Develop your own warm up ritual
‘Conditions’ means mental, emotional and environmental factors like room temperature, mental calmness organisation of materials.
In any creative field, knowledge of the craft is not enough.
Decisions made about the conditions for creating mediate the difference between someone who is a writer, dancer, designer, artist – and someone who is not.
Simply, process produces outcome.
Choreographer Twyla Tharp discusses her daily rituals in her book The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life.
As well as being a detailed description of Tharp’s own creative practices, this is a beautifully written book with an eye for specific details that render a life lived, rather than simply an instruction manual.
“ Every mechanism, process, labour – creative project – requires a warm-up phase. ”
Tharp writes that she is obsessed by warmth.
Each day, she gets out of bed early and catches a cab to the gym where she trains for two hours to get warm. She “loathes” air-conditioning. Her New York apartment is stifling in summer, a condition she thrives in. She writes how she loves skin that is just about to break into sweat. Indeed, New York Times writer Alex Witchel says in his description of her apartment, “I had come here for Tharp to see me sweat.”
I’m labouring on this point about heat because I think it’s a meaningful metaphor in thinking about creative process.
Every mechanism, process, labour – creative project – requires a warm-up phase.
The warm up instigates material movement – muscles working, synapses firing – but also another type of less tangible movement. It triggers the beginning of flow; the onset of creation.
The warm up says, “Now, we do.”
Reading Tharp got me thinking about my own warm-up rituals:
- I live in a hot climate, so I’m obsessed with hydration. Before I begin to write, I fill my water bottle and put it on my desk.
- I clear away anything left from the day before, and position my hand cream and lip gloss. These are like cigarettes for a smoker. I think while I apply them.
- Finally, I always read for about 15-20 minutes before getting started. Some writers say they don’t like the interference of other voices, but because I write into so many contexts – the academic, the fictional, the blog – I need to anchor my voice by reading a similar form to the one I’ll be writing for the day. This is very important. It’s what I use to find the right key. When I have the right key, I begin.
It really doesn’t matter too much how you warm up, as long as you use repeated rituals to contextualise your actions.
Be conscious of your rituals.
Awareness of what you do – and why – allows you to tweak conditions when they’re not working and develop them further when they are.
Grab your leg warmers and get into it!