Elizabeth Gilbert’s top 10 tips for writers to stay inspired

Today, I’m sharing a post I read on Goodreads this week, and simply loved.

GilbertElizabeth Gilbert is the author of Eat, Pray Love, which I loved in book and film form – but particularly the book – and also of one of my favourite talks, at an Oprah event, about living with failure, and juggling our difficult lives. It’s the story of being a woman in a society where women haven’t been powerful and autonomous before, and are still working it out. It’s a story of a missed flight, and a panic, and something we all recognise, and she tells it beautifully.


Since the phenomenal success of Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth has been fascinated by what happens next when someone has, it seems, reached the peak of their creativity. What do you do after that? How to you go on? Her new book addresses the spark of creativity, and she’s been answering readers’ questions on Goodreads about the creative process.

Here are the top 10 tips and observations that Goodreads have put together, based on her answers. I think they’re great. If you’re writing, or not writing and want to, check them out …


Where I write … and my top 10 writers’ retreats

This post appeared originally on the Girls Heart Books blog, where I post once a month. You can check out posts by loads of great writers for girls here

23 October 2015

I’ve just launched my new website, and I hope it’s a colourful, comfortable place for readers to visit. A website feels like a home in some ways – somewhere that reflects your taste and interests, and where you invite people in to find out more about you.

Ideas 2015-10-20 It got me thinking about where I write. I have a wonderful shed in the garden, and the picture featured here is of my Danielle Scutt Barbie (my good luck charm when I wrote Threads) standing on my desk in front of my mood board. You can see more of the shed, inside and out, here.

I know that all a writer really needs is a tabletop, something to write on and with, and her own imagination. But a shed helps too! I’m not the only lucky writer to have one, or some sort of special retreat. Here are my top 10, and where to find out more about them …

10. JK Rowling’s first writing cafe in Edinburgh – The Elephant House

9. Dylan Thomas’s shed in Laugharne

8. Phillip Pullman’s garden shed in Oxford

7. Roald Dahl’s super-famous Writing Hut in Great Missenden

Dahl-GreatMissendenThere’s a lovely piece in The Guardian featuring these last 3, and more. Check out the pictures and stories here:

Five best writers’ sheds in pictures

And there’s more on Dahl and Thomas in another great piece, which also features some lovely quotes about George Bernard Shaw, Virginia Woolf and Mark Twain: Famous writers’ small writing sheds and off the grid huts

6. George Bernard Shaw’s shed at Shaw’s Corner, called ‘London’

This is my favourite description of it, via the BBC

The tiny structure of only 64 square feet (5.9 m2), was built on a central steel-pole frame with a circular track so that it could be rotated on its axis to follow the arc of the sun’s light during the day.[2] Shaw dubbed the hut “London“, so that unwanted visitors could be told he was away “visiting the capital“.[3]

5. Virginia Woolf

“She was always being distracted – by Leonard sorting the apples over her head in the loft, or the church bells at the bottom of the garden, or the noise of the children in the school next door, or the dog sitting next to her and scratching itself and leaving paw marks on her manuscript pages. In winter it was often so bitterly cold and damp that she couldn’t hold her pen and had to retreat indoors.” – from The Guardian

4. Mark Twain

“It is the loveliest study you ever saw…octagonal with a peaked roof, each face filled with a spacious window…perched in complete isolation on the top of an elevation that commands leagues of valley and city and retreating ranges of distant blue hills. It is a cozy nest and just room in it for a sofa, table, and three or four chairs, and when the storms sweep down the remote valley and the lighting flashes behind the hills beyond and the rain beats upon the roof over my head—imagine the luxury of it.” – Mark Twain, in a letter to William Dean Howells, 1874.

Finally, my favourite article on the subject, 7 Inspiring Writers’ Retreats, includes…

3. Lawrence of Arabia’s Cloud’s Hill cottage (best retreat name)

2. The bandstand TS Eliot borrowed in Margate to write bits of the Wasteland …


… and last but very not least …

  1. Vita Sackville-West’s tower at Sissinghurst

Sackville-sissinghurst-Oast House Archive and National TrustWho needs a shed when you have one of these …?

Which is your favourite? And where do you write?

Dragons and Detectives

In my last post, I recommended some great YA and young teen novels, and good places to look for recommendations for more.

dragonBut at home, I’ve been reading more books for slightly younger readers recently. My youngest has just finished Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon series, and Oh. My. Goodness. What a bang it went out with. The world practically ended. What started as a gentle, funny story about boys and their pet dragons ended up as a clash between species of epic proportions.

dragon2Still funny, still page-turning, but densely packed with illustrations now, and keen to address issues of slavery, courage and leadership in absolutely uncompromising terms. It’ll be a classic for decades to come.

And, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, it includes my favourite female character at the moment – Camicazi (who sort of becomes Astrid in the film and TV series because, as Cressida admits, Camicazi is not the most internationally politically correct name). These are books for girls as much as boys. Camicazi spends a lot of time trying to rescue Hiccup, because ‘he’s only a boy’, and it’s lucky she does. He needs her, and she’s brilliant.

CamicaziSo … dragons. And detectives.

As a teenage reader myself, I was a big Nancy Drew fan, before I discovered Dorothy L Sayers, who’s still one of my favourite writers today. To my absolute delight, detective fiction is taking off for 9-12s. Robin Stevens has written the brilliant Murder Most Unladylike series, which is storming the charts with its Agatha Christie settings and fabulous graphic covers, and has recently been optioned for film and TV.

MMU-PAPERBKatherine Woodfine has joined her with the equally impressive Clockwork Sparrow – the first in a series of its own, which was nominated for the Carnegie medal yesterday. Add to those Patricia Elliott’s wonderful new Connie Carew mysteries – also historical detective fiction, set in the early 20th century, and you have a bit of a genre revival going on. Clever girls, solving crimes. Fantastic.


Back in the world of 9-12s, to my absolute delight, the Harry Potter series is being re-released with new illustrations by the super-talented Jim Kay. Like so many Potter fans, I am hugely protective of the characters and settings, and how they’re portrayed. There were times I felt the films didn’t do them justice, but I think Jim Kay is doing an extraordinary job. JK Rowling likes them too. If you’re interested in art, and making things, as I am, then check out the video of his studio at the end of the interview. It’s wonderful.

Happy reading!

sophia xxx