to Mom, but she agrees (indeed, pointed out) that that would be returning to the easy way out.

Journal, Volume II
18 April 1979

By now you know that R.D. is The Reader’s Digest and P’ville is Pleasantville, New York, then home to its headquarters. I noticed Mom “liked my articles — no surprise there, though.” Presumably the articles were the tear sheets of “Cole’s Law” in Student Lawyer and “Tourist or Pilgrim?” in The Church Herald that I received on my birthday. She would especially have appreciated “Tourist or Pilgrim?” because it stemmed from a trip we took together the previous summer.

The rest of the day’s entry — and there’s a lot of it — rambles on about story ideas I had and how they would weave into one overarching plot. Today we’d call that world-building or universe-building. It was a chaotic world, to be sure, and it was a stretch to try to link it through characters.

I was planning to spend much of the five-hour drive working on the plot for a story I mentioned several times in these journals but don’t remember today: “The Kings of England.” It may have spun off of the character Tara King in the old TV series The Avengers.

Instead, I spent part of the time thinking about Mind’s Eye, which I’ve previously mentioned as a study of identity. Most of the trip, though, was spent on another plot, Crisis Center, which would be about part of the back story of the characters in Mind’s Eye.

Got all that? I’m not sure I do, and I’m the one with the cheat sheet.

Crisis Center was to be a multi-point-of-view (POV) story that originally started as a play about a volunteer campus “help center that can’t help themselves.” It was going to take inspiration from people, events, and relationships that I saw evolve on my own campus over six years.

I wrote: “Various perspectives through diaries, logs, tapes of phone conversations, letters. The investigative committee will never have all the facts, however. START TOMORROW.”

And in a departure from my usual procrastination, I did.

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