Budding Writer, 1979: Something is wrong

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“Breakers at the Breakers, Newport, R.I., July 24,2022” by Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

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!

Like the currents in an ocean, any day can look calm and normal on the surface but be in turmoil under the surface. Take, for example, this entry from an ordinary day almost a year into my freelance writing adventure:

A hot and humid day, but not without its fringe benefits. I had a long morning talk with a ’68 who will send us a Tautology letter, then hurried off to work. I bought $12.00 worth of gasahol and an extra $1.30 of oil I probably didn’t need. But, I think, it’s worth it as a controlled test on the product — and to do my patriotic duty and all that rot.

Work was good; got most of the copy edited and headed. Robert liked my Reporter’s Notebook piece and the “Ruddigore” review. The best part of the work, though, came in finding out there was no Fairlee meeting tonight. Now, if only I get paid for it.

Returning here, I clipped articles and enjoyed good talks with Gif, Jon, Debbie, Roger, Sam D., and Judy. Roger burned his draft card after seeing “Hair” tonight. I, on the other hand, would probably enlist. To each his own, I suppose.

Journal, Volume II
9 July 1979

So life was good, right?

I chatted with an alumnus about a decade my senior, who offered to send some memories for a fraternity project I had in mind — “Tautology,” a collection of stories of the sort alums now share in Facebook groups, Zoom meetups, and Discord.

I bought some newfangled gasohol (correct spelling) — a blend of 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent alcohol. That’s commonly sold seasonally today, unleaded, but in those leaden days it was novel.

My night at the newspaper went well, all the better because a meeting I was to cover was called off. And I had a good night chatting with my friends.

Then I wrote this:

Supplemental: Howard, something is wrong. What is it? Is it your procrastination? Frustration at having to work to survive? Your having pickled yourself within the Upper Valley? The shallowness of your life and those around you? What? What troubles you? And is it the sort of gadfly that drives writers to accomplishments, or is it the sort of housefly that drives them to madness?


I’m still waiting for an answer on that one.

2 thoughts on “Budding Writer, 1979: Something is wrong

  1. Geo says, “Depending on the time of year, I would have either been up to my eyeballs in antique steam engines, or on a motorcycle tour through Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, and back down into PA. The Harley needed something a little better, so I got the best leaded high-test I could get. At the time, you get get a lead additive for gas, the can was called “REAL-LEAD” which raised the octane AND contained some amount of tetra-ethyl lead. ” He had already crashed and burned on his first motor-cycle (1972, in which I was all of seven years old.). At this point, 7 years down the road from that, he was well into his apprenticeship and spending his spare time with Winston Link repairing locomotives. Always a treat for me, Howard, to get Geo’s commentary on your stories

    1. Thanks, George and Celeste. I was an uneasy rider. I had a little Vega wagon (with the aluminum block) and gave it the cheapest gas I could find — in this gas-shortage summer I even paid a little extra for something that would help by using less petroleum. Meh.

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