Today it's my pleasure to welcome author Kathy Obuszewski to the blog to talk about how lockdown has been a productive period for her.
Before COVID happened, I struggled with my second novel. I didn't know where I wanted it to go at all or had any direction with it. I had a ton of leadership books that were just collecting dust. I was struggling at marketing and creating interest for my first novel, Deking the Puck.
As the world found out about COVID, I also had my world rocked by a melanoma diagnosis and they didn't know if it spread through my body. I had to get the lymph nodes biopsied to see if it spread. We found out the hard way, my lymphatic system is active so instead of testing one or two nodes, they had to test 5 of them in three different areas of my body. So I was extremely stressed out by the cancer diagnosis since there was so much I couldn't control like the outcome and, quite frankly, the surgery hurt a lot. My surgery was basically a month before they issued a Stay at Home Order.
In all honesty, I was looking forward to the Stay at Home Order. I needed it for the recovery and the ability to stretch out cause going into everything I was super sore going to work each day. I wouldn't recommend getting the both sides of your groin cut open when you have 12 stitches in the back. I knew we were going to have a quarantine. In my mind, it was more of for how long and when it would happen.
So the first week off, I didn't have any official work commitments. I'm a workaholic and a learner by nature. So I needed a plan. I decided I wanted to write, improve my graphic design skills and social media marketing so I could sell my books. I was doing some roundtables from NIRSA (a professional organization for leaders in collegiate recreation) just to see the landscape around me. Since I was struggling with my plot line, I wanted to write 500 words a day. Pretty basic ideas to work on each day.
Then work flipped on me and needed me to do 40 hours of work from home. That's no easy feat for an aquatics manager with no pool access. So I had to turn to learning to fill my work day. I decided to do an area of attack which would be first leadership theory, positive psychology specialization (which was so I could explore more grit theory), graphic design and social media marketing.
If you are wondering what this has to do with my writing career, it's EVERYTHING. Everything I listed above was transferable skills across my writing as an author and as an aquatics manager.
I realized as I was listening to Grit and then High Performance Habits, I didn't hang out or learn from other writers. Let alone romance writers. I really didn't know anything but I knew I was missing the marketing piece to my hockey romances. I needed to do more deliberate practice- writing more than 500 words a day. If I learn so much from my peers in NIRSA, shouldn't I be doing the same with romance writers? So eventually as I was hearing the advice to find a mentor in an audiobook, I googled Facebook groups to look for other romance authors. I found out quickly that Level Up Romance Writers was the group for me. Everyone was trading advice, setting up newsletter swaps, and even cross promotions. Then they started to run sprint rooms which was something that was recommended in an accountability course: work for 25 minutes straight and then have 5 minutes to get up and relax. Then repeat. I've gotten so much done thanks to the sprint room.
I'm a big fan of doing deliberate practice but not getting married to the process of writing if it's not working. I hand wrote Deking the Puck and I attempted to hand write book 2. It wasn't happening. I hated the story and I was hating the characters. As I was typing up what I had handwritten, so many ideas were coming for book 2. Even more ideas started to happen when I started to type especially as I was talking with a friend about our ideas for stories. I realized I needed to put in a huge piece of me and process my melanoma stuff. From there I was buzzing and feeling the story. It was quick to write it all. I was able to find the right mix of everything and The 200 Foot Game was born. I finished that in about a month for the rough draft and lately it’s been about polishing it. I know my first two beta readers enjoyed the story.
From hanging out with other authors, I realized I needed a story I felt comfortable giving away and creating a newsletter. That was the birth of a novella idea. I actually was working on a different story to give away but I knew it was problematic. Trying to do a redemption story of a cheater is difficult and even more so when it was the woman who did the cheating. I mentioned to my writing group, I wasn't looking forward to writing the sexy time since it was going to be so bad for the characters. Everyone had a visceral reaction telling me what I knew: that people weren't going to like that story. So I abandoned that about 6,500+ words in. Since I still needed a novella, it was time to find a new idea. I have been thinking about a Christmas story for a while. I mentioned it to my author friends and they loved the idea. It was so easy to write since it was something I have been dreaming about for a while. I loved the story in the end. I love The Sound of Christmas and that only took me about a week to write.
Now I'm working on book 3 of my hockey romance series. I am handwriting it because that's how the characters are speaking to me. I'm liking how it's coming along.
I'm starting to look at how to launch The 200 Foot Game for it's August 15th release. I am working on creating a scavenger hunt to help promote a few writers and get the word out. I am actually using my graphic design skills to create polished social media posts. I’m also reaching out to bloggers.
Don't get me wrong, there have been moments of doubt and worry. I definitely thought at times I wouldn't ever finish my second novel. I had moments of doubting my ability to do graphics and marketing. But I used that worry to drive me harder. I can control my output and my creativity. I can’t control when the world will reopen and when I can play or watch hockey again (although the NHL has started to set dates for the games).
As I return to work and I look back on the past three months, I'm proud of myself. I have new specializations in both positive psychology and graphic design for non designers, a tribe of romance writers to get advice from, a completed novel and a completed novella. I have big plans for the future. I feel like I can accomplish everything. I know a huge part was thinking that this was a temporary hold on my life with changes to come and a time where I can focus my energy on writing more. It’s great to have the perspective that with time and effort, I can do and write so much.
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