Wednesday, August 26

Posted by Laurel Garver on Wednesday, August 26, 2015 4 comments
Photo credit: kakisky from
No ballerina simply straps on her toe shoes and dances Swan Lake. Nor does an Olympic sprinter roll out of bed and walk directly to the blocks. These pros know you can't perform your best unless you first warm up and stretch.

Writer friends, we can learn from this. If you find yourself endlessly procrastinating when you know you should be writing, consider adding a period of low-pressure warm ups and stretches to your routine. You may find that like that sprinter, it enables you to go faster when you do "hit the track" (aka work on your manuscript) and like the ballerina, it enables you to move with greater ease and grace.


For some, the warm ups should be physical. If you suffer from maladies of the hand or wrist joints--carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, or arthritis, gently warming up using doctor/PT-approved exercises will delay or even prevent typing from becoming painful.

Taking a fifteen minute walk to clear your head can be the perfect precursor to sitting down to write. In this post, I mention research that found creative benefits coming immediately after a walk.

Some basic stretches can improve blood flow and energy levels, always helpful for transitioning to any new activity.

Wordlessly create

To access your creativity, it can be helpful to do things that put you in a relaxed state. Here are a few worldless warm ups to try

  • Color. There are loads of cool coloring books for adults on the market now.
  • Doodle. See this post for story-related doodling warm ups.
  • Sculpt with Play-doh or clay
  • Play an instrument or sing


Freewriting is the most obvious transitional tool to get you into a writing groove. Choose one of the following prompts, set a timer for 10 minutes, and scribble, on paper with a pen or pencil, whatever comes to mind. No wordsmithing, just let the ideas flow fast and sloppy.

Freewrite about your own life and feelings

  • What I remember about holidays, siblings, gifts, favorite plaything, best teacher, worst teacher, favorite class, best accomplishment, scary moment, weird neighbor, unapproachable cool kid, first crush, awesome friend, grandparents, family trips, collecting things, birthday parties
  • What I wish for: accomplishments, relationships, dream trips, belongings, people I'd love to meet, superpowers and how I'd use them, future inventions
  • How I feel: what makes me angry, sad, impatient, frustrated, lonely, excited, content

Freewrite about elements of your story

  • How you characters feel about story events from the most recent scenes
  • What your character what is worried about
  • Your characters' hopes or plans
  • What your characters wish others knew about them
  • Unspoken "rules" of your character's family, school, other institutions
  • Scenes that are almost ready, and how you might polish them
  • Problem scenes and how you might repair or replace them 
  • Your hopes about this manuscript
  • Your concerns about this manuscript
  • What I want to work on today

Do you typically warm up before you write? Which of these ideas do you want to try?


  1. Love these warm-ups. I'm a "free-write" first kind of person, but sometimes I forget. Walking definitely helps, and stretching out beforehand with some simple stretches or yoga poses helps me sit more upright when I'm typing.
    I like the drawing/coloring ideas. I feel like I need more art in my life.

    1. Doodling can be especially helpful when you've felt undecided or vague about parts of the setting. Trying to capture it on paper can help cement details.

      I most often warm up with "what I want to work on today" and talk myself through possible scene ideas, sometimes doing pro/con lists about whether to dramatize an idea or which possible action characters might take. Actually writing the scene is loads easier with those decisions made.

  2. Those are great. I tend to do my warm ups in my head - usually I know when I'll be able to squeeze in some writing time, and I let my characters start wandering around in my head for a bit before that :)

    1. I do that a bit too, and find freewriting a helpful transition from "in my head" action to on paper. It's a psychological thing, I guess, in that "I'm just jotting notes" feels lower pressure than "I'm writing this scene."