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Welcome to Cold Opens: Warm-Up Activities for the Creative Writing Classroom. For anyone unfamiliar with the phrase, a cold open is a technique in television and film that immerses the audience into the story before the title rolls and the show gets under way in earnest. It’s the opening sequence, the scene that precedes all others, the space on the screen that opens up and draws all of us in.
And it’s cold for a reason: there are few less forgiving climates than those we encounter on our way to a beginning. All of us need to come in now and then and warm up, especially if we want our writing muscles to stay in reasonably good shape. And yet it’s so very challenging to find the time to do so, as the practical demands of our everyday lives seem to follow us wherever we go.
Given the very real pressures that all writers face in trying to carve out time for their work, my hope is that you’ll start by giving yourself permission just to have fun with these activities, and not to think too much about whether the writing is going anywhere.
In fact, let’s make destinations a distant concern. The goal here is simply to help you transition into whatever imaginative space you need to be in (in order to write).
So, if you’re a creative writing instructor looking for some fun activities to do at the start of class, or if you’re a writer yourself and feeling a little bit stuck, hopefully these activities will help.
In the meantime, thanks for dropping in. Feel free to look around. And should you find any of these exercises useful, or if you’d like to suggest one for this project, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
-Dave Hickey, University of Prince Edward Island, Spring 2021
P.S. I wanted to provide something like a backstory for this project, so please enjoy my budding cinematographic efforts.
Basic Transcript of Welcome Video
My name is Dave Hickey, and this is Cold Opens: Warm-Up Activities for the Creative Writing Classroom. This open education resource is the result of an email I got not too long ago from a former student who had just started teaching creative writing at a local high school.
And he got in touch with me to see if he could get a list of the warm up activities that we had done at the start of class when he had been a student of mine in a creative writing workshop.
And I thought I was absolutely great, really for two reasons and one that he was still writing and that he was teaching writing as well, but also that he had enjoyed the activities well enough and thought they were useful enough that he would reach out to me for a list of them.
So I thought that was absolutely great. And as I was putting them together, I thought that maybe these might be of use to other people as well. So maybe you’re a new writer, maybe you just started writing creatively and you’re looking for some things to do to help you overcome that blank page that stares back at us all. And that really is daunting. Isn’t it really challenging to overcome at times? And I don’t think that necessarily changes that much, depending on how long you’ve been writing. So these little up activities can be really great if you’re new to creative writing, and they can also be really great if you’re just coming back to it or, you know, you’re feeling a little bit stuck. I hope these activities are also useful for someone who, like me just started teaching creative writing a few years ago. And perhaps you’re looking for something to do at the start of class to help people to relax and to help them help remind them where they are.
And that creative writing is actually really fun and that, you know, it should be something that all of us can do together. Now, I should say that I wasn’t always a huge fan of warm up activities. My concern was that, you know, by doing more activities, I was just going to create, you know, writing that felt like it was too conceptual or too dependent on the activity and that it wasn’t going to really produce anything I was going to hold on to. But what turned me around and warm up activities was actually having the chance to teach a creative writing class.
What I found was that students would come to class, and of course, I had dutifully arranged a schedule to workshop. I say I don’t know six or seven students were over the space at the time that we had.
And invariably the first student wouldn’t get the same quality of feedback as a student who went later on in the evening. And I always thought that was strange, right? I would have thought it was the opposite. You know, surely when we arrive in class, everyone’s energetic.
You know, surely this first person would get high quality feedback. But that wasn’t actually the case. And what I came to realize over the course of this semester is that when people come into a workshop or really any kind, of course they bring with them whatever they experience that day.
So some people are rushing into class from another course. Some people just drop off their kids. Or maybe maybe they just had an argument with their roommate. And all of that follows us into the creative writing classroom. And so what I tried was just a series of short ready activities 55 minutes, maybe ten minutes that we talk we got along, and I found that by doing that, by spending a little bit of time writing together, it helped to ground people and it helped to burn off some of that energy that people bring with them into the classroom.
So that’s the spirit in which these activities are offered. I should also say that I claim no authorship over any of these activities. I suspect that some of them I put a little bit of my own twist on them.
But these are things that were generously shared with me by other instructors, and they’re things that other writers have taught me over time. So I thought that they’d make the perfect material for an open education resource where the goal is really just to share information freely and hopefully to save a little bit of money along the way. Because there certainly are a lot of books out there on writing. Some of them are hugely valuable, and I would never discourage you from picking one up. But if you’re just looking for a way to get started, then hopefully these videos will be of some use to you.