25 Points of Creativity
18. Warming Up

Warming up?

Warming up, warming up, warming up….

I mulled over the question concerning “How do you warm up?” for creativity over and over, but could not pinpoint a certain procedure, time period or exercise. This bothered me a bit, because I do warm up when I physically exercise (barely, on occasion), and so I presumed that I must do so before any cognitive/creative work-out as well.

But then it occurred to me that I really don’t warm up at all per se, because all day long I’m warming up.

"My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought, cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives." ~ Hedley Lamarr, Blazing Saddles, Andrew Bergman & Mel Brooks

The creative process in my mind is essentially this ever-turning sprinkler that waterlogs the lawn unless I drain it via the waterducts (quack, quack) of the creative process.

All day long I’m so entrenched in the process of multi-tasking and planning and mulling things over, that its all one big warm-up for me.

Both at home and at work I’ve rarely got less than half-a-dozen applications open at once. Sometimes, if I count the ones I use most and almost everyday (Word, Photoshop, Lotus Notes, Messenger, Word Pad, Illustrator, Photo Editor, PowerPoint, Excel, iTunes, Tripod, Flickr, Google, and Hotmail) I’ve got more than a dozen running on my poor PC.

Hence, what happens is that I’m literally stepping side-to-side, screen-to-screen, shuffling in between tasks all the time. Ten minutes of this executive’s presentation, five minutes of that department head’s speech, putting out this fire and starting another, ten minutes of round-robin calling to all the underlings who were supposed to submit their materials to me last week so that I can produce another report that no one ever reads, five minutes on flickr, ten minutes of photo editing, five minutes of HTML scripting and posting to Tripod, a moment to check and respond to e-mail, so on and so forth.

Point is, what is surely akin to the routine that most other minions of the information age have to go through, there is little time to warm up for anything. And so, if anything, “warming up” is simply a continual process.

Furthermore, since the most vital part of the creative process occurs mentally, it is important to realize and accept that warming up and figuring things out as you proceed through the process is in fact part of the process. In other words, nothing is all that clear before you shoot or edit a picture, compose a song, poem or essay or piece together another collage. Unlike architecture, you can’t always plan it all out prior to implementation or execution.

Quite often it is not until one is in the middle of manifesting the vision that you get a grip on what is truly possible. It is only then that you realize how far you can stretch the imagination and push the limits of your art.

Moreover, my approach to the creative process is not only hurried and often harried, but it is also haphazard and occasionally hazardous. For I adamantly believe that you need to just jump right in — do whatever you desire to do without worrying and wondering if you are really ready (i.e. warmed up). Because having the desire alone should be enough to get you started once you realize (and accept) that the opportunity may never arise again.

I work in a highly conservative corporate environment where everything has to be perfect, pared-down, highly sensitive (i.e. unappealing) and approved (in writing) by half-a-dozen managers before it can see the light of day. Half of my projects never do. As a result, I have learned to roll with the punches, work outside my ego, not be disappointed or surprised by anything, and still continue to give it my all (anyway) all day long.

However, when it comes to my own personal creative work, I believe in putting it all out there, riddled with mistakes and typos and every errant thought underlying the work that is possible.

I don’t fret over my errors for two reasons. First, as I’ve indicated before, I try not to pay too much attention to the opinion of others (unless, of course, they find something utterly offensive). And second, since I publish my work (prose, verse, pictures) online, I know I can always go back and rectify, modify, alter, and otherwise change things as I see fit at practically anytime from anywhere. Moreover, it is my general practice to edit and proofread my work continuously, especially my writing, months, even years after I first posted my words. Hence, once again, warming up is really a continual never-ending process.

If anything, I think if there is a particular part of warming-up that I can pass on to anyone, it is the necessity to ask yourself a lot of questions about what you are doing or want to do. Quite often much of the inquiry is about “Why?” or “Why not?” Why can’t I do it this way? Why am I limited myself to that way?

In fact, when I began to write my answer to the question of “How do you warm up?” I had to ask myself a lot of questions over and over again. I think the fact that I’ve been nurturing an injured hamstring for almost a month now made me quite conscious of the importance of this conceptual prescription (being that it was likely due to the fact that I had not warmed up that I sustained the injury).

Hence, I was quite interested in how it might apply to creativity. Because, just like the body, I believe the mind is quite subject to injury. And in my case, it might be the risk of tumbling into madness when I can no longer satisfy this compulsion to create.

Related Material: hypergraphiating Houdini
(discretion is advised, a few bad words and rather licentious terms are used in this piece of verse, sorry)

Mind the Mind lesson 17 lesson 19Just Do It!