Motivation and Warm-Ups

Honestly, I didn’t want to write this post. I was tired and distracted and generally couldn’t think of anything I wanted to say. Then I happened to see my team lead at work promising “great motivation!” at a company rally later this week.

(side note: my company is one of those that prides itself on being a fun and casual place to work, which seems to me to amount to trying to recreate the college atmosphere. Personally, I find this just short of insufferable).

As far as motivation is concerned, the best motivator I’ve found yet is to simply start. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel ready, it doesn’t even matter if what you produce is junk. Once you begin, you are automatically in a better position than you were before you began.

Because believe it or not, the very act of doing something often makes you want to keep doing it. It wakes up that part of your brain and sets it working. Not only that, but having actual words in front of you, I find, helps you to fine-tune the idea far better than trying to hold it in your head does. By actually writing it, you have to run your mind over the scene, giving you more of a tactile feel for what is needed than you get from thinking about it in the abstract. Little points that you hadn’t thought of come to light, new problems make themselves known and new possibilities present themselves. Actually seeing it laid down as “this is this” can trigger your mind to say, “No, this should be that!”

Writing builds on writing. It is not a matter of making a single perfect stroke and being done, it is more in the nature of building up a fire, or of performing a work out. Generally you don’t go from standing still to an intense exercise; you start with stretches and simple warm-ups to limber up your muscles and get your head in the moment. Sometimes you feel like you’re exhausting yourself with your warm up because you’re fighting through the inertia. Then it’s over and you start the real exercises, and you find you’re more energized and ready to go than when you first started. Finally, when you’ve worn yourself down, you stretch and do cool-down exercises to bring yourself down.

Writing or creating in general is a lot like that. Generally it takes a bit of time to warm yourself up, to limber up your mind and get going. A lot of discouragement and lack of motivation, I think, comes from simply trying to dive right into the main event without any kind of warm-up.

Fit a warm-up routine into your creative process; maybe just free-writing or scribbling half-formed ideas related to the scene or story you’re working on or something. Anything that’s easy to do and doesn’t take energy to pick up and start. Then when you feel like you don’t have any motivation to work, just start your warm-up. By the time you’re done, you’ll probably be eager to start. And even if you aren’t, you’ll at least have a few ideas or notes to work from next time.

One thought on “Motivation and Warm-Ups

  1. Have you read Atomic Habits by James Clear? His book helps me keep writing. Nice post. Believe it or not, I was drawn to read it by your first line. Probably b/c I too often don’t have anything to say, but I want to publish SOMETHING, right? So, kudos to you for pressing one.

    Liked by 2 people

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