This guest post is by Karol K of Online Business Design blog.
What is a writer’s warm-up? I hear you ask.
I’m going to answer this question in a minute, but first let me get an initial “yes” from you.
Did you ever notice that your initial piece of writing on a given day is not the best you can do, and you’re actually aware of that? Is that a “yes”?
Of course, there can be many reasons for this, but the main one might be simpler than you think. First of all, just because you don’t like what you’ve written doesn’t mean you have a plumber’s writer’s block. Nor does it mean that apparently it’s not your most creative day, nor that the topic doesn’t seem particularly comfortable for you, nor anything else like this.
What if, maybe, you’ve just been writing without warming up first?
Why a warm-up is important
I’m sure you know the value (actually, necessity seems to be a better word here) of warming up when it comes to any kind of physical exercise or sport.
You can’t lift heavy weights without starting with very small dumbbells to get you going. And you can’t run a marathon without some prior stretching (and probably a lot of other stuff I know nothing about since I’ve never run a marathon).
Well, it’s not just sports. What was interesting to me when I first went to a vocal class was that it always started with a warm-up too. This lets your voice prepare for the upcoming effort. Staying on the mouth—related topics, warm-ups are also nothing unusual for competitive eating professionals. From what I know they start their “training” by eating a modest one kilo of grapes…
Why is it, then, that most bloggers start writing their posts without any kind of warm-up?
I see four reasons:
- Up until today they didn’t know about such a thing.
- They feel warmed-up enough.
- They don’t see the value.
- They don’t realize the risks.
Let’s tackle them all at once, starting with the last one.
The risks of not warming up before writing
We all know the risks of not warming up before sports. Lack of a warm-up is the fastest way to an injury or a serious muscle pain that could take away the whole joy of doing sports. On a professional level, lack of a warm-up significantly lowers the performance and can even lead to a career-ending injury.
What about blogging? Well, you’re not going to break any bones, so the risks are not that obvious, but they are still there.
For instance, the most common result of writing without a warm-up is the amount of time you’ll spend staring at a blank screen. Everybody knows that getting started is the most difficult part, and many people struggle to get the words rolling.
Even though you have your post’s topic well researched, and you know what message you want to convey, getting those ideas to a digital piece of paper can be hard.
Thankfully, this whole process can be sped up a lot if you just take care of some basic warm-ups.
You see, no matter the activity, warm-ups are all about getting started. A warm-up is always a set of the most basic, simple and easy movements possible for a given activity.
Therefore, due to its simplicity, no one ever has problems with getting the warm-up done. No one is ever stuck on the warm-up because, practically, that’s impossible.
At first it seems counterintuitive, but warming up actually saves you time. You do begin writing later, that’s true, but you are more likely to finish earlier and create a better post along the way.
To be honest with you, I had my share of can’t-get-started problems in my short blogging career. There were times when I was sitting in front of a blank screen for up to an hour. I felt I couldn’t start writing anything decent even though I had the topic researched.
For me, the cause was simple: writing the mysterious “quality content” is not easy, just like doing a 300-pound bench press is not easy. Even when you posses the necessary skills, both these challenges require some warming up.
How to do a writer’s warm-up
Okay, so what’s the most basic thing you can write, one that doesn’t require any preparation whatsoever, and is impossible to get stuck on?
Writing an essay on the meaning of life is one thing, but I’d advise something different—a personal journal.
It fits the description perfectly. Everyone can write about how their day was, or what they have in plan for the evening, or what they think about other people and situations, and so on. Just like everyone can talk about these things to a friend.
So, every day (or whenever you’re doing your writing), start your writing session by firing up your personal journal (Penzu, for example is a great online journal tool) and jotting down whatever is in your mind.
There are no rules to writing a journal. Whatever you do, you’ll be doing it well. Besides, a personal journal, like the name indicates, is a purely private thing, so no one will ever see it.
I, personally, always write at least one journal entry before starting to work on an article. It takes me five to ten minutes to put down 300-800 words (I wish I could write some decent posts at this rate).
After I have my entry done I immediately switch to writing a post. And since I already have the right mindset, I can usually start without any hesitation lasting longer than two minutes or so.
You know what? I guess the “writer’s training program” is straightforward after all: five minutes of warm-up with a proper writing session afterwards.
I’m only asking for one thing here—have a little faith and try this yourself. Everyone who I’ve ever given this advice to has agreed that it’s one of the most effective things you can do to improve your writing. And for me, it’s been a true game changer.
What do you think about this whole idea? Are you using a similar technique? Maybe you’ve been doing this sort of writer’s warm-up without even knowing it? Feel free to speak up in the comments.
Karol K. (@carlosinho) is a 20-something year old web 2.0 entrepreneur from Poland and a grad student at the Silesian University of Technology. He hates to do traditional business but loves to train capoeira. Tune in to get his blogging advice and tips on starting an online business.