Before practice or performance, dancers stretch their muscles, head to toe. Not only does stretching feel amazing, it prevents injury, and allows the performers to push the limits of their physical capabilities. See here for some favorite photos of dancers pushing their limits)
Visual artists complete quick warm-up sketches or gesture drawings to loosen up the hand, and to practice before drawing more complex and detailed work.
Singers perform vocal gymnastics in preparation for a performance. Lolli-lolli-lolli-lolli-lolli-lolli-lolli-lolli-lolli-lolli-lolli-lolli-POP. (That used to be my favorite.)
And we writers? We open up a scene and dive in.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’ve found in the past week that a warm-up really helps my process. These warm-ups are nothing elaborate, nor are they award-winning writing. They are simply meant to get the internal editor out of the way and get the words flowing when I finally do sit down with my work-in-progress.
The rules? I write one side of a page in my notebook with a freely flowing pen, top to bottom. I don’t time myself, because I don’t want to get pulled out of my process wondering if I have 5 seconds left or 15. I just write from top to bottom as quickly as I can. If I get stuck, I write something stupid until another thought comes to me.
Here are some of the topics I’ve written as warm-up:
- A description of a city I’ve visited
- What I’ve neglected
- My mother
- I must be nuts to do this
- Being eternal
- All boundaries will disappear
- What am I obsessed by?
- The details of life
- A description of my morning
Many of these topics have come from Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, which is more like a visit with a writing coach than plodding through a craft book. With a quick google search, you can find dozens of other writing prompts, as well as writing prompt generators.
I write three of these pages then turn to my manuscript. It doesn’t take long, and by the time I’m done, I’m easily able to transfer my attention to my manuscript. Because of the practice, my words just fly out, without any hemming and hawing, and that makes me a happy writer.
Try it and see what you think, and be sure to let me know if it works for you.