Meet the Author: Elizabeth Baker
Elizabeth’s “Normal” Day
“Blogging about my day as a writer may have a fringe benefit,” published author Elizabeth Baker says. “It might convince certain people (aka, my sons) that I do actually work. But I can’t blame their skepticism. Is there another profession where can you be your own boss, spend most of your hours relaxing in a chair, break whenever the mood strikes, and still complain about working too much?”
Elizabeth goes on to enlighten us writers with some “job description.” “When you call yourself a writer, it’s only natural for skepticism to abound. After all, you don’t punch a time clock, and you don’t draw a regular paycheck. Even more illogical, a writer gives perfect strangers a window into their deepest thoughts and imaginations; yet, at the same time writers spend their days in isolation and often complain about being alone. Can an odd-ball profession like that actually be called a ‘career’?”
Well, for those who doubt or those considering the possibility of launching out for a life of free-lance writing, perhaps this picture tour of Elizabeth’s “normal” days may encourage you. Or again, maybe not.
Every writer is different, but for Elizabeth, the average day begins shortly before sunrise. She skips the makeup and curling iron and heads straight to McDonald’s. For $1.62 they feed her a light breakfast with coffee. At home, she can’t pour a bowl of cereal for that price. She’s such a regular at Mickey D’s, they most often have the tray waiting when she comes in. She’s on a first name basis with the staff, and they don’t think it strange when she hands them a camera and asks them to take a picture.
Once Elizabeth is awake and fed, the gym is the next stop. “I’ve been surprised (shocked might be a better term) at how much self-discipline getting old requires,” she says. “I thought retirement meant relaxed, lazy days. What a myth! I was shocked to find this stage of life proves the proverb: ‘If you don’t move it, you’ll lose it.’ Most often I start the day with forty-five minutes of lap swimming, but the elliptical trainer will work as well if I just can’t stand the thought of getting wet when the sun is barely peeking over the horizon.”
By 8:30 a.m., like most people in the USA, Elizabeth is remembering that she needs something either at the grocery store or at Wal-Mart. Since there is no boss to tell her different, running by the store before the work day begins is an all too common experience, and by that time, she’s beginning to think her critics are right. “Maybe I don’t have a job. I’m certainly not acting like it.”
Sometimes Elizabeth’s writing time is sabotaged by other “necessities” of life. Case in point: the computer repair shop was another stop that had to be made before she could put her first word for the day on paper. She still hasn’t decided if God or Satan invented those infernal machines, but, either way, she’s found that keeping them up and running takes an inordinate amount of effort.
Recently Elizabeth changed to a local company for service and webhosting. She says, “It’s really been convenient to stop by and ask Daniel why something isn’t working. Usually he has some kind of answer and together we can figure out most issues. I was recently forced to change programs, and on this particular day it was a problem with uploading new info to the website that had me stymied.”
Sometime between 9:30 and 10:00 every morning, Elizabeth settles in to work at her desk. If she’s “lucky,” there is a tiny vase of fresh flowers from the garden to brighten up the space. And, without fail, there will be some kind of paper/foam cup with the day’s iced tea waiting for a sip. The fact that the “glass” is often dripping on odd papers strung about the desk is an expected hazard. But she’s willing to risk a mishap because the only alternative would be to do without the tea, and that is totally unacceptable.
Where are the Sales?
Elizabeth has discovered that one problem with writing is that authors have to sell those words to somebody. That is a simple, clean process when the “someone” is a magazine, online, or print publisher who will buy the words upfront then go off somewhere else to propogate them without input or effort from the author. However, Elizabeth has also found that a major change has taken place in the last five years. Authors are not only expected to write the words and give publishers unlimited rights to the work, but they are also expected to sell the books themselves. “Marketing” is the new dirty word in most writers’ vocabulary.
Last month Elizabeth went to the book fair at the Sulphur Springs Fall Fest. “But” she tells me, “I could just as easily have been speaking to a Lyons’ Club, church group, or small book club with a stack of books in tow. Wherever there is a group of people willing to listen (and sometimes pay!) a writer will be found.” Because of the general public’s passion to read, fifteen other local authors were invited to Suphur Springs, and the competition to see who had the most attractive display and highest profile publisher was intense.
A Writer’s Exposure to the Public – a Definite Upside
Elizabeth was surprised when some friends drove 75 miles to say hello. Often people stop by her display table at different events to say a particular book, article, or blog blessed them. “One or two positive comments can go a long way toward making up for the hours you stand there smiling into space or giving other people’s customers directions to the restrooms,” Elizabeth adds.
More of a Writer’s Life
Of course, a writer’s life must be more than McDonald’s, keyboards, and personal appearances. And sometimes it is! There are those shining moments when sometimes what you have labored over for months or even years comes to life. It’s almost like giving birth as a piece of your soul sees daylight for the first time.
Elizabeth says, “I’m experiencing a ‘birth’ this month as my first novel arrives, smelling of fresh printer’s ink and new paper. It was a fascinating journey to imagine what the world would look like if we could see the spiritual kingdom around us. And … it only took five years to put those images into words!”
JaKobe’s Assignment is available in paperback since the 15th of October. The e-book version is forthcoming. “Believe it or not,” Elizabeth tells me, “this book was fifteen years from idea to production and was rewritten again and again for five years straight. I’m still not sure I have the book “right,” but there comes a time when you have to let go and hope your baby knows how to walk. We will see.”
The Reward of Writing
Still, for all the labor, rewards, and disappointments, this author would not trade the writing life for any other occupation—even when others sometimes wonder when she’s going to get serious about life and get a “real” job! After all, what kind of job allows you to kick off your shoes, open a card game because you’re still thinking about a problem, then tell yourself you are still on the clock and “working.”
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