Author Spotlight

Ten Steps to a Better Body (of Literary Work)

I took my first “Jazzercise” exercise class many moons ago, after the birth of our first child. Although I never quite regained my pre-pregnancy figure, I’ve been going to fitness classes ever since. An unexpected perk to the the time spent in pursuit of muscle tone is that it has taught me lessons which can be applied to my writing efforts as well.

Photo credit as Dianne Ochiltree
Photo credit: Dianne Ochiltree

1. GET TO THE GYM. This one has tripped up many a new health club member. I won’t see the results of a stair-climbing machine on my bathroom scale until I’ve actually stepped onto it. Likewise, I can’t finish manuscripts until I’ve spent the hours required in front of the computer keyboard.

2. WORK OUT WITH FRIENDS. It’s easy to become discouraged when facing the challenge of just one more leg lift–or one more revision—alone. A writers group and/or critique partners do more than provide feedback on your developing craft. Like workout buddies, fellow writers can encourage, commiserate and help you stick with it long enough to accomplish your goals.

3. VARY YOUR WORKOUT TO KEEP IT INTERESTING. The quickest way to fitness burnout is to do only one kind of exercise, day after day. The same can be said for writing! For example, you may not be a poet. Write a poem anyway. What you discover in the process may give your prose new energy.

4. DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE. You must breathe deeply when exercising. This is how your muscles get the oxygen they need to work hard. You can give your creativity breathing space by practicing mental yoga: as you exhale old thoughts of ‘blank page, no ideas,’ breathe in creative inspiration.

5. EXERCISE ON A SCHEDULE. To get fit and stay that way, you not only have to show up at the gym that first day—you have to keep showing up, week after week. So it goes with your writing. Give each project a deadline, as well as an outline of the steps needed to bring it to completion.

6. DON’T GIVE UP. Even professional athletes stumble when faced with a new physical challenge. But they keep running, jumping and lifting anyway. For writers, rejection letters and editorial notes are just part of the training program-a way to build strong writing muscles and stamina. Don’t allow a few missteps to stop your momentum.

7. STRETCH BEFORE YOU EXERCISE. A few minutes spent warming up muscles with a pool side stretch makes swimming laps easier and more effective. You shouldn’t dive into your writing projects cold, either. Stretch and flex with journal entries, brainstorming and other writing exercises before attacking your task at hand.

8. IF YOU GET CONFUSED, WATCH THE PERSON IN FRONT OF YOU. The easiest way to learn a fitness routine is to mimic the moves of someone in the row ahead. Make it a habit to read interviews, how-to articles, and biographies of writers you admire. What have they learned that can help you in your own writing?

9. NO PAIN, NO GAIN. In order to gain stamina and muscle mass, we need to experience a bit of discomfort. Similarly, a writer may have to to try new ways of crafting words that are out of your creative comfort zone.

10. WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, BREATHE. When rhythm-challenged me is faced with a complicated dance move, I hold my breath. My body and brain freezes up. I could get frustrated and quit. Or I can just breathe, listen to the music’s beat, and find my feet naturally back in the groove. Likewise, when the right words and images refuse to take shape on the page, I find it helps to just breathe, listen carefully to the words of the story that is trying to be told through me, and to take dictation.


Dianne beach, larger file
Stephanie Dubsky Photography

Today’s guest blogger is Dianne Ochiltree. Dianne is a nationally-recognized children’s author of picture books for the very young, writing coach, and certified yoga instructor residing in sunny Sarasota, Florida. Dianne’s most recent release is It’s a Seashell Day (Blue Apple Books, July 2015). For more information about Dianne and her books, go to

Please note as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at

One comment

  1. Dianne Ochiltree

    THANKS so much for the chance to connect with ALSC members. It’s always a joy to be in cyberspace with fellow readers, writers and literacy advocates. Hope that today’s blog is helpful in keeping that creative spark alive in all our writing efforts. Big namaste to you all!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *