Journeyman Journalist, 1979: Settling in

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“‘The Lone Sailor’ on watch at Burlington Harbor, Vermont,” September 16, 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!

I didn’t realize it until much later, but September, 1979 marked a sea change in my life as much as a change in the seasons.

The autumn weather was spectacular and portentous:

Yesterday was shitty, but I saw a DOUBLE rainbow! And one 2 days before, and one at home! Three rainbows in a week — quite exciting, and hopeful …

Journal, Volume II
7 September 1979

In retrospect, what did it portend? I was happy with my new bachelor apartment, a studio walkup in an old farmhouse on Route 5 in Bradford, Vermont. However, reading my description, it’s clear that I wasn’t going to become an interior decorator:

I can’t get over what an attractive apartment I have! I really can’t!

Today, with the help of Jon, Jessie, and Mike, I turned these plain, dingy walls into an attractive paint scheme. A peach tan covers the east and south walls, highlighted by contrasting white in the kitchen and my bed area. Nice effect! I also lucked out in mixing three sickly yellows into a snazzy color to accent the refrigerator area. This was stretched a bit with white to create a paler yellow — just enough to cover 3 walls of the bath. I lucked out again; I never would have been able to match the color exactly. Fortunately, I used a dark brown to cover the fourth wall: a nice contrast.

Journal, Volume II
9 September 1979

It was only later that I realized how inappropriate a pale yellow and dark brown color scheme was for a bathroom.

To top off this fine decor:

My kitchen poster: Woody Allen. It has an addendum: a card on which I will answer: “Why is this man a success?” Maybe there will be parallels.


Say no more. If Woody Allen was my role model as a writer, maybe transitioning to journalism instead was a good thing.

But that, too, was off to a slow start. “I’ve been less than overwhelmed with my J-O work lately, unable to brag of any fiction writing, and completely out of touch with many people,” I wrote. “But I’m ready to leap back into action. Are they? And is the rest of the world ready for me?”

There was only one way to find out.

Editor’s note: You sure used a lot of colons in that quote about the Woody Allen poster, Howard. Given the subject, though, the colon is probably appropriate.

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