Writers can always learn from each other, but we have to wade through a lot of guff to find the gems. The Culture Show Special on Hilary Mantel was one such gem. This was an honest account of how her life overseas and her illness has shaped her aspirations and her writing. It’s a documentary that stays with you a while and has received glowing reviews. What’s interesting (for me) is how she organises her writing process. She has stacks of files (I spotted over 20 for Wolf Hall alone), arranged alphabetically according to each character. She also keeps files on objects, customs and manners from specific historical periods, and at one point stands next to a flipchart with key dates and plot points mapped out. She then transfers her notes onto screen and shapes them so they follow through to dialogue and character traits. This might sound like the bleeding obvious, but routine, in whatever form it takes, is important for writers because ‘sometimes you go so slowly...sometimes you think you’ve forgotten everythingyou’ve ever learnt...[and] sometimes it’s like chasing a ghost...’ that the familiar pattern of transferring your research onto the page is the only way forward. And this routine is also important because ‘happiness depends entirely on the last sentence you wrote.’ How true. A superb and studied account of a writer’s life - catch it if you can.