I took a package in 2019 and retired from the provincial civil service after a wonderful career of almost 30 years. I planned to travel, write a book about it, and when I got bored, work in a bookstore. That was the dream.
The reality was a bit skewed. I did some travel and a bit of writing, but before I could embark on a world cruise, COVID hit and, like the rest of the world, time stood still and life as I knew it was vastly changed. My freedom was compromised and it was a strong possibility that my health might be too.
I adhered to the public health restrictions, got a dog, and began to write every day. My writing group reviewed my work, as I reviewed theirs, via WhatsApp on a monthly basis. We formed the group in 2013 following our graduation from the Humber School for Writers. I didn’t know then that this writing group would form the foundation for my writing practice. Writing is only lonely, if you don’t surround yourself with like-minded and supportive people. When I was ready for people to see my book, I solicited friends from the world of publishing, writing, library science, marketing, and people who enjoyed a good read and asked for their feedback on my book. The majority loved the book; a few were squeamish about some of the content. I toned down the “gruesome” and decided on the non-traditional route of self-publishing through Amazon.
Having said this, self-publishing isn’t without its punishing rigour of engage, engage, engage. I create my own opportunities such as public appearances or reaching out to bookstores to acquire my book. Social media became my daily routine. I reached out to my readers, friends and family and made sure I always carried 2 copies of my book. When people who didn’t know me found out about my book, they asked to see it and, in most cases, purchased a copy.
For social media, I create new content daily, such as interviews, asking interesting questions, offering readings from my book, and producing videos to engage with my audience. Coming up with something new every day is difficult, especially for someone with limited marketing experience. I’m on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and I just established a Youtube Channel which will go live in February. I’m not sure about TikTok yet, but I’m certain there will be another social medial channel around the corner to watch for.
But writing a book, engaging on social media wasn’t enough to keep me busy. I needed a multi-pronged approach. I created a logo for my business, developed content, and offered workshops in creative writing.
Of course, I’m not stopping at one novel; I have another one on the way and I’m engaging with my new audience of followers, not just my friends, colleagues and family. I think I’ve tapped out that group.
I work all the time, but I control the narrative and whether or not I am successful is on me. Not that I wasn’t successful with someone else’s narrative. I loved my work in the civil service and in many ways it laid the groundwork for my business acumen.