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#IWSG : How Do You Stay Nimble? #writing

Insecure Writer's Support Group

Insecure Writers!

I’m struggling with a bad back, so beta-reading and critiquing is most I can do by way of work. I’m also submitting to magazines, but that’s about it.

Today is IWSG day: Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for organizing and hosting the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) every month! Go to the site to see the other participants.

In this group we writers share tips, self-doubt, insecurities, and of course, discuss the act of writing. If you’re a writer and a blogger, definitely go join rightaway!

My post today is about the writing process: I think I write inside of me most of the time while doing physical work. I don’t make things up, I just welcome whatever bubbles up within me.

Writing fiction inspiration

Staying nimble with your writing

Each morning, I try to write 3 pages, to start my day off, and that has helped me stay nimble. I don’t manage it every single day, but most days, it is like brushing my teeth–on autopilot: I wake up, grab tea and head to my desk, where I write by hand for about half an hour. This continues as I struggle with my back these days–I find I can write 3 pages before the hurt really sinks its teeth in.

The daily writing keeps me confident about churning out the words: I write 500-700 words everyday as a matter of routine.

What’s your trick to stay nimble as a writer? Do you write every day or only when the mood strikes you?

Any favorite time of the day? A specific place,  a superstition? Are you part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) ?

To my friends, writers and non, tell me all about what keeps you going, nimble, alive. I want the all the dirt on your favorite rituals.

If you’ve just arrived, welcome! Stay on and have a cuppa– we’re a friendly bunch here. And you can be sure I’ll find ways to support you if you drop in a comment and become a friend!

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Usually I don’t follow a fixed routine. Sometimes I write when something interesting strikes me that I feel like sharing with my audience. Sometimes I force myself to write things that I normally do not enjoy writing about I.e academic writing. Being a freelance writer I have to do it whether I enjoy it or not. At other times, I write because I like the whole process no matter I use the content for my blog or not. However, I have noticed when you write freely about an idea that striks you out of the blue, such content stands a better chance of going viral.

  • Birgit says:

    I start my day…on my butt! I am in constant pain so when I awake, I feed the animals and then I have breakfast, with the heating pad on, and enjoy some TV. Once I am loosened up, I take 3 deep breaths , smile (when I can) and welcome the day

  • cleemckenzie says:

    My back gave me some severe warnings, so I started writing in sessions. I’d make sure I stood frequently and walked a lot. That’s helped, and I’ve learned how to make notes that lead me to the next scene or idea. I write something everyday, but not always fiction.

  • My hand held the dagger at the request of my heart
    My mind hoping that another stab wound would end it all
    Alas I depressingly survived

  • ccyager says:

    I hope your back gets better soon! What a pain. Nowadays, I write when I can. It means squeezing it in whenever and often only nonfiction rather than fiction. But I am also writing in my head: solving narrative problems, playing with ideas, etc. I think reading is an important aspect of staying nimble as a writer — I’ve done much better this year with my reading. Take care! Cinda

  • Your comment about mentally writing while doing physical activities really resonates with me. I find if I’m stuck on where to go next, or how certain pieces can fit together, it is really helpful to go on a hike or a bike ride and let things bubble up. Even after years of writing, I still struggle to maintain a consistent routine. Evenings seem most productive–something about the dark lets the creative juices flow–but it’s also when I’m most likely to be exhausted from the day.

    For more fun with writing and literature, check out I think you’ll like it.

  • Write first is my golden rule! Depending on where I am in the writing process I’ll normally try to write about 1000 words a day. When I’m in the editing process I try to cut down on all the words I’ve written ha. It’s a vicious cycle! 🙂

  • I guess my interest is to read as much as I can about others thoughts in journals or books. Quite often it prompts ideas I chase in my head and often put to pen.

  • Reblogged this on Miss Alexandrina.

  • Writing daily really helps us to stay sane. I am not able to do it every single day but need to get back to the grind.

  • Lauren Craig says:

    Routine is a better friend than inspiration. I have a specific two days a week writing time that I keep during school.

  • Schedule? Something I have failed to achieve my whole life. I find that once I have a project running there is nowhere I would rather be than at my desk, but my conscience makes me do everything else first.
    Bad backs are a nightmare. The best answer is to keep moving; the worst to sit all day at a desk. I guess compromise – best of luck.

