MIKE BOCKOVEN

On Writing Warm Ups

Jan
17

I haven’t fallen down the Tumblr hole quite yet, but I’m on the precipice.

For the uninitiated Tumblr is a social network of mini blogging sites carved into intricately fine niches and with its own way of sharing, interacting, praising and innovating. It’s a singular thing and, like Twitter, you either get it or you don’t. I’m not sure I get it yet but I’m almost there, at which point I will fall into a hole, never to return.

My Tumblr, which I’m not sharing yet, is stuffed with writing advice, tips and tricks and I’ve noticed a trend. Some people do warm ups or a couple hundred words of whatever is in their head to get their fingers moving and their brain pumping. Not a bad idea if, for example, you have a block of time in which you can write, uninterrupted. And, like anything, if it works for you do it and do it proudly.

Let me tell you about the last time I tried to write.

I was in the gymnastics studio where my daughter was taking class (she’s great, by the way. Fearless and enthusiastic, using force of will to make up for whatever she lacks in grace) and I was squeezed into a child’s sized chair. Less than two feet away from me was a young boy, whatever you are after you are a Toddler. Creeper Pain in the Ass, I think is the clinical term. This up and comer wanted candy from his mom, who had some in her bag so he asked “Mommy, candy”. She said no, but he got stuck on a loop. It took him about two seconds to say “Mommy, candy,” and before the “y” in “candy” was completely out of his mouth he was on to the “m” turning it into a sort of chant, pausing only for breath. When the mom ignored him (smart phones are a powerful thing) he took his act on tour, eventually making it to me where he stared dead at me and said “Mommy, candy” over and over with the mommy in question not paying attention.

I finally piped up, saying “I don’t have any candy, bud,” the “bud” being thrown in to prove I wasn’t upset or creepy. This caused the mother to take notice and quiet the kid and I went on with my novel (knocking on the door of 50,000 words).

Why tell this story? Because it’s the only time I have. It’s a full, mostly uninterrupted hour and even that doesn’t happen as often as it used to. Unless I’m up early (like now) or up late this is the only time during the normal, waking day I have to write and I have it once a week, twice if I’m lucky. And I really like sleeping.

Bottom line: If a kid chanting in my ear isn’t going to stop me from writing, I’m not going to let my brain being a little slow do it. That’s one of the joys of discovery writing – picking right up where you left off, even if your brain was on fire. And, yeah, like anything sometimes you have a slow start. And, yeah, sometimes you have a bad writing day. But I’ve found that thinking about it before hand, like on the drive over to the gymnastics studio, and then diving right in works for me and when I lock in, that’s a glorious feeling. I wish I had it more often.

Again, that’s not to say warm ups aren’t valuable. I like reading them. It’s just not how I work right now and with a year where I’m hoping to increase my output, I am going to stay away from them for right now. Come back in a few months when I’m extolling the virtues of warm ups and asking for suggestions.

You know. Whatever works.

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