Budding Writer, 1979: NEED work

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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!

My tenuous freelancing career was looking up with the addition of a new regular market: the New England Entertainment Digest. I had hoped back in May that with two part-time jobs at the newspaper (probably illegal today) plus this gig, “I could do OK!”

And now it was coming true.

… There were bright spots, however. Mom called and we talked. More interesting, Paul J. Reale from the New England Entertainment Digest (Box 735, Marshfield, MA 02050) called and is still interested. So things are looking up — perhaps.

Journal, Volume II
1 July 1979

… Mail today from N.E.E.D. Robert says it looks like they’re looking for me to do ad rep. work more than writing. I’ll have to write to them to straighten things out. I might be being suckered; it might fold.

Journal, Volume II
5 July 1979

A pleasant day. Wasted, unquestionably: cleaning up at Etna, drinking and punting at Shed, only doing a tiny amount of work: a letter to Reale telling him I’ll do more writing than selling for him. Alas!

Perhaps this will mean my quick demise at New England Entertainment Digest, but, hell, today I don’t really care that much. …

Journal, Volume II
7 July 1979

… The day was long and tiring — many hours over the typewriter writing what amounts to press releases about the Hop and the region. A good intro piece on Hayseed Theatre and preview of Celebration Northeast, however, gave the writing some interest. I promised Paul Reale that I’d come up with more immediate and interesting features — and hopefully some advertising — when I have seen the first issue and get a feel for the publication.

… Not much to report, except that much of my NEED work is now out of the way and I can concentrate on the JO and private correspondence again. I hope. Am I spreading myself too thin? I’d probably be much better able to budget my time if I were not living in the house (cooking, punting, playing, talking, etc.), but, then, such intensive concentration on work was what made me sick at law school. Or was it? I was doing OK at Etna. Or was I? Am I objective enough to consider?

Journal, Volume II
10 July 1979

Howard, a bit of advice: When someone wants to hire you for a job, don’t tell him what work you will and will not do. Especially with a startup like this one, he needed someone to sell ads so he could afford to hire freelancers like you. Refusing to do so put your relationship in jeopardy.

On the other hand, you had a good professional interest to separate your reviews from ad sales. You probably could have written advances about an advertiser, but you couldn’t be an objective critic.

In 2023 hindsight, note how how I moved from the formal New England Entertainment Digest and the publisher’s full name and address to N.E.E.D. and his last name, and finally to NEED, as in “much of my NEED work is out of the way.” NEED work. Freudian?

Fireworks over Knight’s Point State Park, Vermont, July 3, 2022. By Howard Fielding

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