  • Nicola Young says:

    I’ve been writing almost everyday in November, but I usually have Monday and Friday mornings, plus Saturday afternoons whilst I’m waiting for my daughter to do her gym class. I find having set days and times keeps me focused.

  • I’d love to work on my novel every day, but that’s not possible because of my work schedule / lifestyle. So I save it for weekends and other days off; and I think because I’ve had that time scheduled in my mind, I can easily pick up where I left off without delay when the time comes. And if I’m home, my writing rituals involve a cup of tea and a scented candle that puts me “in the mood” for the scene I’m working on. 🙂

    Sorry to hear about your back troubles. I hope you feel better soon!

  • phyllomania says:

    Everyday, first thing, three pages, fountain pen, strong coffee, cross legged on big chair with back support! Back stuff; I stretch every morning in bed . Helps a ton . Following! Phyllis

  • jebjork says:

    I decided this year to get into a proper routine and set myself the goal of writing at least for 30 min (or 500 words) four days per week. It works most weeks and I find that once I start, the session often becomes longer and the more I stick to the schedule the more my stories bubble away under the surface for the rest of the day.
    Hope you’re feeling better soon.

  • you are amazing! 500 words per day is quite some task, maybe I should follow your suit!

  • davidprosser says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your back problems. I hope you find some relief soon.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

  • Ruth2Day says:

    mornings are best for me. But working full time means I have to do this at work! not easy as you can imagine. My downfall is the weekend, I can’t seem to muster the mind to be nimble then

  • RSGullett says:

    As someone who also has back issues, I sympathize. I hope and pray you get back on your feet soon.
    As for writing, the only time I have usually is during my lunch breaks and any spare time I can squeeze out of my busy schedule. I find writing is therapeutic and seeing even bad prose on what was once a blank page provides a sense of accomplishment that so often eludes me in other endeavors.

  • That’s a good routine. Too bad I’m the type to stay in bed as long as possible. I’m just not a morning person! LOL Lately I haven’t been writing much, but I’ve been knitting. It’s craft show season, so I have a lot of events, and I do bring my books, but the handmade items are the big sellers so they are what I focus on keeping stocked.

  • I write most every day and my favorite time to write is early morning.

  • I completely understand how physical limitations, pain can impact – well,, everything. I hope you find relief and full heath soon. I write everyday, some days more than others but I’m privileged to be able to do so. My husband supports my writing goals, and honestly if not for him I probably wouldn’t have accomplished as much as I have. His support is unlimited. I am blessed!

  • msmarianna says:

    My “nimble” strategy, currently, is setting aside Sundays to write. I did NaNo for the first time this year, to challenge myself to write every day. I didn’t work. I’m not a daily writer (I say this as a newbie writer who is yet to build up that kind of stamina AND from a position that I don’t rely on writing for my bread and butter, if you know what I mean?). It works for me as I have the week to replenish, think about, outline, fiddle with, and think some more before I get down and write, usually for 8-10 hours. It keeps me eager to write. I wonder if this “nimble” strategy will change as I develop as a writer. I hope you have some lovely pain relievers to help manage your back pain. Take care.

  • I stay nimble, Damyanti, by writing a wide variety of genres–non-fic, creative nonfiction, blogs, ezines, and fiction. When one gets stale, I try another–I always have projects going.

    Yuck about your back. I think those are the worst problems. Good luck beating it back!

  • emaginette says:

    I let my mind wander and it usually ends with a story idea, or down a plot line. 🙂

  • I hope your back gets better. Try to do some light exercising to strengthen your back. I try my best to write between 5,000-10,00 words per day with the combination of marketing, blogs, poetry, short-stories, novels and promotion. I usually hit my goal, and don’t worry if I ended up writing less. I always make up for the loss the following day. There are no tricks to writing if you’re sincere. This way: the world has no choice but to revere.

  • luckyjc007 says:

    I don’t have a set schedule for writing. My daily schedule varies and I have to fit writing in when I can. I try to participate in a few challenges each week. A lot of my writing is done late at night, I seem to do better then when the rest of the day is gone and things are quiet and there are no tasks that have to be done.

  • Olga Godim says:

    Sorry about your back. It sucks when you have constant pain, and your courage to keep writing awes me.
    I also strive to write every day. It doesn’t always work but most of the days it does, even if a little bit. It keeps me in the writing loop, so to speak.

