When people exercise they stretch. When basketball players warm up the shoot free throws and shots from other areas on the court. Runners might do a slow short distance run to warm up. Tennis players hit a few tennis balls.
Writers have to warm up too. We warm up by putting our pen on a page and fingers on the keyboard and tap, tap, tap. It doesn’t really matter if anything particularly coherent shows up. We just need to get our fingers in motion. We need our fingers to loosen up. After all, painting vivid pictures that engrave deeper memories by tapping away at a keyboard is not exactly a natural state. But it is what writers do.
As we do, ideas start to bake, thoughts start to percolate, and subjects start to announce themselves saying “write about me.” And a montage of chocolate cakes, sunset kisses, perfect waves, and certain moments that are destined to be put into words starts to play in our mind. We might find a word, a phrase or a full sentence to describe those moments. If it sounds right, words make their way onto the page. If it sounds wrong we stare blankly off into space or at our screen, in the life of a writer known as “thinking.”
Perhaps we’ll find the words, the sentence or the paragraph to paint this picture that captures and leads the imagination of the reader. We want more than anything to take them to that place with us, so they can live it, breathe it, feel it. We want their hearts to race when we describe kisses, their eyes to be filled with tears when we write about what hurts, and we want them to get so lost in our words that they lose all sense of time and the world around them.
And when we do find the words, it’s almost as is if some mystical force greater than us has showed up to make it happen. In the life of a writer there are days when we show up but the words don’t. That’s why we have no choice but to show up every single day, because the muse is much like the ocean. You get to surf based on mother nature’s schedule. And you don’t want to have a day when the words show up, but you don’t.
Here’s an interesting monologue from a conversation with Sarah Kathleen Peck, who by all accounts has a beautiful voice as a writer….
Some mornings I’m writing an ode to how much I want my coffee. It’s so bad Im like “coffee, coffee, coffee”
An ode to her coffee might be her way of warming up. Not exactly Pulitzer prize winning thinking in the making. But what we get to read by her is always poetic.
Some people quit right when they hit 1000 words no matter what. But if you’re in flow, the last thing you want to do is quit. You want to keep going. You’ve gone from warming up to being on fire. Don’t stop. Keep your fingers moving, flying across the keyboard until the keys are on fire and every word you write as my friend Ashley Ambirge would say “hits people in the face with a crowbar”