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!
Back in my college days, a fraternity brother and I developed a banter that went something like this:
Brooks: We kicked the keg, but c’est la vie.
Howard: “La vie.”
I knew nothing about the French language or culture, but that particular phrase had made its way into American conversation. I knew it meant “that’s life.” I also knew I was making a bad pun that reflected my own ignorance.
Ah, well. C’est la vie.
A very long, difficult day at the office, writing and editing. And no doubt it will be longer and more difficult tomorrow. But — c’est la vie! (“La vie”)
One thing good, though — I’m really cooking in writing about thing I don’t fully understand — like reviews of “Messiah” and the Buffalo Philharmonic — and this New American Revolution series. Boy, it would. be nice to win a prize! And this series shows promise — if I can do the proper research.Journal, Volume III
3 December 1979
Today I have no idea what the New American Revolution series was. I probably didn’t know then, either.
Today I would say that the only prize I was likely to win was one for bullshit. Any writer who doesn’t want to become a laughingstock must do research and understand the subject thoroughly. But at the time, I apparently had bluffed my way through enough term papers that I felt confident enough to try to pull it off at the Journal Opinion.
Years later, at my desk at a daily newspaper, I tacked a cartoon I clipped from the funny pages. It showed a reporter in a newsroom, blindfolded, with a dart in her hand. She is standing in front of a dartboard labeled “Today I am an expert in …” . The segments have labels like POLITICS, BUSINESS, TECHNOLOGY, PSYCHOLOGY, ECONOMICS, MEDICINE, SCIENCE, and so on.
It was too close to the truth. Ah, well, c’est la vie.