  • I write every single day, especially during night. No fixed word count for me, but I write something that fills me up with a sense of contentment. I wish to be more disciplined as a writer. A lovely post, Damyanti 🙂

  • Lidy says:

    Handwriting in my mini notebook, while I’m walking or laying down has been working for me to keep me nimble. Also writing 200-250 words before getting out of bed and starting my day, in the morning.

  • Back pain – it’s the worst! You have my sympathies on that one.

    I agree that it’s important to have a routine. Just following the routine everyday is what keeps the mind working and the words flowing. It all comes through perseverance and hard work rather than waiting for inspiration.

  • fenster says:

    I love your routine. Handwriting is something I went away from for far too long. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I started up again. I try to hand write at least once a week, and when I keep that practice, I feel I write better, more nimbly to steal your word.

  • Hello Damyanti!

    With so many terrific answers written above, I struggle not to be redundant. Let’s see… I typically write for at least two hours, and when the story starts drifting, my mind begins researching random bits of information, I realize I’ve reached the end of my writing day. Pushing beyond has mental repercussions for me the next day, meaning I feel drained and uninspired to write. Like being inside the portal too long.

    I also find that re-reading what I wrote the day before puts me back into the scene, making it easy to pick up and move on. This takes time, usually eating up a good thirty minutes.

    Much like Melody Daggerhart said above – I’m constantly creating the story throughout the day when I’m not writing. Like a thief, I notice things and add them to the book. A way a person smiles, or walks, talks. Interactions, conversational tidbits.

    Staying nimble as a writer, for me, means writing. ANYTHING. When you craft an email, a facebook post, a blog post, replies to blogs – you’re constantly considering words and their use in conveying meaning.

    I hope your back improves. I watched a movie recently called, Hemmingway and Gellhorn. One thing that caught my attention in this movie was Hemmingway stood when he wrote. His typewriter was atop his dresser and he pounded the keys from there.

    So perhaps you could get a standing desk. I’m considering it myself, as I lean forward and never use the chair completely as it’s designed – resulting in a sore back on occasion.

    Best Wishes! – Stephen R. Gann

  • Sorry to hear about your back pain. I’ve had back problems before and I know how much they can hurt.
    I write whenever I can fit it in, which unfortunately isn’t every day, but my stories are always going through my head, so that at least keeps them fresh in my mind. I write best at my computer in an empty house.
    I hope your back feels better soon.

  • James Pailly says:

    The biggest thing I do to keep nimble is to never approach my writing the same way two days in a row. That means writing at different times of day, or in different locations, or using different kinds of paper (computer paper, notebook paper, scrap paper). I think that keeps me from getting too complacent and too lazy with my writing.

  • mdellert says:

    Personally, I have a strict 1000 word per day regime (about 1-1.5 hours per day) if I’m not actively engaged in any particular project. Sometimes I cheat, and those words are given over to my blog (time has to come from somewhere) rather than to fiction. Sometimes I cheat and don’t do any words at all for some reason (I’ve done a lot of traveling this past month, for example, and it’s hard to write when one is driving). But by and large, I stick to the daily regime.

    If I’m actively involved in a particular fiction project, my daily target word-count might be higher or lower, because I have a particular overall project target in terms of total number of project words over the term of the whole project. So for instance, if my goal is 65000 words over 13 weeks for the project, may daily word-count target is 714 words. I’ll happily go over the target if the mood is upon me, but if it isn’t, I keep my butt at the desk until I’ve at least written to the target, no matter how awful it might be. I can always fix bad writing in rewrites, but I can’t fix no writing.

    Lately, my office space has been a local public library, due to lack of space at home. So every morning, I get up and have a cuppa, handle some social media, just a few notes for the day’s goals, grab a hot shower and a second cuppa, and head off to the library. I have a favorite chair there where I park myself, and I don’t allow myself to move until the word count is done.

    As for superstitions, I remind myself that there’s a special and particularly unpleasant circle of Hell reserved for writers who don’t actually write, and so I carry on. That keeps me virtuous. Virtue and 1000 words a day are their own reward. 😉

    I also make an hour a day just to read, and my reading is often driven by the types of projects I’m working on at the moment. Though I’m a fantasy writer, I don’t necessarily restrict myself to only reading in that genre. If I’m working on a particularly suspenseful part of a project, I might be reading suspense novels, if a romantic scene is called for, I might be reading a romance, etc.

