When you partake in physical activity, such as working out, playing sports, dancing, etc, it’s always good to start with a warm-up. This will help prevent damage to your muscles and joints by helping your body cope with the strain of the activity.
Mental activity works the same way.
Most people I know have been lazy when it comes to writing lately. Semesters are ending, holidays are coming up, and the cold weather means time indoors with tea and blankets. December means time spent with friends and family, not time chained to a chair, writing.
Yet when the time comes, write we must, and our creative muscles will need a gentle warm-up before taking the plunge. Writing something small every day will get your mind working, but in my daily writing project, I found my plot muscles tired rather quickly. Coming up with some interesting pseudo-plot every day was the hard part. Once that was done, the words came easily (albeit not the greatest words, but words nonetheless).
My suggestion is this: Read a book, preferably one you’ve never read before. Each day as you read, pick out one piece of the plot and write something using that plot piece in your own way.
For example, I started reading Terry Pratchett‘s Lords and Ladies this morning. The notion of a woman appearing from within a circle of upright rocks intrigued me, especially since she was unable to leave that circle. For this exercise, I wrote a couple hundred of my own words on such a scenario.
At page 15 I’ve not yet a solid idea on what the plot is. Which is the point. I didn’t come up with the idea of the circle of rocks, but I can find a way to use it. This will let me think creatively without overtaxing myself on a complex project. In other words: the perfect warm-up.
So next time you’re gearing up to work on a new project, or even if you’re just reading a fantastic book, take a few minutes to write what comes to mind. Taking a well-earned break from writing is good. Letting your creative muscles deteriorate is not.
(As an aside: I’m not promoting plagiarism. I’m promoting finding inspiration in the minds of professional writers. This exercise is akin to fanfic and similar, if not the same, rules apply.)