Feeling stuck? Try a creative warm up.
A couple times each week I lace up my sneakers and go for a run. I don’t time myself or aim to reach a specific distance. I don’t even carry my phone or wear a watch. I’m not fast, but it doesn’t matter. The point is to move without expectation. To just go.
I always struggle to get into a rhythm. The first 20 minutes are shit. I’m stiff and tired and want to stop. But I’ve been here before and I know if I just keep moving, one foot in front of the other, I’ll find my stride.
I experience this same resistance when working on anything creative. The first 20 minutes are unbearable. Every day is as hard as the first, confronted by every creative fear in the book—What if my art is bad? What if nobody cares? What if none of it matters? The world is falling apart anyway…
The trick is to expect the worst from this creative warm-up. Expect your writing to be mediocre. Keep writing. Expect to draw several scribbly nightmares. Keep drawing. Set a 20 minute timer if it helps.
Remember you’re warming up your creative muscles.
For me, Morning Pages have become a creative warm-up. I write 3 pages free hand, stream-of-consciousness-style every morning before doing anything else. I don’t expect anything of these pages. They’re not good writing, in fact quite the opposite, full of full of petty complaints and worries. But if I get them all out on the page then they’re less likely to crowd my mind the rest of the day.
Here are some ideas for creative warm-up exercises:
- Dance badly and freely for 5 minutes before developing a new choreography.
- Cut out every image from a newspaper or magazine for 20 minutes before arranging them into a cohesive collage.
- Write down everything you notice in this very moment. Your surroundings, sounds, smells, emotions, and thoughts. Everything you ate yesterday. Let it flow into something else. Song lyrics, your next poem, a short story.
For me, the trick is to flex the creative muscle I’m trying to work on. For example, when I want to write a new blog post I start by writing my morning pages. In both activities I am writing. When I want to design a new web application, I start by sketching out 8-10 tiny wireframes using only paper and pencil.
The creative warm up has freed me to make bad art. But make art nonetheless, which always feels better than not making art at all.