Memoir Writing, Perseverance, and Happy Father’s Day

by Matilda Butler on June 15, 2017

Question: What do you do when you know you are behind with your writing?

That’s the question I posed in my most recent blogpost that many of you received. I heard back from several of you and thought I’d share two special responses — one this week and one on July 25.

AND, I’d love to hear from anyone who wants to contribute thoughts on how to keep yourself going with your writing when you get behind or when there is so much competition for your time. I’ll post the best of the responses.

Here’s what I said in that blogpost:

Do you promise yourself that you’ll “write today, for sure”? But the day ends and you haven’t gotten around to it? Do you tell yourself that this is the day to do additional research for your memoir? But then you remember the upcoming birthday party and you spend the day cooking? Is your list of things-to-do-on-my-memoir long? But six months go by and you still have the same list?

Answer: Fewer promises and more actions

Yes, that’s right. Make fewer promises to yourself and to others. Instead give yourself permission to put aside non-writing items on your to-do list and get some writing (or book marketing) done. Your life story, your memoir is too important to let it settle to the bottom of your list. Take more actions. That’s what is needed and you can start today. Don’t tell yourself that you’ll do five things on your memoir. Just promise yourself that you’d do one thing (even writing a single paragraph) and then do it.

Now to That Response to My Question

Many of you remember Bill Thomas from some of his stories that I’ve posted here. I first met Bill through our other website, Rosie’s Daughters, when he send me a story about how he trained a number of Rosie the Riveters early in World War II. He soon joined the war effort and fought in Europe. Bill, now in his 90s, continues to write and is a real inspiration to me and probably to you.

Bill sent me the following email after he read my thoughts on what to do when you are behind on your writing. It ends with his article celebrating Father’s Day.



Hi Matilda,
I empathize with your great question and your responses to it.

For the articles I write and submit to three local, weekly newspapers, the deadline is 5:00 p.m. Thursdays.

I had about one half of the article done but my wife called me for dinner, which is at 6 pm. I almost always watch PBS NEWS during the meal. I ate and watched.

After that, I usually watch two other programs. I couldn’t resist watching “THE CAINE MUTINY.”

At 10 p.m. I decided to get back to my computer and finish my article about “A FATHER’S TRIBUTE TO ALL OTHER FATHERS”

Several hours later, I finished writing, editing, and rewriting the article. About 2 a.m. I submitted my article to the three weeklies. ( I was only about nine hours “late.”)

On Friday, about 8:00 a.m., I received an email response from one of the editors stating, “Thanks Bill! I know you are a great father!!”

So, that’s what I do when I’m not making the progress on my writing that I should. I find it pays to “keep plugging away.” Determination and persistence have their values.


PS In case you are interested, here’s my article.

Father's Day


By Bill Thomas

General George Washington led his army of patriots to defeat the British Army in the Revolutionary War, and declared our freedom and independence from the British hierarchy. Washington ultimately became our first president, and was known as the “FATHER of Our Great Country.“

John Thomaides was my FATHER, and the FATHER of three more sons and a daughter. My oldest brother, Tommy, died of an unintentional, careless error of poisoning at age five. I was three. I attended my first funeral to see a hole in the ground.

My dad was born in northern Greece in November, 1890. With only a 4th grade education and an unknown but small amount of money, he sailed on a very overloaded steamship to emigrate to America in 1914. He moved in with relatives in Detroit, Michigan.

World War I began in Europe in 1914. America became involved in WW I in 1917.

After working on a few odd jobs, Dad joined the U. S. Army in 1917. He was assigned to the 85th Infantry Division. After a few months of basic training, his unit sailed to France. Shortly thereafter, the 85th Division was reassigned to serve in northern Russia, 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle where they experienced weather temperatures down to 30 degrees below zero. The soldiers nicknamed their military unit as the “POLAR BEAR DIVISION.”

