Featured Writer on Wellness: Elizabeth Brooks

Filed in Writers on Wellness by on February 28, 2014 • views: 775

Elizabeth BrooksA few things came to mind when I started thinking about the physical challenges of writing: the slouchy way I sit at my desk for example, or that unpleasant feeling of being mentally but not physically tired.

However, if I had to pick the biggest challenge, I think I would say it is the difficulty of sticking to a healthy routine. When the writing is going well, and I’m really in the zone, regular meals and exercise can fall by the wayside.

“Better not stop to make something to eat while I’m feeling so inspired!” I think, if I emerge from the trance at all. “I’ll just snatch another black coffee …so what if it’s my fourth of the morning?”

Ironically, when the writing is going badly, and there’s nothing doing in the inspiration department, it’s that much easier to be self-disciplined. It’s a Catch-22.

Being a Mom Improves My Self-Discipline

Being a mum has helped me to improve my self-discipline. (I realize that this is not very useful as a piece of advice, and I would not encourage anyone to have children merely to improve their writing regime, but perhaps it’s still worth noting.)

The fact that the children need regular meals, etc., has to override any bohemian tendencies on my part: they need to have breakfast first thing in the morning, for example, not at some random hour of the day when chapter six has been properly attended to.

Obviously, a lot of this rubs off on me and my own habits. I think if I lived alone, with no dependents, I would be much more lackadaisical than I am.

The Problem of Self-Belief

I think the hardest emotional aspect of writing is the problem of self-belief. Sometimes it’s difficult to know whether you’re doing something worthwhile, or just wasting your time.

It is surprisingly difficult to know, when you’re sitting on your own at your desk, whether what you’ve written is good, bad or indifferent.

It’s odd, because when you read someone else’s book, you often know straightaway whether you like it or not. I suppose the problem is that you get to know your own manuscript so well that you lose the ability to judge it objectively, and its most glaring faults (and merits) can completely pass you by, leaving you unsure of yourself.

Why You Should Share Your Work

The best way to deal with this is to share your work. This can be painful, of course, because it’s horrible to have your writing criticized. It touches you at a much deeper level than if, say, your cooking or (God forbid) ironing skills were criticized.

You risk having your deepest, darkest self torn to shreds.

Nevertheless, it is the only way to overcome the self-belief problem.

I recently joined a local writing group. It’s great because everyone is in the same boat, with the same insecurities, and it’s not in anyone’s interest to be brutal. The critique you get in an environment like that (a sympathetic friend will do just fine if you can’t find a writing group) is always likely to be helpful and supportive.

Most importantly, it will enable you to see your writing through someone else’s eyes, which will make you a better judge of yourself. This, in turn, will help you build a core of self-belief so that, if your work is ever savaged by a critic, you won’t be utterly devastated.

Anyone Wanting to Make a Quick Buck Wouldn’t Contemplate a Writing Career

A couple of years ago, I met a man at the London Book Fair who told me that anyone who claims they’re motivated to write by anything other than financial gain is lying. More recently I read an article that cautioned: “Before you begin your book, consider whether there is actually a market for what you want to write.”

I don’t want to make out that I’m some kind of aesthete, above the grubby business of money-making, because I’m not. But both those attitudes are complete baloney, in my opinion.

Anyone wanting to make a quick buck would not seriously contemplate a writing career.

When it comes to fame and fortune, most writers appreciate that the odds are stacked against them.

The Feeling There’s Something I Need to Put Into Words

What keeps me going  as a writer is a feeling that there’s something I need to put into words, and that if I don’t do it, I will feel tetchy, depressed and even—as odd as it sounds—guilty.

I’m not quite sure how to explain this compulsion; it sounds worryingly like literary megalomania now that I’ve spelt it out…but no, it’s not that. It’s not that I think I’m entitled to shout louder than anyone else, nor do I think that what I have to say is of universal significance.

I’m motivated to write just because there are stories I want to tell; characters I want to draw; things I want to say. Being published and earning money from my writing is nice. Actually it’s utterly thrilling…but it is only the icing on the cake.

I would still write if I lived all alone on a desert island.

Advice for a Young Writer: Learn How to Cope with Discouragement

If a young person told me that he or she wanted to be a writer, I would say that the hardest thing to cope with is the discouragement.

As far as being published is concerned, the statistics (an agent will take on one in every thousand manuscripts that crosses her desk…and so on) are undeniably depressing. There’s no guarantee that hard work or talent will be rewarded.

I would advise the aspiring writer to push all this to the back of his or her mind and write anyway. I’d say as far as earning an income is concerned, don’t bank on writing—do something more secure that allows you plenty of out-of-hours time to devote to your writing.

If writing does become a full-time career all well and good, but if not, then at least your entire existence doesn’t depend on it.

And be brave: you will feel so much more confident if you share your writing with other people. You don’t have to join the bestsellers’ list in order to feel validated . Good feedback from just one other person can put you on top of the world!

* * *

Elizabeth Brooks grew up in Chester, England. In 2001, she graduated from Cambridge University with a first class degree in Classics. Since then she has lived on the Isle of Man with her husband and two children, where she writes and paints. Her first book, Montefiore’s Goddaughter, was published in 2010 and its sequel, Charity Woolf will be published in 2014, both with MP Publishing. For more information on Elizabeth and her work, please see her website, or follow her on Twitter.


2Montefiore’s Goddaughter: Abigail Crabtree’s imaginary world is precious to her; an escape from the waking world.

That is until one wintry night, when a sinister horseman appears and threatens to wrest it from her in the name of the King of Traumund.

Desperate to save her realm from asion, she turns to her godfather – the enchanting Mr Montefiore – for help.

Available at Amazon UK and Amazon.

51mr3BDsftL._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_Charity Woolf (Montefiore’s Goddaughter Book 2): It’s winter in Traumund, and death stalks the snowy streets of Mazurka, city of glittering soirées and moonlit murders. Georgia Wellington-Grub may be a governess – a mere nobody – but she will risk everything to save her city.

It’s summer in the Waking World, but if Georgia expects a safe haven at Boughwinds Abbey she is doomed to disappointment. Mr. Montefiore’s ghost haunts the abandoned rooms and a young woman named Charity Woolf is in hiding from the world, with nothing but a dark secret for company.

Which of them should Georgia trust in her fight against evil? Where will she turn, in a world where monsters may be allies, and the sweetest smile can mask the most hideous intent? Available at Amazon.

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