Warmups do amazing things
 
Before I got started on my work today, I wrote by hand for a while, as a warmup. That's when it occurred to me that, while the idea of warming up is essential to me, it's one of those practices that, to non-writers, isn't something you'd think about. 

Why would you warm up for something that isn't physical?

To me, warming up is a critical moment in the day. It's that point at which you say to your brain, Look, we've got work to do. It's probably going to be difficult. So let's have some fun before we start - and then we'll both be in the right mood. Yeah?

For me, warming up is about getting into the right space. I have a physical space, which is only for creative writing, and for updating you guys. And while this is important to my writing ritual, so is warming up: Warmups get me into the right mental space.

Agonising over a warmup kind of defeats the purpose. I don't decide what to write. I don't decide what to do. I just pick up a pen and get started. In some ways it begins like an automatic writing exercise. But once it starts, I just follow the flow and see where I end up.

Even if all I write is a page and a half, and even if my handwriting is scrawly and horrible, I just follow where it's going. I let it flow until it stops.

And once it stops, it's like my entire world has shifted and I'm in a different place. Suddenly, thinking about story and character and all those things isn't so hard. It's like I've unlocked the door that allows the creativity to flow more easily.

Warming yourself up as a writer gives you the space to practice. It allows  you to learn new things about yourself, and your art. It allows you to sing in a voice you maybe wouldn't normally sing in. It allows you the time to just exist, as a creator.

As a writer, this warmup stage is so critical to me that I rarely neglect it. 

And the curious thing? I write for work, and yet I never warm up for that kind of writing.

The difference is because creative work is so different. It taps into a different part of your brain. It requires you to let go, to find your voice, to have a moment where you are able to be in the flow, to the exclusion of all other things. It doesn't have to perform, to be good or bad or pretty or ugly or lyrical or... well, anything! It just is. In contrast, commercial writing is something you write to a specification.

Once I've warmed up, I'm more accepting of the changes in story and character. I'm in a place where I allow things to happen more readily, where I don't try to control the narrative so much, but instead become part of that Great Ideas River that is always flowing past us (but which we rarely notice). 

It also gives me the stamina to persist, to know that even when I don't know what's coming up, I can write through it until I do.

If you don't write much but wish you did, then I'll give you this tip for free: Just sit and write. Let it flow. If all you do is this one activity, and you do it every day, pretty soon you'll be able to just sit and write.

And for us in 2018, just sitting down to write is more than half the battle.


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