- Title: "The Writer's Workout; 366 Tips, Tasks, & Techniques From Your Writing Career Coach"
- Author: Christina Katz
- Publisher: Writer's Digest
- 372 pages, $19.99usd
- Where To Buy: Author's Website or Purchase Here
Dear Readers, I absolutely must write this review for you, despite the fact that I am only halfway through "The Writers Workout." The issue here is that Christina's coaching is so useful, so realistic, and produces such actionable results that I am finding myself actively engaging with the book in a way that I don't generally do when I am reading mostly for you, with my main goal being to review a book for my readers. Since there is so much value in the exercises (though they are brief), I have been stopping and completing them, following them to their logical end, and even (already) implementing them in my own writing career. Of course, doing this slows down my "review reading," and so I'm stopping at Tip 127 of 366 to get this review published so that you can join me in this wonderful training.
Organization of "The Writer's Workout"
Let's look at the trope here in order to understand the setup of the book. Christina notes that shaping a writing career is much like shaping the career of an athlete. It takes an accrual (her word) of time and practice. As an athlete, I can relate to this. When I first start running in spring, I don't do a half-marathon. I do a couple miles and accrue until my summer races.
So, Christina fashions her short tips in the format of a year-long training program, organized by seasons. Each season (kind of) coordinates to where you are in your career: "Get Going" in the spring, "Find Your Stride" in the summer, "Become Recognizable" in the fall and "Coach Yourself" in the winter. Now, I say "kind of" because it's not that spring is only for new writers and winter is only for experts. In fact, you can almost view this as a metaphor for your projects instead of for your overall career. For example, perhaps you are in the spring of your book-writing project, but in the fall of your article writing work.
Each tip is one page or less, and there are 366, so today, Leap Day (as I write this) is not left out. When I first approached the book from the point of a reviewer and distiller for you, dear reader, I was able to nicely digest about 10 of these tips in a reading. However, as the book ramps up, there are more to dos, from exercises, to capturing ideas, to executing step-by-steps. I therefore started slowing down and really engaging with the work being asked of me.
This book reminds me of Natalie Goldberg's classic "Writing Down the Bones," because each portion is just the right size (bite-sized would be accurate), generally has an actionable ending, and is written in an encouraging, nurturing way.
Styles and Themes in "The Writer's Workout"
In fact, let's pause here and talk about Christina's voice, style and themes. Even though she does have a "teacherly" way about her, she also employs a no-nonsense, no-excuses tone where appropriate. She doesn't hold back; this is a great career, but it's a career that takes some work. Yes, you will have excuses. No, they are not good enough. We writers need this kind of coaching. In fact, she very much reminds me of one of the best running coaches that I've ever worked with. She is indeed a "coach" in every sense of the word.
A second recurring theme that Christina visits often is that of forming positive habits. This encouragement is good for writers in any season of their career. Writing is indeed a career made of habit. Many of the tips touch on habit-forming and the routines of writing.
Some Favorite Tips from "The Writer's Workout"
Some of the tips are simple things to keep in mind for later in your career. For example, Tip 7 clues new writers into the fact that you'll eventually need to build a platform, but doesn't necessarily get into the specifics of that. It's not needed, and it would be overwhelming at this point in the game. I think this set up is valuable; if I were to write a book in my career, I won't necessarily be surprised by the extensive work of promotion. It's been set up for me. But I've not been distracted into outlining a marketing plan before it's really time.
One of my favorite tips is also one that generated a lot of work and took me in some new directions. You may recall Christina is the Writer Mama. She knows writing and she knows mothering, and she built an early career on that combination. Tip 20 directs you in finding your own knowledge/skill/role combination by brainstorming the various personas you take, and finding ways to mine those roles for writing ideas. What a wonderful exercise! Personally, I'm a Runner Mama, a Runner Writer, a Mama Poet, and a Teacher Writer. The list goes on, and so will yours.
In addition, Tip 41 breaks writing down into two distinct parts. Now, you'd think this would be fairly obvious to me as someone who has taught composition before, and to a point, it is. But Christina names it and points it out in a way that's useful for career planning. Writing can be boiled down to form and content. She recommends collecting sample writing that appeals to you on one of these levels and keeping two separate inspiration baskets to collect that writing. Perhaps you find a piece in which you like the form of the writing. Perhaps the tone is lyrical or the style is concise and would work for your web clients. You would gather that piece into your "form" collection. Or, perhaps you've found a piece in which you like the content, and would like to write on the subject matter yourself. This piece would go into the other idea file. I teach my writing students to keep a file of inspiration, too. But, since reading this, I've told them Christina's suggestion, and recommended the book to them. Yes, it's that good.
Favorite Quotes from "The Writer's Workout"
Each of Christina's 366 tips are led by a quote about writing. In addition, some of Christina's own words resonate, too. Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from the book. If these inspire you, then that's all the more reason to get your copy now!
"Writing is a process where you start out green and write and write and write until the words just flow and you no longer think about what you are doing because you lose self-consciousness." (Christina Katz)
"If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented." (Stephen King)
"Writers are no strangers to self-destructiveness." (Christina Katz)
"If something inside of you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal." (Anne Lamott)
New Writers Take Note
One caveat. The 366 tips aren't grouped by things like "writing for magazines" versus "writing a book" versus "growing your platform." Therefore, this book may seem a little overwhelming to new writers, particularly if read in a linear style. I've found many new writers get overwhelmed by the volume of information out there. Don't let that be an excuse not to move forward. Instead, you can use the table of contents to focus on the tips that apply to whatever it is that you want to accomplish now, this year.
So, my recommendation? Order this book, now. Today. Make a new commitment to your writing, and place your trust in one of the leading writer's coaches available today.