When I sit down (or, more often these days, stand) to write, I often warm up with fifteen minutes of free writing. Sometimes, I give myself a prompt unrelated to my work in progress, but usually I just let words wander onto the page. Here's a little clump of wandering words, written while looking into the woods behind our house.
Pull me into the emerald sea
through layered song of rustling leaves
and whisper ancient mystery
written within the rings of trees
Poetry has only made two appearances during warm-ups. More often, warm-up entires are rambling reflections on how I'm feeling in my body at that moment or explorations of desires, aspirations and feelings of conflict or stuck-ness.
If i'm feeling eager for a challenge, I'll pick a writing activity or two from Ursula K. Le Guin's Steering the Craft or design a prompt of my own, such as "write from the perspective of Samson (my cat)" or "what might the approach of spring feel like to a dormant seed?"
Various factors seem to influence the effectiveness of warm-up time: how much sleep I've had, the type and amount of tea I've consumed, my attitude and the content of my self-talk, my current method of chronic pain management, pre- or post-meal brain haze, etc. And, when I'm feeling woefully stuck, I just allow myself to rest my hands on the keyboard and breathe mindfully for the full fifteen minutes.
Though warm-up time rarely helps me reach optimal mental clarity and creative flow (which I only really experience once or twice a month), it does help me get over the first big hurdle of writing: doing it.
What are some of your favorite writing warm-up practices?