Posted by: Corri van de Stege | October 22, 2007


I am going through a raft of ‘how to write’ / ‘how to read as a writer’ books and blogs currently, as well as my course book for the OU.  Susan Hill has got an interesting site on writing, it’s down to earth and it’s actually useful, basic suggestions that seem so matter of fact once you’ve read them but that you so completely don’t think of when you’re actually writing!   The one I like best actually is when she wags her finger at us and says ‘Listen to your instinct, don’t over-analyse.’ and  ‘Think hard, yes… notice what great writers do.  But do not spend too much time being a literary critic when what you want to be is a novelist/creative writer…’ and then she compares it with watching her mother make a good beef casserole, she never used a recipe.  And yes, I remember some of my recipes for some of the Iranian dishes I learned to cook: by watching and by being told, not through recipes: they were made up as we went along. It is my approach to cooking actually, that is, when I have the time and inclination to cook and don’t just grab another pre-prepared meal from the supermarket shelves to finish in the microwave… 😦   and these non-recepe meals are the best.

So really good advice, thanks Susan Hill.   It makes me feel so much better and also explains why ‘The Curtain’ by Milan Kundera, referred to in a previous blog, feels so ‘high brow’ as I  said – it is more about literary analysis than actually giving you a good idea about an approach to writing stories (although excellent analysis!)  The other bit of advice I really liked is the admonishment that it does not require full days to write anything decent: 15 – 20 minutes at the time, like writing this blog, is plenty to start off with, and I do that all the time: on trains, in waiting rooms, in hotel rooms, some evenings here and there and weekends – I literally snatch time for writing in between and use endless notebooks and my computer.  Susan Hill’s advice: that’s all you need.  Thank you.  Sigh of relief – there’s hope yet  🙂


  1. My college writing teacher always reminded us to get the ideas down on paper first, meaning, verbalizing thoughts and leaving the embellishing and refining to later. Unfortunately I tend to over analyze the thoughts and being fastidious in the sentences!

  2. I’d like to have an Iranian bean stew when home for Christmas, can you show me how to cook it?


  3. Use your brain, seachanges, you’ve got a well furnished one. Having lessons on how to write is alright but writing what you think and imagine is a question where your mind cannot be intruded and must use its originality.

  4. Matt: I like the scribbled notebook approach!

    RR: Absolutely, that’s a promise! x

    Jose: thank you for your compliments and you are right of course, must not be overanalytic because it destroys your thoughts – I’ll keep that in writing above my desk as well! x

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