Amid the many emails I receive from editors reminding me of deadlines, friends just saying “hi,” or companies wanting me to buy stuff, there will appear a valuable e-zine from writer/teacher Christina Katz, aptly titled “The Prosperous Writer.” There’s probably no one that is more of an advocate for writers and their successes than Katz, author of The Writer’s Workout, Get Known Before the Book Deal, and Writer Mama. Her valuable advice for writers has appeared in national, regional, and online publications as well as across the country where she’s been an encouraging word at writers’ conferences and workshops.
Lori: You’re an advocate for mothers who write. What sort of “techniques” must mom writers have to survive the writing life?
Christina: If you want to be a successful mom writer, you have to be able to “Just do it.” You can’t have a big ego about writing or be writing for imagined glory. Mom writers just don’t have time for this kind of self-indulgence. Maybe this no-nonsense factor is why I enjoy working with moms so much. In writing and in life, we moms know how to roll up our sleeves and just get stuff done. And that’s the most important technique any writer can learn. There are always going to be more things to master—literary forms, selling techniques, how to approach markets, and ways to expand readerships—but one thing that can’t be taught is “just freaking do it.” This determination has to come from the writer herself.
If you want to be a successful mom writer, you have to be able to “Just do it.” You can’t have a big ego about writing or be writing for imagined glory. — Katz
What are some major mistakes writers make when they begin a serious writing career?
The biggest mistake most writers make is they don’t aim for targets they can hit. They either aim way over their level of experience or they don’t have any specific goals at all. Aiming too high or not aiming at all both lead to the same inevitable result: discouragement. But when a writer chooses a reasonable, achievable goal and hits the bull’s eye, eureka! Something clicks inside—an awareness that sounds like, “Oooh, so that’s how you do it. Hey, if I did it once, I can do it again.”
When a writer shifts out of the realm of shoulda-coulda-woulda and into the realm of can-do, a connection is actually made between writer, editor/publisher, and readers. That connection is like the shot heard round the world in the writer’s consciousness. Every writer in the world wants to get read. But right this minute, there are about a million writers in the world who cannot get out of their own way and take the steps to make the simple, logical connection that will bridge the gap between access to their work and readers. The solution is: write something publishable and get it published. Then do it again. And again! Then you’re a published writer, who gets published, and keeps getting published. Problem solved.
Do writers tend to ignore or push aside the business aspects of writing? What is the most important part of the business side they should know?
I think there are two kinds of writers: resistors and embracers. For whatever reason, the resistor will resist the business aspect of professional writing. Meanwhile, the other type of writer will just shrug, and say, “Okay, what do I need to do?” I don’t know if this magnetic type of resistance/attraction is innate or learned, but I do know, from my own experience as a teacher and coach, if you lean on writers hard enough, long enough, and in a friendly manner, some of the resistors will eventually give in and start treating their writing like a business. So that’s what I do. I just kind of cheerfully lean on my students until they budge.
The most important part of being a writer in business is saying “Yes!” to money. Unfortunately, the starving artist mentality is alive and well. We have collectively swallowed the lie that says that writers can’t make money writing. The other lie is that you have to pay your dues forever, before you can expect success. In my experience, writers push money away by not expecting it in exchange for their efforts. And then they delay their success by telling themselves they have to pay their dues for far too long. Money and creativity go together. One begets the other. Creativity allows money and money allows creativity. We have to stop seeing them as mutually exclusive and start seeing them as mutually compatible.
Why are you a proponent of micro-publishing?
I am a proponent of micro-publishing because it unleashes a whole new level of creativity into the publishing playing field. The widespread availability of inexpensive technology means that micro-publishing is a huge opportunity for authors, both known and unknown. Empowering writers is my mission, so naturally, I’m excited about anything that has to do with raising the bar for writers as a whole and individually. Micro-publishing has always existed, however, thanks to the Internet and digital publishing writers have access to a global readership that was simply not possible in the past without a physical distribution process.
Micro-publishing is the future of publishing because the business exists on a spectrum now. What this means is that we are no longer merely talking about traditional publishing vs. self-publishing. We are already talking about a whole catalog of options when it comes to publishing even one idea. Is the work short or long? Is it for a small niche audience or a large wide audience? Is it in one genre or does it combine many? Does the delivery of the content involve other media or just words? Is the cost low or high? Do I get a subscription or a service with that? And how large is the author’s following? Whether the following is small or large, micro-publishing still works. Being able to launch a great idea and grow a readership underneath it is probably the single-most exciting thing about micro-publishing. I could go on and on about this topic, and I will because there are about a hundred reasons to be excited about it in the coming years.
What compelled you to write The Writer’s Workout?
I have a large body of work that comes from working personally with over a hundred writers a year. I wanted to be able to share the best of what I teach concisely, so that as many writers as possible could benefit from what I have learned. That’s really the essence of publishing—to take the best ideas and distribute them widely, but I had to find a way to take the enormity of all the specific details into digestible chunks. So I boiled the advice down into a chapter a day for every day of the year. And then I divided those suggestions into an order that made sense according to how far along a writer is on his or her professional journey.
Writing The Writer’s Workout was not an easy task or a simple book to write, but all the hard work and long hours were worth it to create the most helpful, accessible, and comprehensive book I have written thus far. Through the resulting short, daily chapter “workouts,” I am able to convey the same kind of incremental learning experience I offer to my real, live students in classes and training groups. Therefore mission accomplished.
… technically, I wrote a business book for writers, but it’s also a guidebook for aligning your deepest self-expression with the needs of the world right now. –Katz
In your opinion, how does writing compare to exercise?
I’m not sure I perceive a difference between the two except that the word workout can mean to exercise your body or to exercise your mind. Just as physical exercise benefits more than just your body, mental exercise benefits the whole person. Exercise is grounding and helps a person remember that they have a body in the first place. Writing is expansive and helps a person remember that he or she is more than just a body.
My latest book, The Writer’s Workout is about writing in and for this world. But most writers I know are aware that there is so much more to writing than what we can perceive on the surface of things. Writing is exercise for the soul. Most of us are looking for ways to integrate our inner journey with the outer world. I wanted to write a book about the intersection between the mundane and the profound. So technically, I wrote a business book for writers, but it’s also a guidebook for aligning your deepest self-expression with the needs of the world right now.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time when you’re not attending writing-related events? Hobbies? Interests?
We live in Oregon, just south of Portland and there are a ton of fun things to do and see. In a short drive we can be at the coast, at Mount Hood, or at Powell’s City of Books. In addition, we are a bunch of media junkies in my family and we all love new releases, Netflix, magazines and books.
My favorite way to spend a day off, though, is to hop in the car with my husband and daughter and take off to explore a local town that is unfamiliar to us. We’ll go out to eat, browse around the shops, and just soak in the local vibe. I’m an accidental collector and lover of flea markets and barn sales. We all enjoy antiquing adventures, although my daughter will say that she doesn’t even though she always finds something cool she would not have discovered otherwise.
I love old things, not necessarily for the history but for the visual aesthetics and the imagination escape. I guess I am a junk spelunker. Maybe in my next career I will become a junk artist. I don’t know what this is, but it sounds fun.