Singers practice their scales every day and musicians do five-finger exercises. Athletes have warm-up routines that stretch their muscles and loosen their limbs. What about us? Can we writers benefit from warm-up rituals as well — some way of approaching words that juices us and sparks our imagination? Why not?
One warm-up technique you might try is deceptively simple: Take three words — any three words that pop into your head — and weave a narrative using them. You can write a paragraph or a page — it doesn’t matter. Circus, signpost, invention. Lemonade, disaster, skyline. Chair, tonsils, mystery. Anything goes! It’s the creativity and discipline demanded in taking totally unrelated words and connecting them narratively that can help spark your writing session. It’s also fun!
Another warm-up approach is the brain child of Julia Cameron, the author of The Artist’s Way. She suggests starting your writing day by dashing off what she calls, “Morning Pages.” These are four pages that you simply sit down and write non-stop without editing or premeditation. Julia calls these a “brain dump.” She believes that getting these first words out of the way clears the cobwebs from your brain and lets you dig deeper creatively. I’ve tried this from time to time — and find that it can be an amazing process. You can start one place and end up somewhere totally different emotionally. Sometimes a childhood memory surfaces or an idea pops right out of your subconscious fully formed.
Here’s another thought: Virginia Woolf often liked to start her writing day by reading a bit of Shakespeare for 10 minutes or so. Why not pick a favorite poet, playwright or novelist and try this for a week? You might be surprised at the way your mini-immersion affects your own writing.