Seven Ways to Read Like a Writer

Creative Writing Ibiza

Creative Writing Ibiza is spreading the word abroad! Cila recently wrote an article on “Seven Ways to Read Like a Writer” for Ideas Tap Magazine.

A Writer's Library A Writer’s Library

“It is impossible to become a writer without reading,” says Paul Hendrickson, writing professor at the University of Pennsylvania and award-winning author of numerous books including, most recently, Hemingway’s Boat.

There is a relationship between quality of reading and quality of writing. And a distinction between reading for pleasure and reading like a writer. The difference involves attitude, approach and appreciation. Michael Schmidt, poet, professor and author of the forthcoming The Novel: A Biography recommends reading, “with eyes wide open, full of anticipation.”

With this in mind, here are seven ways to read like a writer:

1. Compulsively

“You can’t be a writer unless you have a hunger for print,” says Nick Lezard, Guardian literary critic and…

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Guest Post: A Taste of the Shan State, Myanmar

A snippet from my adventures in Myanmar last year.

Rantings of an Amateur Chef

I love to travel and I feel I don’t get the opportunity to travel to enough exotic locations. Lucky for me, I can travel vicariously through others. Today, for her second guest blog post is Cila Warncke. Her previous post Green Ginger Soup was great and it looks like the recipes she has below are fantastic too. Check out her writing at Cila Warncke and take a look below…….

After fifty years of repressive military dictatorship Myanmar (formerly Burma) is a land of mystery. Most of us Westerners know little about it apart from news images of Buddhist monks, pagodas, and Nobel Peace Prize-winning democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi. Though tourism has increased since a democratic government took power in 2010 Myanmar is still the least-explored part of Southeast Asia. Like many first-time visitors I was bowled over by how large and geographically diverse it is.

Almost twice the land mass…

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What Do You Really Really Want?

Is this it?

We all want things. What differentiates us is what we want — and why. It is neither coincidence nor nature that most of our wants are material. As Matthew Crawford notes in The Case for Working With Your Hands

A man whose needs are limited will find the least noxious livelihood and work in a subsistence mode… Eventually it was learned that the only way to get them to work harder was to play upon the imagination, stimulating new needs and wants. Consumption, no less than production, needed to be brought under scientific management — the management of desire.

The “management of desire” infuses our daily life. We’re bombarded with billboards, banner ads, sponsored Facebook updates, television spots, branded content, and a thousand other canny tactics aiming to convince us that our wants can be appeased by the swipe of a credit card. Very little in the modern ether suggests or reminds us that perhaps what we really want might not be for sale. Might be love, freedom, creativity, generosity, or fresh experience.

Just as our physical appetite mistakes dehydration with hunger, leading us to gobble biscuits when we really need a glass of water, our brain can get confused. Next time you want something, take a minute before you reach for your wallet and ask yourself: “What do I really want?”

You may find your outgoings reduce considerably.

Why Quit?

In case you were wondering, I am 100% serious about the I Quit Club. For real. Quitting can change your life.

Quitting is tough though. Not the act itself, which is as easy as falling off a bike (and a lot more fun) but getting your head around the idea that it’s okay to quit.

I was brought up to think quitting was bad. Grown-ups told me that “winners never quit and quitters never win”.

It never occurred to me to ask: “win what?” so I carried on not-quitting like a good girl, right up to my second year of university.

To put this in context, I’d wanted to be a doctor since I was 12. My big crush was Noah Wyle in ER and a steady diet of white-coat heroics convinced me medicine was my calling.

It was a logical choice: secure, predictable, good money, and above all respectable. Off I waltzed to uni: confident, determined and oblivious to the implications of the fact that I hated physics, struggled with chemistry, shrank from biology, and shuddered at maths. I also studiously suppressed my love of English and writing.

Looking back, I am half-amused and half-horrified at how dumb a bright girl can be (“Was anyone ever so young?” Joan Didion sighed). Nothing got through until my second year when I hit term two of physics. Most stuff I can bluff through but physics stopped me cold. You can’t bullshit an equation. Lectures were torturous and the coursework reduced me to tears.

The idea forced itself into my head, unbidden: “why don’t you quit?” Oh god. That was not in my plan. Quelle drama. I freaked out. Bored my poor friends witless with my teacup tempest. In the States, physics is a pre-med requirement so quitting the class meant the end of my doctor dream. Oh my god. I had my WHOLE LIFE mapped out. Quitting would fuck everything up. But I still couldn’t do physics. So I quit.

The minute I made the decision my anxiety and guilt vanished in a rush of relief. I didn’t have the right answers, but I had definitively eliminated a wrong one. It felt amazing.

What I didn’t appreciate until much later was that you can’t have everything at once. You can’t reach out for something new, or receive a gift, if you’re hanging on to your baggage with both hands.

Creative Writing Ibiza

I have a bad habit of writing letters and never mailing them. It isn’t that I forget, it’s that my writer’s anxiety gets in the way. Usually it takes a number of discarded pages to finish a letter then, the minute the envelope is sealed, I start obsessing. Does that paragraph on the second page read exactly right? Will he or she understand what I meant when I said…? What if they read that and think…? Sometimes I rip open the envelope, re-read, correct, and double check. Other times, I tuck it away somewhere and guiltily forget about it.

As a writer, my joy in communication often gets ensnarled in my delicate ego. It isn’t enough to say something honestly, I want to say it perfectly. This is, I fear, a professional snare that threatens to stop me being as fully loving and human as I should be. What is…

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Best Veggie Breakfasts

A beetroot smoothie I concocted in my freezing Glasgow kitchen last winter has just been selected by the Vegetarian Cookery School (@vegcs on Twitter) as one of ten finalists in its Best Veggie Breakfasts competition.

This week is National Vegetarian Week (21-27 May) and to celebrate we held a competition to find the Best Vegetarian Breakfast Recipe. The entries are in and we were so amazed by your creative veggie breakfasts that we’ve chosen 10 finalists… We love her use of beets and avocado to create a slightly sweet but nutritious filling morning smoothie.

ImageWhat a delicious surprise!


Good tunes + good words from Shelley who will be joining the Creative Writing Ibiza retreat in Sept!


Rudimental ft John Newman, ‘Feel The Love.’  The 4 piece East London collective release their latest track on May 28th, 2012. ‘Feel The Love’ is a spectacular smorgasbord of genres (soul, dubstep and grime), which come together to produce a rather reposed and replenishing sound. I like it alot, not least due to the addition of horses as a preferred means of transport across the metropolis.



Gossip, ‘Perfect World.’ This is the lead single from Beth Ditto and pals’ fifth studio album, ‘A Joyful Noise’ and is available to download now. The album is released on May 22nd, 2012. I think that this track has more of an indie-pop vibe than some of their previously released, harder indie-rock offerings. As I air on the side of pop, this pleases me greatly. I also like the ‘Like a Prayer’-stylised music video; I am a big fan of the…

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