Creative Warm-up Writing Exercises, Activities and Prompts

by  Eric Beaugh
warmup-writing-exercises

Getting in shape for the writing session is a hard task to do. The chances are that you will be unable to fully commit to the process because of variety of things. Even the slight feeling of hunger can turn you off. But since waiting for the perfect moment is counterproductive - you need to get to work hell or high water. Because once you start writing - you get into a loophole and everything turns out fine. Numerous writing tips tackle this subject but none of them can really help mainly because the solution for the problem is scandalously simple - in order to start to write you need to do the warm-up.

That's it. There's nothing more. Warm-up is the secret weapon of a creative person. It can spawn the ideas, it can get you out of a creative rut. In other words - it is the best way to improve yourself and your writing skills in a variety of ways. Usually in order to start writing writer writes some nonsense. It may help but there must be more systemic approach.

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The main purpose of writing warm-up is to turn the writing into a habit. By doing this you will ease the way of expressing your thoughts. Your active dictionary will be bigger and you will have no trouble in choosing the right way of represent certain concept in any given situation under any circumstances. It is also fun.

Your main goal during the warm-up session is to immerse yourself into the process without committing to the fearful "big thing". Technically it is simple: you get your fingers on the keyboard, you start to clang words, you start to compose random sentences, you start to blow entire paragraphs. The secret in doing it smoothly is to write without judgment and expectation of any outcome. You just do it because you need to do another thing. You let your instinct do the hard part.

Here are several very effective warm-up techniques.


1. Letter to a younger self

There are so many things you wish you knew back then when it mattered. Imagine your letter being able to move backwards in time because of some timey-wimey shenanigans. Write a letter to a younger self. It can be anything - a retelling of your life story so far, an explanation of a certain accident or a new perspective for an old joke.

Or like this: What would you say to your younger self?


2. Answer a question 

Ask yourself something. Why do you really need to start writing right now? Is there anything else you can do? What is the purpose of this exercise? Why bother answering this question? Why bother answering this question after this question is the same as the previous? And so on.

Thinking about a pointless answer to even more pointless question is playful and extremely effective technique of getting into a loophole of a writing session. By the time you will finish writing an answer you'll probably will want to write something much more meaningful to "justify this pity of a waste of time".


3. Write about things around you

This one is dumb and simple. You have a lot of things around you. Why don't you write about it something? Why don't you compose a poem about a shadow from a pen you haven't held for a long time? Why don't you look up dictionary descriptions for all the objects you have on the table - copy paste it and then re-edit it into a cohesive narrative? 

There are so many options involving writing about things around you...


4. Write about writing

Going meta is almost a cheat-mode in the writing process - it can break the game. Mainly because overabundance of irony can seriously harm your motivation and you'll end up scowling over insignificant matters. In order to avoid such miserable outcome - you need to know when to stop. 

The whole process of going meta while on the warm-up consists of simple recursive recounting of the actions you take. Write about everything that happens around you - how you sit on your chair at your desk, typing this text while something is going on around you and you are writing it down. It is also a nice exercise for attention. And a complete and utter waste of time. It can be descriptive - for example "I'm writing "I'm writing", "I'm writing "I'm writing". Or it can be much more narrative: "It was dark and stormy night when i sit down at my desk, turned my computer on, tuned myself in and started to write about how i started to write moments ago."

The problem with such technique is that the joke can grow old faster than you will warm yourself up enough to start writing the real thing. 


5. Do a freestyle roundabout

Freestyling is the hard way of warming-up. Mainly because it is so similar to a standard writing session and yet the entire result of such thing is garishly meaningless. While a throwaway status may actually turn you off - it can also encourage you to make something really-really different. Something you wouldn't do under other circumstances. Write whatever comes to your mind - take the brakes away - write the hell out!

There are two major rules of freestyling to remember. You need:

  1. a timer (Egg timer may help);
  2. to avoid stopping for too long (The most dangerous app may help);

6. Rewriting

As odd as it seems but it is really helpful. Rewriting is something of a dark horse. It always the same and yet always different. Mind that it is for internal purposes only. It is different from rewriting the copywriters way - you take structure of the texts, its point - but write it on your own. It may be simple word substitution or a complete overhaul leaving only the initial concept intact.

It is a nice constraint that help to maintain focus.


7. Dance around the words

That's not what you think but it is close. You still dance. But not with your body - your mind dances. Here's how it goes:

  1. take a dictionary;
  2. select several words (20-50) at random;
  3. write the text around them as if they were the keywords.

It is good for narrative exercises and usually leads to some hilarious results.


8. Automatic Writing

There two types of automatic writing worth mentioning. One is when you write something you know a lot about. You just lay the thing down in some manner - basically churn out the whole thing in one or two takes.

Second is real automatic writing when you tear down your restraints and let your consciousness to wreak havoc. At least in theory. In practice it almost never happens on purpose. It just happens, goes for some time. You don't even consider this to be a writing session - just some sort of joking around. And then it is over. And you know it is over and you feel a bit empty.

Read more: Good and Bad Things in Essay Writing


And one more thing. In order of not getting too sentimental about your scribbles you need to the following. After the text rush is over - press "Select all" and then the Holy Button "Delete".

Now you can start writing for real!

What is your way of warming up? Tell us in the comments.

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