What Richard Simmons Taught Me About Being A Writer (Reprise)

Richard Simmons Who?😉

These days we might have a bit of trouble imagining the energy of Richard Simmons and his brand of exercise videos. Heck, even in the Hey Day of Sweatin’ to the Oldies it was heard to imagine that kind of energy, at least for me. Though… it worked for him!

If you haven’t seen Mr. Simmons’ iconic series from the late 1980s, well, you can always catch snippets on Youtube or order a boxed set on DVD (yes, really). He probably was one of the first to make “Dance Like No One is Watching” into a brand. But when you’re watching those snippets, remember the real goal here… to forgive yourself when you slide and get right back into the Doin’ and the Movin’. And write…. I mean dance like no one is watching.


Richard Simmons. Frizzy, bedazzled, uber-enthusiastic. What better cheerleader could you ask for in the realm of weight loss? I’m a grumpy pessimist and even I can’t help but smile at the man’s boundless, cheerful energy.

Plus, the most important thing I’ve learned about writing, I learned from him.

Okay, well, it wasn’t about writing. It was about keeping diet and exercise goals. And maybe I’m mis-remembering. Maybe it wasn’t Richard Simmons, but someone else that imparted this wisdom, but I like to think of it coming from a man who isn’t afraid to wear shorty shorts.

What did I learn? This:

Today, you have the opportunity to do better than yesterday.

None of us are perfect. In the land of weight-loss, a bastion of self-discipline might meet a piece of chocolate cake that can’t be refused. The early-morning exerciser might over-sleep when the forgotten alarm clock doesn’t ring. Without getting on a soapbox about dieting versus lifestyle changes, it’s obvious that a plan shouldn’t be abandoned after one failure. Or two or three failures. Yet, that’s what often happens. “I’ve blown my diet. Pass me a second piece of cake.”

That’s where Richard’s advice comes in. Two pieces of cake? That was yesterday. Today, forgive yourself and do better. Get back to eating healthy; sweat to some oldies.

We get this way with writing goals too. The goal is to write 500 words daily. Unfortunately, after a couple successful weeks, the word count spreadsheet lists 323 words on Monday , 122 on Tuesday, and 275 on Wednesday. It’s easy to throw in the terrycloth towel after not meeting the goal a few times. “That’s only 720 words instead of 1500. I’ve blown my writing goal. Why should I bother shooting for 500 words today?”

Because you have the opportunity to do better than yesterday. Writing 276 words is better than yesterday, and a whole lot better than zero words. Sitting down to writing that 276 might reap more.

Inherent in this philosophy is self-forgiveness. It’s good to look at yesterday and decide on what can be done better, but it’s useless to dwell in the failure. Don’t arrive at day 80 and find that nothing was achieved after “blowing the goal.”

For the last couple of years, I’ve run in a 5K race. I’m not much of a runner. I do it because it’s exercise and a group of my friends like running the event. This year, I wanted to beat last year’s time. About halfway through, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I had to slow down and walk too many times. That didn’t mean I didn’t run my hardest in the last quarter mile. I didn’t beat my time, but I still finished. I was a little mad at myself for not pushing harder. Yet, I still run. I’ll train more and do better next time.

These writing goals that we make? They’re like running that race. As long as we go forward, we finish. It’s not all or nothing unless you quit.

Yesterday is past. I can’t do anything about only writing only 57 words yesterday. Today is a different. Today, I have the opportunity to do better.


Katherine Nabity

Check-in 5/28

Sunday, Sunday… so good to be…. Sunday ROWin’ will guarantee…

That it’s time to share how your week has gone, fellow ROWers! (What else?)

It can also guarantee we will be with you, all these 80 days, cheering you on, giving you little nudges.

So let us know how things are going for you here at our linky.

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Check-in 5/24

Wednesday is here, and it’s time again for you to share your progress (or lack there of) since Sunday.

We ALL can relate to this sometimes!

Before you add your post to the linky though, let me give a small shoutout to a fellow writing challenge coming up in June. Yes, I do mean JuNoWriMo, the 50K WriMo of the other half of the year (yep, I will be hosting sprints on Twitter for people hoping to add some extra words in June to their projects).

