I’m sitting at my kitchen table agonizing over how to start this blog post. I’ve been sipping coffee, nibbling on some breakfast, petting my dog as he sits on my foot, and racking my brain for any sort of inspiration. Most noticeably, I’m not writing.
My irritation is very apparent. When I sit to write and can’t, I go temporarily insane with frustration. It gets dramatic and loud as I angrily start slamming “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” into my keyboard just to get something on the page.
After taking five minutes to write a warm-up story on a Post-it note, I am now focused and ready to tackle this blog post!
Writing warm-ups are a great way to get your creative juices flowing. They’re very similar to stretching before a workout. How are you supposed to run 5 miles if your legs are stiff? It is the same principle with writing. How are you supposed to express your ideas onto a screen or a piece of paper if your mind is stiff?
What is a writing warm-up exactly? It is a way to strengthen writing skills without the pressure of being perfect. For example, let’s say I’m writing a family drama and I am struggling with the mother/daughter relationship. I would work on a warm-up focused on dialogue and chemistry in a story that has nothing to do with my upcoming project. That way I’m still honing my skills but I’m not frustrated if I struggle to find the words.
Warm-ups are different for everyone. Every fiber of my creativity goes from tight to loose when I bend and shape my mind during a writing warm-up. A writing warm-up can be anything you want it to be, so long as it leaves you feeling ready to tackle your project and clears your mind of distractions.
5 Great Writing Warm-Ups
This is a favorite of mine if I am pressed for time or stuck somewhere with nothing to do. It is a short story that fits on a Post-it note featuring a beginning, a middle, and an end. I love this exercise because I am presented with an interesting challenge: How, in the simplest way, can I write a compelling story in the fewest words possible? What words are necessary and what words aren’t? You may feel a little like Hemingway with the simplicity you are forced to embrace. However, the simplistic Post-it note warm-up can be a great way to help your writing be more concise and straightforward.
2. Creating Your Own Myth
This is a quick general exercise that can be used to hone in on anything you feel your writing needs to improve upon. I normally use it as an inventive exercise to see how far I can stretch my imagination. What is a myth you want to bust in this writing warm-up? A favorite scenario I wrote was answering why snow is white. In it, the snow was just chips of white paint falling from a picket fence of a happy home. The wind saw how happy the family was and picked at the paint to spread it all over during dark months in the hopes that other families would feel a similar joy.
3. Random Line in a Book
This is an interesting challenge that one of my creative writing teachers taught me. Grab a favorite book, flip to a random page, and whatever random line your right thumb lands on is your opening line.
I’ll start one for you … This is from The Road by Cormac McCarthy on page 185:
“The boy clung to his coat.”
Feel free to post your warm-up in a reply!
4. Describing Sensations
This warm-up caters to my biggest weakness and one many writers struggle with: I know exactly what I want to say but I don’t know an effective way to say it. Describing sensations or emotions is a fun, quick exercise I like to do as a challenging way to write expressively and vividly. Think of something simple to write about that we take for granted, such as eyesight, the texture of denim, or the sound of the wind. Now try to describe it in such a way that someone who has never experienced it before would understand. How would you describe the smell of an orange to someone who doesn’t have a sense of smell? How you would paint a colorful picture for someone who has never seen a sunset?
5. Morning Pages
This is hands down the most life-changing writing warm-up. Highlighted in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, morning pages are longhand writing warm-ups that should be done every morning as a stream of conscience exercise. Write down openly and honestly everything that you are thinking for three pages. The biggest epiphany I’ve had writing morning pages is that I have much more control over my thoughts than I realize. That little bit of information has helped me immensely in my writing. I used to have trouble making sure my works of fiction weren’t reflective of circumstances in my own life. I had trouble creating characters that were completely original and didn’t remind me of the people around me. With morning pages I learned that I have complete control of my thoughts and more command over my characters.
Do you have a helpful warm-up in your writing toolbox to share? Leave a comment with your favorite writing warm-up and help others bust through writer’s block!