By Milli Thornton
THIS WEEK I decided to try a ZUMBA Fitness® dance class at our local fitness and wellness center. From the official website:
Zumba Fitness® is the only Latin-inspired dance-fitness program that blends red-hot international music, created by Grammy Award-winning producers, and contagious steps to form a “fitness-party” that is downright addictive.
Being the loner type, I don’t usually join classes. Most of my exercise involves walking in the park, or the occasional stint on my jogger trampoline or exercise bike. I’m also 51 (turning 52 next month) so getting a little self-conscious about my age—at least when it comes to being around beautiful young things who can move their bods. But I ended up loving it!
Thinking about the word ZUMBA®, I wanted to find out what it meant to see if I could apply it to writing in any way. It’s such a snazzy, high-spirited word, it just begs to be used for inspirational purposes. On the official site, I learned that it doesn’t mean anything. Even better. Talk about a flexible word—I can make of it what I want.
Here are a few of the ways I’ve applied it to writing.
There’s No Stereotypical Model
Just as writers come in all ages, shapes and sizes, so do ZUMBA® enthusiasts. There were women of many ages in the class, and nobody was wearing the kind of dance fashion I thought you might need to look like you belonged. The dancers were mostly dressed for comfort, with some dashes of fun (a few were wearing belly dance-style coin scarfs on their hips). I felt like I belonged the instant I showed up just looking the way I already look.
As a writer, I always want to be the real me. The times I’ve tried to live up to some image of how it’s supposed to be were the times I was the unhappiest. Trying to force myself into a mold never works for me.
You Don’t Have to Know What You’re Doing to Forge a New Path
Everyone was very friendly and I was told by at least two people not to worry about getting it right. Just try it and have fun. So I did. I threw myself into it and tried all the steps, even though I was several beats behind everyone else. I tried to just let my natural rhythm emerge (even though I would normally protest that I don’t have any) and this really helped.
I had no clue when I got there even what to expect, but just trying it showed me how much I can already do right from the get-go. When I took up screenwriting, I found out the same thing. I refused to intimidate myself with thoughts of everything I didn’t know about screenwriting and just went ahead and wrote the first draft of my first screenplay. It’s amazing how much you can do when you don’t know what you’re doing.
Too Much Instruction Can Make Jill a Dull Girl
Before the class started the dance instructor, Ali, came up to welcome me. She was very relaxed about how I should participate. She explained that she doesn’t explain the steps—she just dances and everybody follows.
Once we got going, I quickly understood why Ali does this. Every time I stopped dancing to watch her do one of the harder steps, I got more confused, not less. Whenever I was in motion and trying my best to reproduce the steps, I felt more in sync with what was happening.
The same thing happened with my first screenplay. After I finished my first draft (which was achieved purely by relying on story and just three basic formatting rules), I got serious about studying how to get it right. If I’d started out with the study, I never would have finished my first draft in 29 days. And then I wouldn’t have had a rough script to rewrite. I’ve now completed two screenplays and I’m really glad I did it ZUMBA®-style.
Keep It Fun!
You can tell Ali enjoys her work. She was wearing black gym pants, a pink tank top that said PARTY! and a jingly coin scarf. She had a smile on her dial the entire class and often whooped to the music. She may have to teach the same dance routines in every class, but she does it with passion. Is she the best dancer in the whole world? No. But with her levels of passion and fun, who cares? She’s doing a job she loves.
ZUMBA® Dance: Check It Out!
I couldn’t find a professional video of what it’s like to be in a regular class. The amateur video below will give you a glimpse of how inclusive the classes are. Although most of the video focuses on the young instructors onstage with their perfect bods who know all the steps backwards, occasionally the camera pans over the dance floor to show you the students in action. If you watch all the way to the end (2:56 minutes), you’ll see women of all body types—as well as little girls, young men and even an older man.
Milli Thornton is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at Screenwriting in the Boonies and Milliver’s Travels and coaches writers individually at Writer’s Muse Coaching.