    That’s how I keep myself nimble as a writer. As a fellow sufferer of chronic back pain, though, I have to admit, such a strict regime doesn’t particularly help. Ouch. 🙁

  • Sorry to hear your back is having issues. My elbow gave out on me last week and was just starting to heal over the weekend when we had more snow to shovel. I’m using aspercream and lots of rest when I can, but with typing, elbows are part and parcel of the working joints.

    Staying nimble physically isn’t something that usually comes up in writerly discussions, but I find it’s an important one. Since full-time writing involves sitting down all day and staring at a computer monitor and typing, it’s very sedentary. Therefore to find balance for physical health, it’s important to take a break and exercise, even if it’s gentle yoga or something. My day involves spending the first hours of the morning organizing my daily tasks, processing laundry, and writing for about three hours as a solid block. (Serial novelists will understand why one hour blocks are barely worth the effort because as soon as you’ve re-read what you did yesterday, your time is up!) Then, I stop around 10:00 a.m. and set aside an hour for exercise. Right now the routine is three days a week of free weights, one day of cardio, and one day of yoga. I take the weekend off from both writing and exercising to allow my mind and body to rest. To stay healthy, I think it’s very important that writers understand what sitting at a desk all day can do to your physical health and take proactive measures to counter the damage from being sedentary, posture issues, and repetitive movements. (“The struggle is real,” as they say.) Plus, exercise is good for the mind, as well, since it gives you a change of pace, a change of environment, and releases all those beneficial chemicals that help with stress.

    How I stay nimble mentally for writing is something I could write a whole book on. But mainly it boils down to not being able to turn my brain off. I’m a very observant, creative person, so everything I encounter during the course of the day is likely to become fodder for story material. I always keep a means of taking notes with me (usually my phone and Evernote). And then if I’m watching TV, reading a book, shoveling snow, grocery shopping, looking at photos of exotic places, cooking, researching history, or whatever … and something strikes me as relevant to what I’m writing, I note it. I can feed my characters what I’m eating. I can use ordinary actions to stage their dialog. I can dress them in costumes I’ve admired in paintings. I can turn real places into fictional other worlds. I can see my characters in the archetypes of other stories, but differently, so often I think, “That’s the kind of mother I could see such-and-such having, and that’s why he’s so cruel.” So I make a note: “Such-and-such had a mother like so-and-so in this Korean drama, but her corporate business sense applies to political mergers for a fantasy kingdom, instead of a modern corporation.” … or whatever. … And then the next time I sit down to write, my antagonist has a relationship with his mother that shaped him into the kind of person that thinks only in terms of power. So, with no “off” switch, I absorb everything in terms of “How does it relate to my stories?” Sometimes I absorb too much. Writer’s block is rarely a problem for me, so I guess you could say my creativity is very nimble because it never rests. Finding the time to write everything that comes to mind, however … or learning how to edit massive word counts that overflow… that’s where I usually run into problems. 🙂

  • Hey Damyanti, sorry your back is still bothering you. I’m going to offer you a little unsolicited advice as a chiropractor – my day job (if you don’t have that kind of dr where you are, it’s kind of like an osteopath) Try NOT to lie around too much. Mild exercise like stretching and walking short distances is good for a bad back. (Unless of course, you’ve done some surgical level damage!) I have a similar writing routine as you. I get up early to write at the beginning of my day before I go to the office. I usually have a good solid hour or so to write or catch up on my blog reading and commenting. I usually return to writing after the day is done, especially if the husband is bringing home dinner! Feel better, my friend. xo

  • Eli Pacheco says:

    I stay nimble as a writer by reading and commenting. I get so many (most!) of my post ideas out of comments I leave on other blogs. When it comes time to write, it just kind of flows out.

  • Sorry about your back. maybe one of those standing desks would help? That’s still a good word count for thirty minutes. If I get 350 done in an hour, I feel like I’m sprinting.

  • Arlee Bird says:

    I’m ashamed to even address this. I do pretty well at writing for my blogs, but other writing has been a challenge for me. Always something to get me off track, but life does that I guess. Some things have to be addressed–like fixing dinner, taking care of business matters, or attending to family. I could do the writing, but unfortunately I’m not.

    Maybe I need a candlestick to jump over or at least light a fire under me to get moving.

    Arlee Bird

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – backs are a real nuisance … I do write on any subject and if I get bored I’ll toddle off and do something else. I get out a lot to talks and classes … so I guess the busyness of day-to-day keeps me happy ..

    Good luck with the back .. cheers Hilary

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