Friday, November 16, 2012

Overcoming Inertia, Part I: Theory

When I was in graduate school, a professor of mine ran a short seminar every quarter. He called it "How to write a paper for Mr. Veeder." All of his students attended--undergrads and grad students alike--and it was the finest--and shortest presentation on how to write well that I've ever heard.

One of these days, when I'm tired of talking about lipstick, I'll get around to sharing some of Mr Veeder's insights. For now, though, I'm just going to talk about one of them.

According to Veeder, when you write, your goal should be to overcome reader inertia. You want to keep the reader turning pages. When he reaches the bottom of page 3, you want his first instinct to be to proceed to page 4, not to get up and see what's on TV, or (my personal favorite) to check to see whether the mail has been delivered.

When it comes to inertia, a professor faced with a stack of student papers to read has nothing on the average, out-of-shape American. We who are out of shape have developed many reasons to avoid working out. We're too busy. We're embarrassed. We don't have the time. We don't know Pilates from Zumba because we haven't worked out regularly since Jane Fonda was churning out aerobics tapes.

Let me steal a concept from another man whose oeuvre I admire. If David Letterman were to come up with a "Top 10 Reasons to Not Work Out," I might be OK with "I can't fit it into my day." Or "The wall of flat screens running CNN is distracting and annoying."

On the other hand, I wouldn't want "I don't have anything to wear" to appear on the list.

After a few months of going to the gym pretty steadily, I was tired of grabbing one of my collection of faded Red Sox t-shirts and stretched out, mismatched shorts. I realized that I didn't just need to buy new gym clothes, I wanted to. I liked the idea of having a lot of well-fitting, comfortable, coordinated, attractive, and functional gym clothes clean, folded, and ready to throw on and head to the gym.

At some point, new work out clothes stopped being a silly extravagance and started being a sensible use of my money. Working out wasn't some passing phase. I was spending about 10 hours a week at the gym, and I'd been doing it for six months. I was becoming an athlete. And it was time I started dressing like one.

Henry David Thoreau once said "Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes." Well, Henry David Thoreau can kiss my spandex-covered ass.

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree with you more...
    Dress for success at the gym or at work.
    You feel better when you look great!


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