Authorship · What Ronnie Sue Knew - a memoir

Navigating Writer’s Block

After a summer full of writing activities, I found myself in a space where I have a bit of writer’s block. As I clicked on my laptop, trying to navigate this pause of inspiration, I came across the following quote…

Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.

Charles Bukowski

This post is my attempt to take Mr. Bukowski’s advice.

In July, as I was waiting for the various stages of the edit process of What Ronnie Sue Knew to be completed, I’d turn to blogging and podcasting to keep the gears turning. In my ongoing research about the writing process, I’ve learned that an author should be writing every day, and for a while, I was doing just that. However, as I’ve neared the latter part of the memoir-writing process, I haven’t had as many “aha!” moments where I’d have to run to the laptop and start clicking away. I think when you are finishing a big project, there’s a part of the writer’s brain that quiets down, maybe as a signal that it’s time to be done. I’ve spent the past week or so in a bit of a limbo, knowing that I’m so close to the finish line. In addition, I’m mindful that a new school year is about to begin (I’m a high school teacher), which will require a completely different part of my brain and will certainly consume much of my thought power.

The final edits of the memoir are just about done. Now, it’s a matter of spit and polish to make sure I minimize any errors that might be lingering in the final draft. I can now say that I’m prepping it for publishing; I got new author headshots, submitted everything to a cover designer, and I’m reviewing the process for submission to Amazon KDP for self-publication.

A little black and white
A little color

One night I worked on setting the copyright page for hours. Hours! When you are self-publishing, you have to be meticulous and you definitely need some assistance. I hired a great developmental editor, Shaundale Rénā, who happens to be in the Houston area, not too far from where my mom lived. For any new authors reading this, I STRONGLY suggest you hire someone like Shaundale. They basically go through your manuscript with a fine tooth comb, and determine if the story flows and makes sense. If there are issues, they will surely point them out and move things around to improve your work. She also did copy editing as a part of the job, which is for technical writing issues like punctuation and grammar – an absolute necessity, since a lot of writers (like me) aren’t masters in English composition. We have our story to tell and get our expressions on the page, but it really needs another set of expert eyes to make sure those expressions are of high quality. I have to say, I have learned a tremendous amount from Shaundale about technical writing. I still have a lot more to learn, and every project opens new doors to do so.

Even after Shaundale finished her job, I had to keep going through the manuscript to make sure what I have said is concise and reads well. Something I tried was reading certain passages out loud. That really helped me to hear things and I’d often have to make adjustments so the thoughts would flow better. Even with the editor’s help, it’s still your thoughts and you must make sure it rolls off the tongue smoothly, in your own voice. The last thing you want is for your reader to get distracted by poor syntax or a glaring grammatical, or worse, spelling error.

Every time I read through the manuscript, I find little things to fix. I think I’ve read through it another five times since Shaundale finished. I asked her if I would ever feel like I’m truly done with the book. She advised that I could go through it a dozen more times and think of something else. At some point, you have to decide to stop.

Summer break has been such a wonderful respite from my “day job.” I have so enjoyed donning the “author hat” and I’ve spent much time creating, analyzing, questioning, revising and condensing my thoughts. While I was writing thousands of words a day in July, the month of August has been a bit quieter on the keyboard. I think there’s a part of my brain that is tired of proliferating. The writing process by itself is an emotional one; writing a memoir takes it to another level. Every read-through of the book brings up so many emotions, requiring you to look at the past and put it into some kind of perspective. What lessons have you learned? What can you use from your past to make your life better? Sometimes, you have to gain that perspective through analyzing some difficult things from the past. That is a tough process that can be very draining, even anxiety-provoking.

Alongside the memoir, to help fill in the gaps, I wrote and recorded a ten-episode season of my podcast, A Moment of Mindful Meditation. Shameless plugs aside, I am really proud of this effort; it was something I had never done before, and helped me to delve into an area that I have been focusing on personally for several years. It challenged me to figure out how to focus my thoughts, create quality content, and share ideas that have been really helpful to me. The theme of the podcast was something I needed to stay connected to in order to weather the challenges of developing the book.

I am still in the fledgling stages of being an author. I have to keep saying that I am an author, because…well, I am one. I published my first play in April, How Do We Feel Right Now, which is available on Amazon (another shameless plug – I’m practicing my marketing skills here). I have several other books in various stages in my computer. Becoming an author is a slow process which I am embracing. I am willing to learn and I am learning how much I do not know, which is actually exciting! Who knows, maybe down the road, someone else will want to publish my thoughts. For now, I am happy to lay the groundwork while I still have my day job, and I’m happy to share the process with anyone who wants to go along for the ride.

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