Ready, Set, WRITE! (Or: The Art of Warm Up Writing)

Do you ever workout? If you do (and even if you don’t!) you probably understand how important it is to warm up before starting the workout itself. The whole point is to prepare your body for what’s to come. Warm up just 6 – 12 minutes before the workout, you not only prevent injury, you will more than likely make your workout more effective compared to starting cold.

What can you do to warm up? Basically anything: jogging, stretching or jumping around works fine. Anything that gets you moving, without placing any strain on your body. Remember in gym when the teacher had you run around the room, without any seemingly goal? The goal is not to achieve anything, except to get moving. Prepare your system.

So what does this have to do with writing or working creatively? Bear with me. It is more important than what your probably imagine!

When you sit down by your keyboard to start writing, what do you do? Get straight to the task at hand? Maybe look over where you last left off, if in the middle of something, and dive right in where you stopped? Do you ever warm up before?

I’m not talking about physically warming up, like stretching your fingers, hands or arms. (Although that might not be such a bad idea in order to prevent various strains on your fingers and hands!) I’m talking about WARM UP WRITING.

This is a tip I picked up several weeks ago that has transformed my writing completely. In an earlier blog, I admitted that the joy of writing had faded and that I recently had rekindled my inspiration for writing. Warming up before starting my actual task for the day is one strategy that has opened up the door to a new inspired mode of writing for me.

The strategy is simple: Open a notebook or a document on your computer (I now have one document dedicated to this purpose) and simply start writing. Be all over the place (think of it like running around the gym before gym class!). Write anything that comes to mind. Don’t try to focus on your task at hand. This is YOUR time. Write whatever you want.

Perhaps you can’t think of anything? Well, start by writing just that! “I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write…..” At some point, the words will appear. It might be about something that happened at breakfast. Or the chores you feel you should do in the house. Or the bill you are worried about that won’t get paid. Or what an as%&(“% your boss is, since he is forcing you to write this stupid report… (Yes, this works even if you are writing something you don't think is creative, like a work report or school project!)

And write without criticizing. Don’t think. Just write. Don’t correct anything. Don’t question anything. Allow yourself a free fall into your thoughts, emotions and let the words come as they choose.

Set a timer. Write for 5 – 10 minutes. That’s all. Regardless of how busy your day is, you always have minutes to spare. If you don’t have them, do it anyway and rattle on about those 5 minutes you “really” should be doing something else.

What does this do for you?

  • It helps you empty your mind for whatever is cluttering your thoughts, which will probably get in the way of your actual writing.

  • You create a space that is just yours. No one will ever read this text. You needn’t read it ever. It is writing for the sake of writing. It doesn’t get more pure than this!

  • It is a simple, yet powerful tool to get you past the infamous “writer’s block”

  • If you are prone to procrastination, 5 minutes of your time, without any specific goal in mind, might actually get you off that path. Even if you don’t write anything else that day, do your 5 minutes. Over time, you might find yourself not being able to wait to get writing again!

When you are finished and start the task of the day, I’d be surprised if you aren’t better prepared to deal with it, compared to starting off cold.

I didn’t really see the point of this at first. My first go was “so-so”. The second day was amazing. By the third day, I was hooked. I couldn’t wait to start my day, because I knew I’d have those 5 minutes that were all mine! And I was ready for any challenge after that!

I’ve looked back on some of what I’ve written these past weeks. A lot of it is just rambling, but every now again I find a gem. A sentence, a thought, a paragraph with something worth taking out of the warm up exercise and explore further.

The interesting thing about this is, because I am not trying to reach a specific goal (work on something commissioned = needing to make someone “happy” or working on a project I plan to present to someone = the need to impress someone), this is AUTHENTIC ME. I’ve given a lot of thought about that lately. What is MY authentic, artistic voice? In my warm up ramblings, I find specks of it. But that is a topic for another day…

Back to warm up writing: try it for the next 3 days. That’s 5 minutes, every day for 3 days. 15 minutes in total. If it doesn’t do anything for you, all you’ll have lost is 15 minutes of your life. I’m pretty sure you won’t miss them. –On the other hand, you might discover a tool that could change your writing mindset forever.

Ready? Set? WRITE!!

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