What you can learn from a broken treadmill

Reading time: About 2 minutes

A broken treadmill doesn’t help anyone. But fixing that treadmill can teach you a useful lesson for later in your writing life…

My favourite piece of writing equipment is not a special pen or notebook or even keyboard. It’s my treadmill desk.

I get 20,000 steps most workdays (that’s almost nine miles or 14 kilometres) because I walk while writing — or thinking, or researching, or talking on the phone.

“How do you type while you’re walking?” is the number one question people ask me when I talk about the treadmill. This query always amuses me because typing while walking is as easy as typing while talking. I just rest my palms on the edge of the desk and let my fingers fly across the keyboard. It’s really not much different from typing while sitting.

I do sit for meetings, however, so I can avoid freaking out my clients, who might think I’m trying to get away from them. And sometimes I get tired, so I sit then, too.

My kind husband has built me a plywood platform for my desk chair. I prop the platform up behind me when I’m walking, and then I carefully drop it down onto the treadmill when I want to sit. Then, I just plop my chair on top of that. I can raise or lower my desk with the press of a button.

I don’t like to sit for more than about 30 minutes at a stretch because my back gets irritated when I’m immobile for too long. But the biggest beneficiary of the treadmill isn’t my back. It’s my writing. The work is so much easier when I’m walking.

Anyway, one day last week, I was having a terrible day. A contractor interrupted my working time, and I lost half an hour. Normally, I would have expressed my frustration by walking extra hard, long or fast.

But when I went back to the desk, I discovered that my treadmill had stopped working. The photo adjacent shows the treadmill readout. The zeros don’t represent NO activity, by the way. I had logged 8,000 steps earlier in the day. But the red symbol to the right shows there was a sudden glitch. ARGH!

And this was a three-month-old device. I’d bought it in December, when my last treadmill had died an honest death after eight years of constant and loyal service. I wasn’t expecting the replacement machine to give up the ghost so quickly.

I unplugged the treadmill for several minutes, hoping the same trick that often “fixes” my computer would also fix this device. No such luck. I called the shop and asked for their advice. They said they would contact the manufacturer. But there I was, stuck without being able to walk while working….While already plenty peeved…

The quality of my writing went right downhill. I tried standing for a while, but that didn’t help. My feet wanted to be MOVING!

I called the shop back at 4:30 p.m. to see if they’d been able to learn anything. That’s when the manager asked me if I had replaced the battery in the remote — the only way of powering the treadmill.

This idea hadn’t even occurred to me! I ran up to the drugstore right away and bought a new battery, and guess what? The treadmill started working again!

It was a shamefully EASY fix.

And here’s the connection to writing — beyond my suggestion that you think about getting a treadmill desk, too.

Some tasks are simple to do, and some are hard. And as human beings, we’re not very adept at predicting which is which. That minor repair to the faucet turns out to be a major ordeal. That easy-looking dinner requires dirtying every pot in the house and 90 minutes of difficult prep work.

But sometimes the reverse also happens. That academic paper covered with red ink from peer reviewers isn’t nearly as hard to fix as we’d imagined. Those detailed comments from our beta readers may seem intimidating, but they’re incredibly helpful. Those picky notes from our editor are something we can handle in a jiffy.

Don’t anticipate the worst just because there’s a lot of red ink.

Just as I assumed that fixing my treadmill was going to be complicated and costly, you may assume that making required changes to your writing is going to be difficult and time-consuming. This may make you postpone and procrastinate.

Yes, sometimes such changes are difficult and time-consuming.

But sometimes they are as easy and straightforward as buying a new battery for $7.95.


My video podcast last week addressed how to read more books. Go here to see the video or read the transcript, and you can also subscribe to my YouTube channel.


Need some help developing a better writing routine? Learn more about my Get It Done program. There is turn-over each month, and priority will go to those who have applied first. You can go directly to the application form and you’ll hear back from me within 24 hours.


Have you ever had a broken-treadmill type of realization? What did you learn? We can all help each other, so please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section below. If you comment on today’s post (or any others) by March 31/24 I’ll put you in a draw for a digital copy of my first book, 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better. To enter, please scroll down to the comments, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join Disqus to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest. It’s easy!


Scroll to Top