I was standing in the heart of a Gymnastics gym one day, surrounded by large trampolines, balance bars and foam pits that smelled of new plastic and a hint of sweat. It was an overwhelmingly large area, the space between me and the ceiling large enough I felt I could have been swallowed by it, so I stayed behind the white fence which separated the gymnasts and the spectators, and only watched. Out there were girls who must have been younger than half my age, flipping around as if they knew the air would carry them where they needed to land. Little girls flew around bars, and although there was an instructor beside them, they seemed to carry no fear for falling. They balanced their base of their thighs to the bar and spun. I could only sit their awestruck.
I had done this sort of work once in my life, as my mother had enrolled me in a Gymnastics club when I was a kid, but I had long lost those talents. Now, the closest I can get to a flip is a belly-flop off the diving board, and I’m not too keen to turn my stomach into a cherry-red pain machine again. However, these kids were blowing me away with their mad gymnastics skills, and when I stuck around their long enough, I realized the biggest reason why they always seemed to ready to do their events was because they they warmed up.
You’ve probably seen countless sports analogies for warming up, and I apologize for giving you another one, but it really is important in sports as well as in novel writing to warm up before you try to do anything. For me, I struggled with this concept for a while because for sports, warming up makes more sense. You can literally feel your muscles stretching out and becoming more useful for strenuous activity. Plus, when I did track back in middle school, if I was ever late and went straight to my events, I never did as well. Novel writing only includes a chair, and it’s harder to feel your brain loosening up, but trust me, your brain will thank you for the warm-up.
I’m now up to a little under 12,000 words in my novel, and I can still tell you that it’s hard to get into the writing or warming up even after reaching this far into the novel. But I’ve always gotten back to the chair because I was able to commit to doing these 3 things before seriously starting to write.
1. Getting your Head into the game
For sports, this means leaving the school behind you and going towards the track or court or wherever. Whatever schoolwork you had, or what kind of bologna you ate for lunch or whatever you were talking with your friends about, forget it. Your life is important in writing, but if you’re mind’s not thinking about your characters or your plot or your setting, you won’t be entirely immersed into your work. This reason is exactly why I do not listen to music while writing, besides my inability to multi-task. Unless the music is directly involved in your scene or your book ‘soundtrack’, it’s going to lead you the wrong direction and keep your head in the clouds instead of on the pages. In track, if I thought about schoolwork, I never tried; meaning I never improved or got any of the results I wanted.
My way of doing this is reading a chapter of a craft of writing book and connecting the writing I’m about to do to the concepts that it’s teaching. It also helps me learn concepts to remember while writing so I can improve upon it later. Other ways is listening to the ‘soundtrack’ ( music or just going to the place which inspired your setting) of the scene, getting out a notebook and letting your character talk to you a while, or reading part of a book that connects to your own story. This gets your head out of the crazy, over-stimulating real world, and into the literary one.
2. Doing your Stretches
Cold muscles mean that getting cramps and other uncomfortable things in sports. For novel writing, it means a cramped brain. To warm the brain up, make sure it’s healthy first. If you are depriving yourself of sleep, try going to bed 15 minutes earlier every night until you don’t need your alarm clock. Eat healthy. Go on walks and let your mind explore the vast jungle of ideas which crowd it. If you want to get your brain warmed up for literary exercises, try taking out a dictionary (or using the internet) and finding a word you don’t know and apply it to sentences. If you have awkward wording like I do, take one sentence you’ve written before and spend a little time on it. Read it out loud and work on it until is sparkles. Then, give it to a friend and let them edit it a bit if they feel it needs correction. Once the sentence is complete, read it to yourself a few times and let it sink in.
Or you could start writing a blog to satisfy this condition. Why not build a writer’s platform while you’re at it?
3. Doing some laps
Now that our brain is in the right zone, and it’s healthy enough to do your bidding, now try dipping your foot into the water. Take out your nearest craft of writing book or search the internet for some creative writing prompts, and type/write out 2 or more pages for the prompt. My advice for these types of prompts is treating it like a first draft. Do some outlining if you’re up to it, think about what you want it to achieve, and then just let the sucker romp around like it wants. It’s a prompt, so it’s not going to be published (unless it’s a story that evolved from a prompt, I suppose it’s possible), which means it does not matter what you write. If there are so many bad words in it that you need to delete it, that’s fine, but just let it do what it wants. Being a writer means sometimes being a slave to your imaginary friend, or ‘inner muse’ as some people call it. Be a bit childish if you have to. Give your damned expectations some defenestration and let yourself be imperfect. It’s okay.
It’s not always easy to tie yourself down to the chair and typing. It might include you having to turn off your wifi and cuffing your ankles to your desk, but if you have to do it for your writing to work, do it. Just remember to warm up, even if such a prospect makes to grumble.
Good luck in your writing!
Oh, and before we go, I have a little video for you guys. First time making one, so forgive my little ‘ums’ and such, and there are a few pauses in the novel excerpt I read in this video. If you’re interested in the book that I read in this video, read this: https://rookswriter.wordpress.com/2013/06/24/free-book-giveaway/
See you next week!