Do you warm up before you start on your #WIP ?


Today, I’m posting one of my warm-up sessions, unedited. Do you warm up before you start writing on your #WIP ?
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When writing becomes second nature

Writing warm-ups

I write often at a food court in one of the shopping malls in the neighborhood. Today I have 600 words already under my belt when I set off, so I do not feel that fear which always accompanies an empty page. But I do have to start a chapter, and that is hard.

Sometimes the best way to write is just wait for it to come, and surround myself with the hum of conversation, with the clatter of cutlery thrown against ceramic plates, the muted screech of chairs drawn out from under the tables, the whir of the food processor as yet another milkshake is born.

At a table near me sit four Chinese women, animated over their cups of black coffee, all short-haired, middle-aged, frumpily dressed, with big smiles as they discuss some achievement or the other in Hokkien. Must be related to badminton practice, because I see pink and blue and red racquets poking out of each bag.

The Hong Kong Roast stall near which I’ve picked my table is the most eye-catching. Red-browned, glazed piglets, ducks and chicken hang motionless under yellow incandescent lighting, the queue is witness to the stall’s skill at cooking and the reasonable prices. A large portion of roast duck noodle sells at SGD 4.

They’re not shy of promoting their culinary efforts either—each plate of sliced roast pork comes with a pink or orange or yellow plastic rose and plastic green leaves, which later lie sad and abandoned on the plates amongst a pile of bones. The elderly cleaning lady (all cleaning staff at the food court is elderly, the young generation mans the sales counters), cleans off the plates with brattles of sound off stage behind a screen, and I think of the poor crushed petals of plastic roses lying under chewed-up bones.

I pick at the pile of pineapple slices on my plate with a toothpick the fruit-seller served them with. Why you eat so many fruit, ah? he asked me today, by way of conversation.

Rare in Singapore, to be addressed about anything other than your food when eating at food courts. But he has seen me off and on for weeks and months, and with no waiting queue behind me, threw me a question.

I smiled back. Love fruits leh, but too lazy to peel them one. I mangled my English on purpose. I knew I didn’t get the slang quite right, but they say, Ha? if I talk with all the conjunctions and prepositions I learned in school. The fruit-seller smiled back, Healthy one, ah, and handed me the change. I’ve used this sort of conversation in stories before, but my novel isn’t set in Singapore, so today’s exchange at the fruit counter isn’t helpful.

In all this time today, I’ve just sat and typed at random about where I am, about the Indian man gobbling up his chicken rice, dressed in striped shirt and office gear, a red backpack beside him, fake golden Rolex watch glinting under the light.

Or the elderly Chinese lady in glasses, coaxing strands of noodles on to her ceramic spoon, garnishing each mouthful with a slice of pickled chili, and popping the whole thing into her mouth while swaying with the music from her headphones.

Beside her sit two white women, one of them making inroads into her vegetable and rice with fork and spoon, the other making a mess of it with crossed chopsticks. The Chinese lady doesn’t look at them, not once.

Now that I have warmed up again, written my way through the Food court and waited, I’m hoping the Chapter will come to me. When I go home I’ll upload this on my blog, and tell you all about how I sat down today and waited to write.

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(P.S: I got in 1056 words after my warm-up, which, though not scintillating, is still much better than nothing)

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56 thoughts on “Do you warm up before you start on your #WIP ?

  1. Warm ups aren’t something I’ve tried yet. I did hear an interview with an author who said he never poured his first cup of coffee in a morning until he’d written his way into a new scene. :-)

  2. I absolutely love this. Not only because your writing is fabulous, but because I learned something – aside from the goings on of food courts in Singapore. Everything is interesting when written well – even what seems mundane or ordinary to one person. For a second I forgot I wasn’t reading a novel and was sad when it ended. Given that I’ve had an issue with getting started writing each day, perhaps I, too, will give the warm-up method a try. Fantastic work.

  3. I enjoyed your article very much. I usually sit in a Starbucks and work on my blogs. If inspiration is not shortly forthcoming, I’ll take a walk in the woods. When I was writing my first novel “The Floating Man” I would take a nap whenever I felt boxed in by the plot. It’s amazing how things become clear when you empty your mind. Naps are good—and cheaper than Starbucks.

  4. Im a leisure writer… I write mostly at home/office lunch hours when work gets to me. You article makes me go and write in the food court nearby or McD or park nearby .

  5. I agree with above commenter that this was an enjoyable read, I felt like I was sitting next to the lady making a mess of her food with chopsticks. Creative of you to think to share. I really appreciate the vulnerability of writers, thank you for sharing what to write….when you are not sure what to write….lol

  6. Such detail you capture–showing us enough to easily picture the entire scene! I simply listen to music, the only light my laptop screen and wait for the story to reveal itself from the notes…

  7. A blog post and 1056 words in one sitting. I think that’s pretty good! The other day, I sat in the food court with a friend to write, but the air conditioning was on too high and we had to move before we froze.

