In Other Words … Season 2, Episode 25

Reading Time: 2 minutes
The afterglow of sunset lingers over the highway after yet another thunderstorm in Websterville, Vermont, July 13, 2023. By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

This will be a short post after a long and dramatic week. Drama is good for a writer. All stories need some elements of conflict, of the unexpected, of chaos. All need contrast.

Conflict, chaos, and contrast in our own lives can contribute inspiration and experience for our writing. But together, they can suck time away from our work.

This week we experienced, or at least witnessed, some of the classic conflicts that can become fodder for great stories:

  • Man vs. Nature. After a rainy spring and early summer, a torrential rainstorm swept through Vermont. Our place isn’t near any of the river valleys, which were hit worst. The photo above is of the calm after the storm — one that added to the floods of earlier in the week.

    Our daughter lives in Barre, where the main streets were passable only by boat. The state capital in Montpelier was badly hit; a friend’s church there may never reopen. When I worked at the Journal Opinion in Bradford, its office was on the riverbank by the dam. It would have been washed away if the building hadn’t been razed long ago.
  • Man vs. Time. A friend from our own church, Dr. Kristaps Keggi, the author of My Century, died unexpectedly last week. The memorial service was this week, and our church scrambled to prepare our venue.

    Dr. Keggi had an international circle of friends and colleagues in the medical community and we wanted to honor him by hosting them appropriately. Thanks to a team effort, the service went from stressful to successful.
  • Control vs. Chaos. No, not KAOS, the international network of evil from Get Smart. It’s the eternal struggle of order vs. disorder. In our case, we returned to our Vermont place after two months away only to find the driveway overgrown with weeds, the exterior paint peeling, and, soon, the first floor a pile of rubble as renovations get underway.

Conflict and chaos take time and effort to control in real life, let alone the writing life. As an old-school journalist, I deal with them by setting deadlines. From there, it’s a matter of triage. What must be done now, and why? What must I do now so someone else in the process can do their job?

Often, anything without a deadline will be set aside while the others take priority. In juggling life and work, often this means a setback for the work. Blogging like this keeps me on track with regular deadlines, which sometimes cuts into longer-term projects.

This week I hope to move ahead with more on the Bubble Wrap book. The History Channel launches “The Mega-Brands That Built America” next week, but there’s no telling when or if they’ll use my interview. I hope to have a draft of my project wrapped up in time to promote it with the show. Time will tell.

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