Budding Writer, 1979: Putting down tentative roots

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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!

Sunrise from master bedroom window at Rudyard Kipling's Nahalaka, Dummerston, Vermont, June 14, 2017. Howard Fielding
Sunrise from master bedroom window at Rudyard Kipling’s Naulakha, Dummerston, Vermont, June 14, 2017. By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

With only one meeting (which was canceled) to cover during this week in 1979, I was able to scoot down to New Jersey to visit my mother for our traditional week on the Jersey shore at Wildwood Crest. It was another case of absence making the heart grow fonder.

I felt very comfortable at home, too — perhaps deceptively so, but much happier than I did before. I kept thinking how happily I could live there again. Then I kept thinking how trapped I had felt before. A curious paradox, and one I can’t explain. I suppose that what it means, if anything, is that I could survive very well if conditions — of any sort — brought me back to Wayne. Meanwhile, it seems that Mom and I agree with what [a female friend] told me the other day: that asserting my independence was probably one of the smartest things I’ve done in in the last years. It will probably take me a while to develop, but already it seems I’m putting down tentative roots.

Journal, Volume II
18 June 1979 (Supplemental)

And later:

Psychologically, I’m ready to start three pieces: the one with Fred and the fictional hitchhiker (that one has a complete plot, and I started it today — the material is good, but the copy needs rework); “The Kings of England” introduction to Fred; the fate of the entire civilized world lies in the hands of a waitress at a highway HoJos. A fourth story in the offing this week — “City Mouse, Country Mouse” — is pressing in deadline, but for the life of me I have no plot continuation. Maybe it will come to me tomorrow as I work on the hitchhiker skit. We will see.

Journal, Volume II
18 June 1979

The curious paradox bit is a paraphrase of a line from El Gallo in the musical The Fantasticks: “There is a curious paradox that no one can explain: who understands the secrets of the reaping of the grain? Who understands why spring is born out of winter’s laboring pain, or why we all must die a bit before we grow again?”

If nothing else, a week on the beach showed me the value of long blocks of time to think and write. You’ll hear more about the hitchhiker in coming posts. I’ve mentioned “The Kings of England” several times, but today I have no recollection of it. I think it may have involved my recurring Fred Warner character coming into unknowing interaction with characters from The Avengers on a trip to England.

The waitress story was inspired by a lunch stop at a Howard Johnson’s on Queen Street in Southington, Connecticut. That was long before I ever thought of moving to the state, which was only a layover between New Jersey and New Hampshire.

We’ve already discussed “City Mouse, Country Mouse.” If I was planning to give it as a wedding present for my cousin Tom, it was already too late. The wedding date was approaching.

Of those four ideas, only one was ever completed beyond the first few pages. Any guesses which one?

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