What Richard Simmons Taught Me About Being A Writer

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