Let me be very clear here: I’m not discussing exercise.
No matter what it is, though — exercise included — I am not a person who enjoys warming up. I’m busy. That extra 5 minutes to essentially idle and get into the right physical/mental/emotional space drives me insane.
I have traditionally spent that time irritated that I’m not already DOING THE THING. Whatever the thing may be.
Doing yoga? Lemme just do yoga. Playing music? I want to launch into the songs. Singing scales and lip buzzing makes me want to die.
However, I think I may have stumbled into something with my writing warm-up.
What’s a writing warm-up?
What is a writing warm-up, you may ask? Easy. Similar to any other warm-up, it’s a free-write. A word vomit. Whatever you want to call it. For me, tonight, it is this article.
There is something freeing about just unloading whatever is in your head before you start. If you’re not used to free-writing or brain-dumping, it seems scary. You just… put words down?
YES! That is exactly what you do. Get your fingers moving. Get your brain working and creating. It’s similar to stretching.
Around here, we frequently refer to the writing muscles. The idea is that your creativity and your writing is a muscle. The more you work it, the stronger it gets. The faster it moves. Just like running or weight lifting, you start at the bottom. Reaching your peak performance requires effort and practice and a lot of time doing the thing.
Personally, I tend to process all of my emotions through words. If I head into a writing session with a cluttered brain, it tends to slow me down. Clearing my mind of the day and the mess in my head lets me start strong.
So what does it mean to free-write?
It means that you write fast and furious. You don’t edit. It doesn’t matter what format it is. It doesn’t matter what the structure is. The idea is to get the clutter out of your head and get the writing muscle working. This can be used in a lot of different contexts and the process looks different for everybody.
In my case, this is when I tend to write blog posts, emails, poetry, and social media posts. The tidbits that are hanging out in my head force their way to the surface, generally manifesting as short-form work that says something from my heart.
A lot of it doesn’t get used. Some of it does. Some of it serves as a jump-off point to larger things. All of it is valuable and worthwhile, if for no other reason than it got me out of my head long enough to make something.
How do you start a writing warm-up?
Take a self-inventory. How do you feel right now? What are you thinking about? Is there a person or a situation or a story that is weighing on you? That is where you start.
Sometimes I start by telling a funny story or a sad story. On darker days I start by cussing a lot and pouring my guts onto a page. It honestly doesn’t matter.
It does take some self-awareness and a willingness to explore your own head for a minute. To let go of yourself.
Today, for example, I casually said I was going to warm myself up for a minute with a free-writing session. And this is what came out because part of me realized that I’d never considered it a warm-up before. Now, though, I’ve managed to get about 700 words out of my head. I’ve settled into my rhythm for the night and I’m ready to tackle a story that feels just a little bit less daunting now that I’m here behind the keyboard.
Let us know how it goes
Have you decided to free-write for the first time? What happened? Did you freeze up? Or did you remove some of the mystery from this thing that writers talk about?
Either way, we want to hear from you.
About the Writer: Allie Gravitt is a mom of 3 and lives in metro Atlanta with a house full of animals and plants. Her debut poetry collection, prisonbreaks, and second collection Killing Ghosts are available now on Amazon. Follow Allie’s writing journey on TikTok and Instagram.