Three Reasons I Could Stop Writing Memoir But Won’t

Timely read, given that I have recently put my third-draft-in-progress memoir on the side (yet again). Deeper still I need to go. There is no end to the layers I’m undoing with each draft . . . that alone is a tremendous challenge. But by far, the bigger challenge is believing in myself, in my need to write this story, and in my rightful place among other memoir writers who attempt the same.

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

zz ronitBy Ronit Feinglass Plank

I had been writing fiction and wanted to try nonfiction, so I began with personal essays. I didn’t think memoir was for me; in fact I was deliberately avoiding it. I didn’t see a reason to revisit the facts of my confusing childhood and thought memoir wouldn’t be as challenging as creating a world from scratch and putting characters in it. To tell my own story, the story I knew by heart, seemed almost too easy.

I could not have been more wrong. I was about to discover that looking at something you think you know pretty well with fresh eyes and trying to understand it in a new way is definitely not easy. I did try writing several personal essays but the history of how I grew up kept barging in, taking up more and more space. It seemed part of me really wanted to…

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Writer’s Journal_5: Distraction

There’s a reason the work doesn’t get done when I say it will: distraction.

Yesterday, it was a glance at an essay contest advertisement, with a hefty payout for the winner and publication in a national magazine. I dropped my memoir writing in a heartbeat and set to the task of whipping out something that I thought might fit the theme.

The words and concept came easily. I liked what I had written. It was good. With additional cutting, lifting, creating, finessing, it could be great.

Today, I picked up on it again. Bound. Determined. I checked the advertisement again. Originality–Check. Creativity–Check. Use of language–Check. Adherence to theme–Check.

Then I pulled myself back from the micro-view and took a look at the macro-view. Wait a second, now. Will this magazine’s editors see my subject matter as a fit for their magazine?

No. No they won’t. Why did I not see this from the start?

Because I got distracted. By prize money. By the thought of being published again.

So, I’m back to the memoir. And stashed away in my file folder is a decent personal essay about a difficult life lesson that boiled down to “my efforts weren’t wasted,” which ironically is the theme of today’s life lesson . . . that none of my efforts related to writing are wasted. Every time I put together something meant for someone else’s eyes, it commands me to write my best. Winning a contest is great, but I’m also winning whenever I’m writing under pressure, because it elevates my writing to higher heights. Whether I win a contest or not, I win whenever I pressure myself to write my best.

Copyright @ 2016 | All rights reserved.

A Writer, Quite by Accident

This is for all the late bloomers in the world_2__Liz Gilbert quote

“I am a writer.”

I nearly choke on the words. God help me if ever I am published and then must swallow the words “I am an author.”

I am a writer by accident. It started in 2007 when I wrote a rather long personal narrative, describing a difficult period of time for my husband and I for a memoir a ghostwriter was helping him write. The words I offered were written from a place of pain. The ghostwriter read my submission and asked, “Are you a writer?”

“Oh, no,” I replied, laughing off the suggestion.

Two months later, my narrative was thrown into the memoir, unedited (cringe). The ghostwriter didn’t want to change a thing. Several full chapters appeared in the final book in full italics, presented as “and in his wife’s own words . . . ”

The following year I signed up for an Adult Ed course at local community college–Novel and Memoir Writing. Even though I was 48-years-old at the time, I was a youngster in the classroom primarily filled with senior citizens, peppered with an occasional young’n like me.

There, I learned a few basics–the meaning of words relative to writing, like character, setting, point of view, tone, pace, suspense, and pace.
I’d never written creatively in the past. Creative writing felt difficult to me, like when I tackled my first sewing project decades earlier. With writing and with sewing, these projects required my full energy and took forever to finish. At least with sewing, though, the end product was perfect. With writing, not so much. But I kept at it.

The Adult Ed teacher announced he was offering another class–on the heels of the one we were in–Advanced Novel Writing. In order to participate, we would have to bring in a chapter of a piece we were working on. “You should sign up,” my teacher said.

“But I’ve never written a chapter in my life.”

“Well, you have a month, so better get to it. See you in the next class.”

When the teacher reviewed my work a month later, he gave me a 10 out of 10 for nearly all aspects of my work. My fellow students rated me as high and nearly as high. “You must read a lot,” my teacher said.

“Actually, no. That is, with the exception of self-help books.”

“Well, makes no difference. You are a writer.”

In 2011, I started a blog.

In 2013, I started another blog.

In 2014, yet another.

I joined a writers’ group. From that, I made connections and was approached by a fellow writer (an award-winning former TV producer) to do development editing on his memoir about the entertainment business. Two years later, I still work with him on that project, which further strengthens my own writing and editing skills. He’s about ready to seek a publisher for his manuscript.

Last summer, I spent two months writing 75,000 words of my own memoir. I’ve walked through a second draft, which may not ever see the light of day. I’ve been writing it from a place of pain and have been working my way out of the darkness there, but it has a long way to go. I understand now how some writers spend a decade writing one book. This book may suffer the same fate. It took me four years of avoidance to get around to writing that first draft.

Last year, I also accidentally came upon an opportunity to write a lengthy obituary for a Parachuting Hall of Fame nominee who died before knowing he was even under consideration for the award. I expected my words might be heavily edited and might appear, at best, in small print at the bottom of some page. Instead, my article received the slightest of edits and appeared as part of a full-page spread, along with the nominee’s photo. Not only did I have my name published with the article, but the magazine was larger than I expected. It was a nationally distributed magazine called Parachutist.

Today, I have a couple of short stories under consideration for publication in an internationally recognized book series. The stories are not literary masterpieces. They’re just stories from the heart.

“I am a writer.” The words still don’t sit right on my bones. They’re itchy and uncomfortable. And yet here I am now on my third, fourth, or fifth blog . . . I’ve lost count.

Despite my efforts to engage in other activities I also enjoy, I keep coming back to writing. I find a certain peaceful haven in writing. Even when the writing isn’t coming as easily as I’d like, it gives me peace of mind to get the words out of me, to get the idea of something out of me.

“I am a writer.” It’s true. I am.


I’d like to suggest something to you:

However it is that you’ve come upon writing, however late in the game it seems to you, embrace your desire to write. If it calls you, answer the call and write. Let it reveal itself to you. Let it grow within you till it feels comfortable to say, “I am a writer.” You just never know where it might lead you. Wherever you go with writing, it’ll have been worth the trip. It has been for me.

If you’re new to writing, how did it “hook” you?


Copyright @ 2016 | All rights reserved.