Are you warm enough?

Linda’s blog September 14th

That’s not a meteorological question: just asking if you’re ready for writing?

I’ve heard from so many writers over the years that, sometimes, they find it really difficult to get started when they sit down to write. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s first thing in the morning, a quick half-hour inbetween children and household chores, or in the evening when all is (or should be) quiet in the house. They WANT to write. They’re working on a project – a short story, poem, play or chapter of a novel. But they still don’t feel ready.

It would be too easy to use that much-overworked expression Writers’ Block. I’m not 100 per cent sure I believe in it.

There could be a number of reasons why you don’t feel like writing – and probably some of them are perfectly valid, such as responsibilities, emergencies, family or work commitments, not feeling well. But just occasionally, none of those will apply and you need something to help you get started.

This is where a WARM-UP comes in. No sports person will dive straight into a race or a match, a singer won’t begin a performance without making sure their muscles are warmed up and ready to go. It could be the same for you and your writing.

What does a warm-up do?

  1. It gets your brain in gear
  2. It physically gets you warmed up
  3. It eases your way from ‘fun’ or ‘non-vital’ writing into your more ‘serious’ projects

Warm-up exercises can be any length – from a minute or two, to twenty+ minutes. They can be first lines to a story, a theme for a story, character profiles, plot points, story outlines.

I find making lists usually gets my creative side going – my own targets and goals that might come in useful for a future character, the people I’ve spoken to in the past week, the moods I’ve been in recently, the things that make me angry.

Mindmaps (spidergrams) are another creative thinking tool – exploring a subject you might want to use: a good way of finding out what you need to research.

Another exercise that I often use is to delve into my picture collection. I have hundreds of pictures, mostly cut from magazines, of people, places, objects, nature and animals. For a particular story I might search for a picture that fits. For an exercise, I might be brave and pick one at random. Then I could write a character profile, or a paragraph or two about that person. Or I might choose two and decide what their conflict is.

I am no poet but another warm-up exercise I enjoy once in a while is to write a Haiku. That’s a Japanese poem that have five syllables in the first line, seven in the second and five in the third, final line. These are often about the natural world or a single moment in time. You can write about anything.

Some writers I know believe not so much in one-off exercises, but more regular warm-up writing, such as a journal or what are called Morning Pages. Journaling can vary from a record of what you’ve been doing, thoughts on whatever comes to mind, or how you feel about your writing. Morning Pages are described by Julia Cameron as “three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning.” If this appeals, look it up here.

The thing to remember about warm-up exercises is they are just that – warm-ups. Once in a while, they might give you an idea for a story. BONUS! Otherwise, there should be no judgement as you write, no corrections, no editing, no expectations. Keep them in a file if you want to – I’m a believer in not throwing away anything your write.

So, please, have a go at a warm-up exercise every day this week. There are 7 to get you started on the Prompts page. Click here. It might become a routine, it might get you going after a lean spell, it might give you some ideas. At the very least it will give you a break from your other projects and perhaps introduce you to other genres.

Happy Writing


ps Sorry I missed writing a blog for you last week. One of those occasional emergencies. Things better this week.

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