Writers, get your writing life in shape with The Writer’s Workout, by Christina Katz. As a former high school athlete, I love that the cover of this book looks like green basketball leather. I love the analogy of working out to build writing muscle and that the author presents herself as “your writing career coach.” Coaching runs in my family, after all. And now, in my 50s, I need my physical workouts like the earth needs the rain.
So the workout hook alone was enough to make me lay down $13 for the book. Well, that, and the writer’s proven track record, fanatic fans, and her motivating style.
But would the book actually be able to score? I’ve worked out with it a little over a month, and it scores by knocking one out of the park. A huge home run. Nothing but net. Enough of the mixed sports metaphors, you say. Okay, here are the basics.
The book is divided into 366 (it is Leap Year) workouts, each fitting handily on one page. It is best to follow the order of the tasks as presented because they sometimes build on each other. I sometimes complete one exercise per day, neglect the workout for a week, and then do five in one sitting. Doing so will not cause injury. But you will want to give each workout its due, otherwise you won’t reap the benefits.
Although I’m following the order as presented for the most part, the very first workout I turned to was Workout 135, Send a Query a Week. Why? Because this is an area of weakness for me and I wanted to strengthen it. The wealth of helpful information on this page alone was worth the price of the book! My approach of coming up with an idea first and hoping to find the right market wasn’t working. So now, as coached, I study the magazines and then come up with a custom idea to pitch. Duh!
Other favorite workouts include #20 in which I’m asked to list four keywords describing my roles in life, such as fitness-nut, teacher, parent, writer and then combine them: Teacher-Parent; Teacher-Fitness Nut, etc. and then take this a step further by describing in detail what kind of teacher I am, or parent, or whatever. The objective is to identify potential audiences for what I write about, and then target those publications which cater to said audiences. This process stimulated some ideas for articles that wouldn’t have appeared on the radar otherwise. How can a teacher incorporate needed fitness and healthful habits in a day spent with first graders in a nation that grows more obese by the minute? By taking her class on daily power walks, or by creating healthy snacks to enrich a lesson on George Washington of course.
Workout #23 Brainstorm Topics takes this a step further and provides a chart for carrying out the specifically detailed exercise for this day. I drew my own chart in my own notebook and quickly jotted down three article ideas for each of four identified roles — love this brainstorming business — and off I dribbled. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
Workout 24: Gather What You Need had me pick one of my brainstormed ideas and consider the research that would enhance it. I’m cautioned to spend “no longer than one hour on research” which is great advice for someone who spends more time researching than writing. Gathering a variety of research, such as apps available for my targeted article, Developing Number Sense in Children , listing interview sources (a colleague developed one such app and markets a product called Seeing Number!), and saving supporting texts and articles to a Favorites Folder filled my hour. A bit of extra effort and my teacher self brainstormed number sense activities that parents could easily carry out with young children during typical daily routines. Might this be offered as a side bar? I now had a sense of what I could offer readers with my article. This helped me craft a query letter for Parenting Magazine that was much better informed that my usual fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants routine. You know, get the assignment and then figure out how to develop it.
If you add only one resource to your writing library this year, or should I say, workout routine to your life, make it this one. It makes you stronger without making you sore! How many workouts can you say that about?
Click here for additional info about the workout and Coach Christina.