Don’t Let Your Momentum Block an Insight

Have you ever purchased an art instruction book, brought it home, flipped through it admiring all the pretty pictures, then set it down to “read thoroughly… later”? 

I’ve done that more times than I care to admit. Here’s my reading pattern:

If a book is 90% words with very few illustrations (say, a novel with a tiny drawing at the beginning of each chapter), I barely look at the drawings.

If a book is 90% illustrations with detailed text, I barely look at the words.

So here’s my current challenge: if I’m writing a book that offers both words and pictures, how do I make both elements equally interesting, inspiring, worthy of the reader’s time?

My next book is an illustrated memoir. I decided to consult professional graphic designers to explore this text/image balance issue. I visited a great website called Reedsy, a multiple-service resource for authors and publishers. I requested five quotes on the layout I’m considering, and as a result, started rethinking everything.

The potential design expense is impressive, so I dove down the rabbit hole of self-publishing software, to learn to do all the layout work myself (in my “spare time”!). I can’t learn software and write simultaneously, so what should I do first?

SCREECH (the sound of brakes squealing in my head…)

Wait a minute, did you say, “Should”? Big red flag!

“You’re writing this book for joy,” I said to my captive audience, me. “You enjoy writing. You’re sharing pictures from your sketchbooks because they’ll let the reader travel through time with you, to sit next to you as you observe, and sketch, and chat while checking out the people and squirrels and traffic in front of you. This is meant to be exciting, not an obligation!”

As William Zinsser says, “Given a choice between two projects—one that you feel you ought to write and one that sounds like fun—go for the one you’ll enjoy working on. It will show in your writing. The reader should always think that the writer is feeling good.” (Writing About Your Life, William Zinsser pg. 48)

So I set aside all the software ideas and wrote quick thank-you notes to those lovely graphic designers. Then I created a simple working document, the same design I used for planning “Look at That!” in the summer of 2020. I’m using my old buddy, Microsoft Word. 

Draft of cover for Double Take

If you would like to write a little book, just for yourself, here’s one way to approach it:

1- Open a new document in MS Word.

2- Go to the Layout tab.

3- Click on Landscape orientation, then click 2 column.

4- Whenever you want to insert an illustration, go to Insert text box —->  draw text box

5- After the box is created, go back to Insert—> Pictures—> from this device, and drop in the picture you like.

6- Then play with the size and shape of the box, and move it around until you like it. If you want to get really fancy, you can have the text flow around the text box.

I print each page after I’ve finished a good “first edit,” fold it in half so the text is on the outside, punch three holes in the “binding” edge, then clip them into an A5 looseleaf notebook.

Possible “look” of the book interior

Viola! This way, I can watch my book grow using actual paper, not just virtual screens. Just think, you too can create a booklet called “My Sketchbook Greatest Hits” for your own pleasure, or to share with close friends and family.

Of course, there are more sophisticated ways of creating a finished product at Staples or at an online printer, and I will surely do that once I’m closer to the finish line. If for now you just want to write and would love to watch it grow, this is my quaint way to enjoy the process.

When I’m done, I’ll have a single copy of a book that I will probably publish. In the meantime, all I can think of is, “This is going to be fun!”


As always, feel free to forward this post to anyone you think might enjoy it.

Questions? Comments? Public comments can be posted below. Private questions, comments, etc. will reach me by using the Contact link here.

The Tip Jar is available here if you found this post or this website helpful.

Finally, thanks so much for spending some “aloft” time with me.

About Bobbie Herron

I live surrounded by watercolor brushes and paints, fountain pens, sketchbooks, and journals- often wanting more than anything to write and paint at the same time. If you like what you're reading, feel free to share it with others. If you see something that needs correction, please let me know. Thanks for visiting!
This entry was posted in Book #2, Musings on Life, Tip Jar, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Don’t Let Your Momentum Block an Insight

  1. lauriekiely says:

    Love your writing, your energy, your inspiration! Thank you for lifting my spirits and reminding me
    to have fun!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pete Hobson says:

    Wow Bobbie your on fire here. I’m reading this at 4:40 am having just come out of hospital and waiting for my sleep patterns to return to nocturnal. What a joy this is. I’ve had ‘uncle Reg and his Extremely Short pencil in scraps of sketchbooks and in dark recesses for 20 plus years. The creative process I’ve put to one side for lack of confidence and fear of ‘The Keyboard.” You’ve just given me the gentle kick up the derrière I needed. Even texting gets me agitated. Predictive or non predictive does not allow for pre 1956 forefingers and arthritic algorithms. “Well she doesn’t sound all ‘techy’ maybe I could give this a go” If he ever gets onto paper I’ll send him to say hello. He will now, wow. Thankyou.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Pete, I’m eager to meet Uncle Reg! 🙂 Thanks so much. For some of us, there’s just nothing like flipping through the pages of a physical book, even if it’s a one-of-a-kind book. Good luck, and thanks for the enthusiastic feedback. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Paperblogging says:

    Yes, “this is going to be fun!” I love the small binder idea.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Judy MaryC says:

    You cannot beat good ol’ Word for simplicity. Love this. There is very little satisfaction to be found in seeing the limited amount of text visible a screen at a time, but to have it all printed out and there growing in front of you is a master stroke. I will be adopting this for my garden story. You come up with such good ideas my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

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