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Pre-writing is a practice that I got started on when I was in college taking English 101. My instructor strongly encouraged us to take time to write down at least one page of free writing that was unrelated to the task at hand. It may sound a little funny, but that one page of free writing actually did a lot to help me get into that mental zone for writing larger things. I have since moved up to writing 3 pages of free writing every morning (as per The Artist's Way from Julia Cameron, I highly recommend this book for anyone who is struggling artistically or just looking for a jump start for their creativity).
Pre-writing exercises can take a wide range of forms. It can be anything from writing lists of what you want to accomplish with your writing session for the day to free writing to purging your writing anxieties with some creative journal writing. The focus of pre-writing is to get yourself ready for your writing session. For some people, this may be as simple as spending fifteen minutes to list out what the major highlights of the scene they are writing and listening to inspiring music. For others, it is going to be a whole little ritual of getting their cup of coffee fixed just so, putting on some inspiring music (and their lucky socks), and organizing their writing tools. Usually, it does involve some form of writing, but it doesn't have to.
That is the beautiful thing about writing for yourself. You get to decide just how much and what sort of preparation is necessary for your writing session. You get to decide how much leg work is necessary (usually, college students and anyone writing something research based do have some things that are mandatory, namely research) before you start that first draft. This is sometimes intimidating because all of that freedom can be disorienting. But, it also allows you to tailor your work sessions to your strengths.
So, if you are like myself and you need your pre-writing session, don't feel bad about it. Just schedule that time in and use it as necessary. It may feel a little funny to first start out trying, but you may find that your pre-writing time leads you to develop more as an author and have an easier time finding your voice. And, it may just be that little bit of pre-writing time turns in some self-pampering which everyone could use once in a while when they are working hard. Writing is hard work, so time to reward and encourage yourself is always necessary.
What are your feelings on pre-writing and preparing for your writing sessions? Let me know in the comments!