  8. Reading always makes me want to write. But I don’t let myself jump straight up and run to the keyboard. I put on the kettle, prep the pot and strainer, wait for the brew, and finally take my tea to my notes and computer, where I sip and type like the posh-est fool I can. I find that if I pretend to be sophisticated, I wind up taking the process of writing more seriously, and am less likely to talk myself out of the work or the idea I’ve had.

    But I do get the need to be around people. Snippets of conversation and body language are a great resource to draw on (I tend to write less and less dialogue if work in isolation), and the hum of activity is often less distracting than a silent house with any number of other tasks quietly twiddling their thumbs and waiting to be addressed.

    Great post, and grats on the word count. :)

  9. I generally don’t warm up. I jump in and get right to it. I have to focus otherwise I might not ever get to my wip. Who knows when I’ll get distracted?

    I do enjoy people-watching, however, and sitting in a food court is a great place to do that. Great job on getting so many words in one sitting. :)

  10. I’ve never tried writing in a public spot.
    Usually, here at home, I listen to some music, preferably classical styled music for inspirational purposes.
    Think I’m gonna take my pen and notepad to the Botanical Gardens one of these days…
    Hope you’re well Damyanti? :)
    Writer In Transit

  11. Love the way you have let facts and fiction flow. Nah haven’t tried warm up intentionally but yes I do find myself thinking about I have to do a post and the idea..I think I should take more effort here..

  12. Wow ! Warm up .. reminded me that even I do the same .. before actually drawing a toon .. i may have made atleast 30 faces and drawn 300 lines blankly without any strong motive :)
    I could relate well !! Well.. I too love fruit juices :)

  13. Loved this example of your warm-up ritual. I have to admit that I sometimes need to “trick” myself into working on my WIP by telling myself I am only going to take a look at it and then I end up writing. I just posted about this on my writing site a few days ago. Susie

  14. Writing ideas are like the wind…sometimes definitely already there, sometimes you hear it coming- so you better have something to write it down on. I take a pen and paper notebook with me in the car wherever I go.

  15. Hi Damyanti, I just stopped by to visit, as I saw that you had visited my blog and liked one of my posts. Thanks for visiting. I hope you will visit again. I like your blog. It is interesting.

  16. Love the warming up to writing part…I do it eclectically where as you do it religiously and that makes you a better writer! Thanks for dropping by my blog. If you are an ebook reader, try my novella Magnificent Loss published by Indireads. Would appreciate your review. Thanks again.

    • I would say that I am not a warmer uppa, I am usually so ready and focussed that I am “writing” before the computer has booted up. Even, and perhaps especially if this is when I have been woken from a dream at daft 0 clock in the morning, I juts have to get up and write.
      At other times, I know I am ready and just get down to it, often without reading the last thing, I seem to be able to pick up and go.
      I suppose that is a sign that you are ready to write the book when it is so in the forefront of everything you do.

  17. I always write when I feel like writing or at least write it in my mind if I can’t put it on paper at the moment.I usually think about different topics I gotta write about on the site I am working on, on my personal blog or in different areas.So I guess I do the warm-up in my mind without realizing since I mostly think in English and not in my default language. Weird, I know.

    For my blog, I just write when I got something to write. I usually just open it, write and add pictures over a topic that I elaborate on as I go.

    +

  18. I’ve missed your writing, and this post shows why. You are gifted at conveying detail — the sights and sounds of the food court took me there. I especially loved this: “…the muted screech of chairs drawn out from under the tables,” as well as your conversation with the fruit seller.

  19. My WIP stalled and I simply shoved it out as a free eBook on the web. That’s that. No more worrying about it. As for warm-ups, they make me too tired….

  20. I don’t have a daily warm up, but if I start feeling nervous about the task ahead of me I turn to the blog that I do here. I don’t edit it, other than for spelling and such, I just let it come out. I can’t remember the name of the book or the author, probably because I haven’t had coffee yet, but they constantly stress the need to keep the pen moving.

    I like the warm up idea, I will have to give that a try, get the juices going here then switch over.

  21. I have never used any warm up exercises prior to writing, just alwAys tried to jump in. When the right words refuse to come though, this could be a great idea. I have to say I found your warm up very entertaining. It was an enjoyable read and well written.

  22. My warm up is to get the mundane out of the way, which usually involves putting on a load of washing and doing the breakfast dishes after I have dropped the kidlets to school. While I am doing this though, I am having conversations with my characters – what are they up to today? What did they do last night? What did they eat for breakfast? It helps me get to them in an intimate way, and I think it is reflected in my (as yet unpublished) writing. This process allows me to multitask and make housework much more interesting!

I love comments, and I always visit back. Blogging is all about being a part of a community, and communities are about communication! Tweet me up @damyantig !

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