Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Pros and Cons of Treadmill Writing

I’m not here to discuss how great or dangerous it would be to have one of those treadmill desks (although I just came across a blog post where a writer found that while her husband and cats were perfectly willing to bother her while she had her butt in the chair, nobody bugged her while she was on the treadmill, so she started writing there); I’m talking about the process of continuously “writing in place.” Many times over the years I have found myself reaching a writing plateau and I need to find something to shake it up. Taking stock of my use of treadmill writing is one way to break free from the writing stagnation it sometimes causes. Let me explain:

  • Pro: Treadmill writing gets SOMETHING on the page. One of the most simple, yet true, pieces of writing advice is “Just Write.” Getting to the page eliminates the first obstacle, showing up.
  • Pro: Treadmill writing allows you to get your writing in shape. If you are just starting, you get a chance to discover your limitations. Set your writing treadmill to high, and sprint through a quick draft; how do you feel? Winded? Exhilarated? If you've been away from writing for a while, it serves as a rehab. Start off slowly. Remember how it feels.
  • Con: If you spend all of your time writing in place, you may discover you are not going anywhere. You have written pages of premises, possibilities, and ponderings—but your story, essay, or book lacks a real structure. By standing in one spot, you can’t take the journey. In writing, that includes (at minimum) a beginning, middle and end. Be aware if your “just writing” is keeping you from finishing.
  • Con: Treadmill writing, like treadmill running, is different than “the real thing.” If you go on a treadmill at the gym, at a level that mimics a “real running path,” your body gets a little bit of a shock when you go outside to run in the real world. If you grow too accustomed to writing without rules and structure, you may find it difficult to finish a polished work.

My own treadmill writing has served me well, and I will continue to come back to it often to get my writing engines fired up. But when it comes to getting something on paper that I want to share, I need to quit running in place and work on things that may seem uncomfortable at times. Just like I can’t stick to the treadmill at the gym for overall fitness, I can’t expect one practice-- “just writing” -- to lead to better results. Those uncomfortable planks and ab workouts? Those are the writing equivalent to creating an outline for my memoir. I had a general  idea where it was going during the treadmill writing phase, but to really get to the guts of the matter- I need to create some kind of outline. I may not like doing it now, but, like those planks, it will be worth it later.

Happy Writing!


Do you have something you'd like to share about the writing process? I'm accepting guest blog posts! Email me: tina (at) excuseeditor.com

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