Once you find a warmup routine that works, repeat it as habitually as possible. —Ted Corbitt
One Of My Many Wonderful Teachers
My senior year English teacher was one of those amazing people who manages to change lives with the power of her passion for a subject. She loved reading poems, books, and stories, but most of all, she loved writing. She loved the mechanics of it, she loved the words, she loved the structure and flow, and she loved to see the creative mind at work.
Every day, when we entered the classroom, there would be an interesting thought from a well-known writer on the board. (Sound familiar? This is why I start every newsletter this way!) We were to sit down, copy the quote, and write our thoughts on it for five minutes. When the five minutes were up, we put our journals away and got to the main classwork of the day.
This was a brilliant way to get a bunch of teenagers to settle down and begin class quietly. It accomplished several things at once:
1. Smoothed the transition to more challenging work. The quotation gave us something to think about, and at the very least, we could decide if we agreed or disagreed with it. Since the only objective was to write for five minutes, this provided an easy win.
2. Created a safe space to experiment. Our journals were graded only on whether or not we had done them, not on their quality, which meant we were free to say whatever came into our minds. Even half-formed or poorly-explained ideas were welcome. Classrooms require the willingness to fail, and our journals (which we were never asked to share with anyone except the teacher) were the stepping-stone for this kind of experimentation.
3. Improved our focus. Since we had no resistance to starting this “easy” assignment, it was fairly simple for us to get right to work. Once we were in the flow, our minds forgot the gossip in the hallway and the tests in the next period. We were able to be fully present for the class.
I Still Do This
Recently, I’ve gotten back into the habit of working with a warmup before I launch into my work-in-progress. Whenever I take a few minutes to play with Bookflow’s daily prompt, I find that the rest of my writing flows more easily and is more imaginative. As someone who loves productivity, this is hard for me to admit, but it’s true. The warmup doesn’t have to be related to my work-in-progress. In fact, it’s best when it isn’t.