The creative warm up

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Have you ever seen an artist warm up before painting? Or a writer warm up before sitting down to write?

Me neither.

Athletes warm up before a game by stretching or performing systematic motions repetitively, almost in slow motion. A batter swings a weighted bat on the side of the field before stepping to the plate. Basketball players shoot hoops while running back and forth along the court before the game starts.

Warm ups are low level activities that do precisely what they imply: warm up the body for an activity.

For creative workers, both the body and the mind are what need to be warmed up.

The likes of dancers and musicians must provide their body with some type of warm up, particularly stretching. But what about the artist or painter? What should their warm up consist of?

Again, the purpose of a warm up is to energize the parts of the body or mind that will be active during the actual work or performance. For a writer, the warm up should activate the fingers and wrists as well as the imagination and focus abilities of the mind.

Putting your keys over the keyboard and typing gibberish can be an effective warm up for writing. For example, I often use free writing for a good 10 minutes before I sit down to write anything actually worthwhile.

Those few minutes of writing get my brain into a mode of thinking that is hard to get out of once I get going. No longer am I worrying about what to write or where to write, the warm up gets me in a mood where I know exactly what my purpose is in that moment: to write.

What’s your warm up? I think we so often worry about the work that needs to get done or the task at hand that we fail to realize we even have a warm up (or desperately need one).

You probably have one you regularly perform without even realizing it. To improve your work, take notice of what you do before you do creative work. There might be something there you can improve or need to change that you didn’t realize before.

What matters is that you have a warm up, that you realize you do, and that you embrace it and tweak it every time you sit down to work.

What’s your creative warm up?

Photo via Flickr.