If you know of a writing (or reading! Writers are readers after all) challenge you want to support, let us know here at the ROW80. And since we are ROCking this year, feel free to add any creative challenge you’d like to share. Let’s support each other in our creative passions and our beloved projects.

Here’s your linky… ROW80 list.

Living Life as Imagined

When you looked into the ROW80—heck, when you looked at a computer or a blank page and decided you wanted to make something uniquely of you with it—what did you envision for your future? Not only the achieving of the goals you set at the opening of a ROWnd, but after several rounds, after years (in or out of these challenges)….

What do you see for yourself? How can the ROW80 help you get there?

Here’s the perspective of fellow ROWer and past sponsor to show one way to try reaching that person inside you:

Live The Life You Imagined

A Round of Words in 80 Days is meant to remind us writers that we have lives outside of writing. Not only that, but the life outside of writing is often what inspires us to write in the first place! My inspirational post will be short today because I want to practice what I preach. I want to get out there and live.

I don’t only want to get out there and live, I want to live the life I imagined. Here’s a secret of mine: I’ve been in the real world for ten months (I went straight to grad school after undergrad, so I’ve been in school the last seven years). It has been a tough transition because I understood the academic system like the back of my hand. I still don’t quite understand this whole “working for a paycheck” vs “working for the love of it.” A week or so ago, however, I realized that maybe I’m just looking at things with the wrong attitude.

When I was little, I imagined I would be a published author by the time I was 25. Check. I wanted to have my own place, be independent. Check and check. Now, I don’t have a husband, which I thought I would by this point, but doesn’t every 16-year-old think that? If this is something I want, truly, then I need to be out there living rather than writing alone.

I’m not saying don’t write. Just don’t write alone. Go to a coffee shop, library, wi-fi enabled restaurant if you write on the computer. Go to the park and write in your journal. Surround yourself with people and engage them when the opportunity strikes. You never know what might happen. Perhaps you will have a conversation that inspires your next chapter or book.

At the end of the day, your experience with ROW80 is determined by your attitude and availability. Where do you see yourself when this round is complete? Can you imagine it? What do you have to do to get there?

Whatever it is, get out there and do it. Why wait? Live the life you imagine you will be living in June today.


Belinda Kroll

Check-in 5/21

Wow! Another week of creativity has passed us by. Don’t know about you all, but I’m finally starting to feel a sense of flow here (about time, isn’t it?).

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash.

Why don’t you share your progress with us?

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What it Is (or is not) About

We all have an idea of what we want to get out of these online challenges Some are grandiose, some less so… but we all know what we want, what it means… what it’s all about… But do we really?

Now I’m not sure. Are you? What is it?

Well, as sponsor Alice McElwee noted in her great post: It’s Not About Quality OR Quantity.” (This is a repost from May 2, 2011)


Writers are often a bit neurotic, especially newbie writers who are still building their writing habits and developing their writing style.

We start by following the golden rule of writing: write. Write every day.

It’s not long before “writing every day” turns into “writing x amount of words every day”. That’s where sh** hits the fan. We stress ourselves out because we’re not writing as prolifically as other writers. I have a friend (great, great friend – love her lots) who can write thousands of words a day without breaking a sweat. There are some days where she will write almost 10K in a day.

Then there’s me.

I struggle to write 10K in a month, let alone in a day.

Surrounding ourselves with such amazing writers who can write a lot every day is a good thing. We strive to be at their level, to write thousands of words a day. However, there is a downside too. Sometimes, surrounding ourselves with these uber-writers makes us feel pretty bad about the pittance of words we struggled to get out.

Here’s the thing (and it’s easier said than done) – it is not about quantity.

STOP worrying about your word count. Don’t even look at it. If you can’t help but look at it, write in a program that doesn’t show you a word count or write in a notebook.

I promise you, you’ll write more than you’re used to when you learn to stop looking at the word count.

Your word count doesn’t matter – finishing the story is all that matters. You can add/delete words when you revise.

Speaking of revision…

Stop revising as you go.

Whether we like to admit it or not, a lot of writers (myself included) struggle with this. Those damn little red/green wiggles taunt us. We get ideas to change scenes we wrote 50 pages ago. We hit a wall in writing new stuff, so we go back to revise, hoping that in revising we will be inspired to write something new.

Sorry, but that’s rarely how it works.

