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Review of The Writer’s Workout by Christina Katz

Updated on April 5, 2017
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

Beth is a published author. She teaches creative writing to adults and loves helping her students improve their writing skills.

Exercise Your Writer's Muscles

Wake up your writing talent.
Wake up your writing talent. | Source

366 Tips, Tasks, & Techniques from Your Writing Career Coach

If you need some help to progress your writing career, I recommend the author Christina Katz and her book The Writer's Workout: 366 Tips, Tasks, & Techniques from Your Writing Career Coach. I saw this in my local bookstore and bought it because it looked an interesting read.

This coaching book does what it says on the cover. It contains a writing related tip for every day of the year. 366 tips may seem a large volume of advice to digest, but Christina Katz has divided the book into four parts. Each part relates to the four seasons (or stages) of a writer’s career.

It is arranged in short chapters that are easy to dip into and out of without losing the thread of the narrative. It’s a great book for encouraging you to stretch your writing horizons. I find reading a few pages of the workout make an ideal five minutes’ break from day-to-day chores. You can switch off from your busy day and digest tips and anecdotes that will help motivate you to be a more focused and productive writer.

Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, then for a few close friends, and then for money.

— Moliere

Book Review of The Writer’s Workout

The first section of The Writer’s Workout, Spring, has tips and techniques to get your writing started. It contains warm-up exercises. Like an athlete, you need to exercise your writer’s muscles and practice before you can compete in the major leagues.

The Summer section of the book is about finding your stride as a writer. The daily pieces of advice help you hone your craft and become better and more effective at what you do. You are encouraged to try new writing challenges. You are supported through negativity and learn to become more resilient and determined in your career.

The Fall is the stage where you are encouraged to become more visible as a writer. Ms. Katz gives ideas and tips to help you create an online presence. The benefits of using social media and creating an author’s website are put in the context of connecting with your readers. All the time, she advises baby steps rather than a big leap into the unknown. Her advice helps make a somewhat daunting task seem very achievable.

The final section of the book, Winter, is about learning to be your own coach and mentor. Once you have achieved your writing goal of being a real writer, then you need to learn to trust your own judgement about what works and what doesn’t. As Christina says “At the end of the day, and at every major crossroads, there is only one person you can ultimately rely on to choose the best course for your career, and that’s you.”

Get into the habit of writing down ideas as you think of them.
Get into the habit of writing down ideas as you think of them. | Source

Little Gems of Wisdom

This is not a book to be read at one sitting, nor is it designed to be devoured that way. It is a dish best served in small dollops. The sections are structured to be read one each day, although I prefer to read a few at a time. That way the tips and ideas gleaned from them can ferment and mature in my brain over the next few days. I find I need this reflection time to make the best use of Christina Katz’s words of wisdom.

Her best pieces of advice are worthy of putting on a post-it note so that you can refer to them easily. For example, “Set one short-term goal you can accomplish this week, and start walking bravely towards it. Forget the future; leave behind evidence that you hit your short-term goal this week instead.”

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Prepare for Being a Writer Like an Athlete in Training

This book compares a writer to an athlete. To complete a marathon, a sports person needs to train regularly to achieve muscle strength, suppleness and endurance. As a writer, you must learn to overcome rejection and acquire the character traits of persistence and resilience. Along the way, you will learn to improve your writing skills and the best way to connect with your readers.

To test your readiness for the big race, Ms. Katz suggests you try the 5 minute, 500-word sprint. For this exercise you need a blank sheet of paper (or an empty computer screen) and a timer. Sit down somewhere you will not be interrupted and set the timer for 5 minutes. Pretend you are writing an email or short letter to your best friend about your recent weekend away. You must write solidly for the whole 5 minutes. It doesn’t matter if it is garbage, just write down a stream of consciousness.

Describe in minute detail what you saw and where you went. Write about who you were with and who you missed. Write and keep writing until the buzzer sounds. Then stop. You will have written about 500 words and should feel slightly elated. Give yourself a pat on the back, you have achieved all that in just 5 minutes! Think how much more you could write if you really concentrated on your craft for a few hours a day?

Are you ready for the 5 minute 500-word sprint?

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Writing Coach, Tutor and Mentor

Summer is the season of growth and consolidation. The writing tips in this section are aimed at encouraging you to look closely at your writing and prepare for success. There are helpful hints about pitching your work to the right market at the correct time. There are useful exercises to broaden and deepen your resource pool of ideas. There are short lessons that help you to strengthen the structure of your stories.

One of my favorite parts of this book is the quotes from successful authors that sit atop each page. These alone can motivate me to starting a serious session of writing. Here’s one I like from William Zinsser, author of On Writing Well. There are “four basic premises of writing: clarity, brevity, simplicity, and humanity.”

Even if I don’t have time to immediately read the rest of the page, I can carry the quote around with me in my head and mull it over while I do other things. Some of my best writing ideas appear to develop from nowhere, but have in fact been sparked by one of these sayings from a well-known author.

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Good Writers Are Gutsy Readers

Throughout “The Writer’s Workout”, Ms. Katz makes suggestions of books you should read to help you on your writing career path. I have read some of her recommendations and found them useful. I intend reading more of them as her choices seem good ones. They cover topics such as grammar rules as well as more general behavioral texts to help you cope with rejection as a writer. She says you should “keep rejection in perspective. Once you experience it you have two choices: you can bounce back, or you can quit. … The people who succeed in the long run are those who do not quit in the short run.”

The Fall section of this book is about building your identity as a writer. Christina covers the practical aspects of becoming well-known online. She discusses the value of social media and how to tap into online writing opportunities such as websites and e-books. But she also reminds you that you are an individual with a unique talent. Take time to remember who you are and why you are writing.

Prove you are a writer by writing often. Don't just put on airs of being a writer; actually write. Write anything. Anytime. Anywhere. On anything. Because you are a writer, that's why.

— Christina Katz

Christina Katz’s Book is a Great Writing Career Coach

The concluding part of this volume, Winter, is a pat on the back for having got this far. By reading and following at least some of Christina’s tasks and techniques, your writing will have improved. You should now be able to self-critique your work and be your own writing coach going forwards. I learned a lot of new self-help tips from this book and will refer to it again as I progress in my writing life.

Front cover of The Writer's Workout by Christina Katz
Front cover of The Writer's Workout by Christina Katz | Source

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    • The Stages Of ME profile image

      The Stages Of ME 2 weeks ago

      Thank you, this hub was full of inspiration!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Great idea to have something to work on everyday. Seems like what I need.

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