Several very odd situations developed. These American soldiers had to serve under British officers whose ENGLISH LANGUAGE they had difficulty in understanding and as well as in obeying the orders contained in those words. Worse than that was the Americans needed to learn and use FRENCH WEAPONS…. AND continue to wear UNIFORMS that were not suited to NORTH POLE conditions… and their forlorn SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS were the sleeping bags they laid on the snow piles after their “barracks” had burned completely… AND the very worst of all their miserable conditions was they didn’t know their purpose or mission to be lodged in such a barren, frozen location.

Fortunately, one day at “roll-call”, Dad met another countryman from Greece named Arthur Zoyiopoulos. They became very good friends. In fact, when these two soldiers returned to America, Arthur’s sister Maria married my dad and they became my parents. As a result of having served in the U. S. Army, both men, and thousands of other servicemen earned their American citizenship.

Dad went to court and had his last name changed from Tho-ma-ides to THOMAS. He often said, “I got tired of people pronouncing my name that sounded like TO-MA-TOES, so I pulled the “ide” out of “THO-MA-(ide) S; pushed the “S” up to THOMA, and my name became THOMAS.”

Arthur Zoyiopoulos would not change his name although he allowed people to call him “TOM” … so when his sister Maria married my dad, Tom became my Uncle Tom (after I was born.) Uncle Tom also became a FATHER of three sons.

My FATHER was a barber and operated his own shop starting in “The Roaring 20’s.” He had an attention-getting red, white and blue barber-pole near the entrance to his shop. Earnings from cutting hair and doing facial shaves enabled my FATHER to open a second barbershop, and he hired two barbers in each shop. Dad prospered through the 1920’s until the 1929 “Great Depression.” Many men, out of work, no longer could afford to have their hair cut as often as usual. Fewer men wanted professional shaves after the long-lasting “SAFETY RAZOR” was invented, and less expensive “shaving creams and after-shave” lotions were sold in the local drugstores.

I remember in the 1940’s, haircuts were 25¢, shaves were 15¢, and I shined men’s shoes for 5¢ on Fridays after school, and all day on Saturdays. Dad and I were often “paid” with home grown fruits and vegetables. Whenever some FATHERS came into the barbershop with a few sons, they paid Dad with a live chicken for all the haircuts and shaves they received.

During the years that my FATHER suffered the agonies of stomach cancer, he was determined that he and my mother would ride the train from Detroit to witness my wedding in Durham, North Carolina. A few years later my parents came to my home in Lakewood, California, primarily to see my son, Tim, be baptized. Dad was so happy and glad to complete his final mission in life. Soon after his return to Detroit, Dad’s horrendous disease caused his death.

How lucky I am to have had a FATHER-IN-LAW (and mother-in-law) to have borne and raised such a beautiful daughter to whom I have been married to for over sixty-six years; and who has helped me raise our three wonderful kids. I’m happy and proud to be the FATHER of three bright, happy, and successful kids; AND the GRANDFATHER of seven aspiring grandkids.

My two sons-in-law, each, are FATHERS to two children of their own.

My brother is the FATHER of five lovely daughters, and GRANDFATHER to eight grandkids.

Most men, worldwide, primarily of their own choosing, are FATHERS or will become FATHERS, GODFATHERS, and/or GRANDFATHERS. God bless them all.

ATTENTION, wives, mothers, sisters, brothers, cousins, grandmothers, aunts, et. al, ENJOY your relationship with your FATHER, not only on FATHERS’ DAY but everyday, in one way or another WHILE YOU CAN.

We thank our SUPREME FATHER, of whatever religion or none, for all the goodness HE has bestowed on each of us. “HAPPY FATHERS’ DAY” to all.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda Thomas June 16, 2017 at

Hi, Matilda, I sent you a private message on Facebook about my changed email address. I’m eager to keep in touch with you, especially about the book you plan to publish on first paragraphs. Many thanks.

Matilda Butler June 17, 2017 at

Hi Linda:
Thanks. I’ll make the change to your email address in my address book.

And I love that you are the perfect example of PERSEVERANCE. Reaching out to me in multiple ways is perfect. We are all busy and it is easy to miss a communication.

I will soon be able to return to work on the First Paragraphs book. Other projects, including some teaching, have taken all my time. But I think the book, including your piece, will be valuable to so many writers who struggle with effective openings.

Meanwhile, keep writing!

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