Whatever program you use to write, there is probably a setting to turn off edits. Those squiggles will haunt you and taunt you until you gave and add dozens of new words/names to your dictionary fix all the spelling and change sentence structures.

Ignore the word count. Ignore the grammar. JUST WRITE.

It doesn’t matter if you write 50 words and they are all misspelled, as long as you write. And while you’re writing, write every day. Five minutes, twenty minutes or an hour – doesn’t matter how long, how much or how bad – just write.

Writing is the only way our stories will get finished. Worrying about our word counts and grammatical problems isn’t going to finish our story. Click-clacking at our keyboards, however…


Alice McElwee

Check-in 5/14

How’s it going?

Just another check-in. Let us know how you’re doing. Share a kind word (crass ones are acceptable when necessary, but kind are preferred), and visit your fellow ROWers…

Here’s the linky:

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Making the Deadline Real

Just last Wednesday I mentioned a bit about how any progress was essentially a good thing. I still believe that, and I understand that pushing ourselves too hard can lead to things like burnout, depression, writers’ block and bad poetry. But I agree that there should be a sense of direction and, even more importantly, a sense of completion… a place where the goals are achieved and we can write those precious two words “The End“, and move on.

In essence, we need a deadline.

Now I get that some projects just can’t be finished in a week, or a month, or even in 80 days. I get that the habit and the practice of writing (doing whatever inspires you most) daily gets touted as the real reason for challenges like the ROW80. It is, of course. Regular practice — training, if you will — is the most reliable way to improve a skill and have a chance of building a professional career doing it.

Practice is not the same as achievement; practice helps achieve goals, it probably should not be the goal itself**. There may be parts within regular practice that one might need to achieve before one can move on to newer and more complex elements on a craft. Each step then is an achievement, and setting a goal to learn one’s Minor scales on the keyboard in 30 days is a S.M.A.R.T. goal. Next step might be to develop finger flexibility and correct positioning so one can incorporate elements of these scales as arpeggios or pleasing interludes within a composition.

There is an element of practice in everything we do. But this isn’t practice, this is a challenge… we’re here to achieve something. so, like sponsor Andrew Mocete wrote in his classic post: Make the Deadline Real!

For the first round of ROW80 I had a big goal; to be a more organized writer.  I broke that goal up into smaller pieces starting with getting on a regular writing schedule.  Things didn’t go exactly as I planned.  I wrote more than I ever had, but there was a distinct lack of focus and I feel it was because I didn’t have a deadline.

Most of us have day jobs and if we don’t, still have responsibilities that are time sensitive. If you think about what you’ve managed to get done when on a deadline, it seems like you have superpowers. If focus is a superpower, then I’d agree.

I’m going to assume we’re all on board with a deadline being essential for success. Many of us have done NaNoWriMo and the thirty day deadline is the principle foundation. But how do you create a deadline where one doesn’t exist?

When you’re writing your first book, no matter which way you plan to publish, you can take the rest of your life to finish it. You can say you want it done by a certain time, but in the back of your mind, it doesn’t really have to be done by then. If something more important comes up, it gets pushed back. And I mean what SEEMS important. Certainly, things in life come up that demand attention, but really, how often is that? Most of the time I think we’re procrastinating. Again, how do we create a deadline?

Well, I’m not really sure.

At least when it comes to you because I don’t know the intricacies of your life. I will tell you what I’ve done and hopefully that helps you come up with your own deadline plan.

Recently, my wife has taken up more of the household responsibilities in order to give me extra time to write and manage my social media.  In addition, because she’s a graphic artist, wants to help me design my cover. This is a big deal to me because she’s the member of the family who takes care of everything. Me, her parents and the grandparents. It’s a lot to do and she does it because she loves us, but it doesn’t leave her much free time.  In that context, you can see why what she’s doing for me is such a big deal.  If I procrastinate, I’m not only wasting my time, I’m wasting hers.

Whoa, things just got really real.

Setting a realistic goal is the first step. Defining when that goal is to be fulfilled is the next step and just as important. Make it real and then stick to it.

I’d love to hear what deadlines you’ve created and if this post helped you think of one, please, share it in the comments.


Andrew Mocete

** Yes, I’m looking at myself here as much as anyone else