Conversation 28: WRITING WARM UPS – Getting in the Mood


Alongside my own writing I work as a Creative Practitioner focusing on writing but using art, dance, film, music, drama and photography in education, healthcare, corporate and community settings.  Creative warm-ups are a great way to get us in the writing mood.  We can see these warms ups in the same way as exercises before a run or tuning your instrument.  They also help promote a welcoming, inviting and accessible atmosphere whether in person or online. A friendly approach allows everyone to take part, crucially those who may be starting their writing adventure but also providing a playful element into writing practice.


Warm ups can also help in introducing new ideas, themes and can move us out of our comfort zones. I remember a particularly engaging workshop series run many years ago now by The Southbank Centre, ‘Ballroom Blitz’ with the talented poet Michael Donaghy sadly no longer with us. We were a group of poets and dancers. Poets were encouraged to dance, dancers encouraged to write in rotating workshop bursts run by each of us in turn which culminated in impromptu performances. It was great fun, challenging but also opened up new ways of seeing our own practice.

Once a month on THE DAILY HAIKU we have a free pick n’ mix option, where members can choose their own theme but limit themselves to just 10 minutes to write a haiku. This in itself is a great warm-up, where you let go and see what comes out. Word association games are also great fun, where you take a theme, set an alarm eg, for three minutes, and just free write, see what the theme brings up.

Here are some of my favourite warm-ups that I like to use to encourage writing:


I am fond of using sensory touchtones. Stones and/or shells can be powerful and easily accessible. Collect together a group of stones and/or shells. This is a warm-up you can do alone, with others (also online). Place the stones on a surface, pick 3-5 stones.  If with others allow them to pick 3 too.

Play with the stones, hold them in your hands and feel them. Arrange them in a shape. If in a group in person allow your neighbour to pick one of your stones and then they ask their neighbour to pick one of theirs and so on.

Then pick one stone, your favourite of the ones you have in your group. Take a pencil and sketch the stone on whatever size paper you have to hand.  Think about the shape, the markings.

When you have finished this quick sketch. Write down what the sketch reminds you of that is not a stone. This can often be surprising. Then take the favourite stone, hold it in your hands, close your eyes for 2 minutes and think: WHERE DOES THIS STONE TAKE YOU.

At the end of the 2 minutes open your eyes and share your thoughts with the group and write them down. These thoughts can often generate great conversations between people, ways of connecting and evoke potent memories. They can then be used if wanted as prompts into longer pieces of writing, haiku or poetry.


This is a fun word game warm up and one I have used as prompts in THE DAILY HAIKU. Take a well known proverb and take out the key words to make new proverbs.  Favourite ones of mine to use are:

YOU CAN’T SEE THE WOOD FOR THE TREES – YOU CAN’T SEE THE ???? FOR THE ???? eg, You can’t see the light for the shade, You can’t see the turn for the twist, You can’t see the moment for the passing etc

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL – ???? AT THE END OF THE ???? eg, Home at the end of the Day, Thresholds at the end of the Journey, Laughter at the end of Sadness etc.

EVERY CLOUD HAS A SILVER LINING – EVERY ???? HAS A ???? eg, Every day has an ending, Every word has a meaning, Every joke has a joker etc.

It is always fascinating to see what people come up with, again it is an ice-breaker too which helps connect us but also can provide surprisingly poignant offerings but also really funny ones too.


Get a group of objects together that are around your home. When I do this in a group I pick a mix of ornaments, old toys, a book, fruit, vegetable, flowers, plants, clothing, keepsakes, natural objects eg, leaves, stones, shells, recycling, old postcards… Have fun collecting a group together.

Then pick one, either with your eyes closed or as an active choice.

Give yourself 15 minutes to write a monologue from the point of view of that object. Imagine yourself as that object and express their feelings, aspirations, dreams, daily routines, think about where you are as that object, what you can see around you, what you like, don’t like… The key is to ask yourself lots of questions and build that character.

Try a few over a week or two, pick a different object each day and see where this takes you. Try different tones: humorous, tragic, romantic, philosophical.

with your Feelings

This is a link to a workshop that you can use as a warm-up which focuses on our emotions and describing them in a unique and personal way.

Enjoy the creative warm-ups and let us know about your own.


7 Comments on “Conversation 28: WRITING WARM UPS – Getting in the Mood”

  1. holding a stone, its the one you showed me yesterday on from the beach at Marazion, where we walked in the soft but driving rain, I pocketed it after you threw it away, wanting to take a piece of you with me before you go, all too soon, in September, my last child, leaving….

  2. These writing warm ups were great fun to use within our writing group that discusses obstructions in writing. In particular, we tried ‘proverbs’ and ‘monologues’ and with the latter, had much success, after writing the first monologue, by creating a conversation between two people and reading it out loud. Many thanks for the great advise!

  3. Thank I love the stone and seashell.exercises. I love on the beach and swim almost ever day (bar when it’s stormy) and beachcomb every time.

  4. Great exercise!
    I tried it with my six years old son using shells.

    I helped him to put the story he came up with into a short poem which I laid out into a three line form: he did all the imaginary job, I just did the layout.

    Sardinian sea
    riding a friendly shark
    I look for corals

    Me too, it made me travel in different places and time.
    An air of “Love in the time of cholera”.

    coquettes with their fans
    midsummer day lasting long
    in Cartagena*
    *city in Columbia

    I really knew this exercise/game would reinforce the bond with my son. He really easily delved into it. Of course I focused on letting him express himself first, he showed me the way. Then, with less spontaneity, I reflected on this in my own way and came up with the above-mentioned piece. I will definitely repeat the experience with him. I have to say that the “Sardinian sea” part is based on a true memory. My son managed to remember our holidays in Sardinia when he was only three years old. I find that amazing.
    Thank you so much Amanda!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your experience of the stone and seashell workshop with your son, such beautiful and memorable writing. Share the love with others.

  6. Stones

    The black and pink
    conch spirals into fractals
    minds cannot behold

    when maladjusted
    by psychedelic response
    mushrooms generate

    stoned cold and sober
    in the journey’s aftermath
    last time i promise

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