Delightful Drudgery

Three cheers for the delightful drudgery of the writing life!

Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray! Hip, hip… what was that? Hit the brakes, Hemingway.

Wouldn’t delightful drudgery be an oxymoron? Yes, I suppose so but I can’t think of anything that more perfectly describes the process of putting words on a page.

Writing is delightful.

Writing is drudgery.

Writing is delightful drudgery and I’m equally familiar with both.


I know the drudgery of wearing the letters off my backspace key waiting for a sentence or two to show up that’s even a tad worthy of remaining on the page. And I know the delightful feeling of having thoughts tumble out until they almost seem to be writing themselves. Yet another irony of the writing life is how often those two experiences meet in the same bottom-in-chair sessions.

But, here’s the thing. I’ve decided we’re the better for it, that the delight is sweet precisely because we’ve been given the gift of staring that drudgery down, and we can’t have one without the other. And now, I’m not just talking writing anymore…

Someone once said that life is mostly about showing up. Maybe. That might be true, if voting present is the ultimate goal. But for any who want more, God gives opportunities not only to show up to life, but to put our heads down and our shoulders to the plow of whatever tasks He has given us. Not once, but over and over again we’re blessed to ignore the barren landscape and accept the drudgery that feels futile–until that day.

Until that day the seed of our very hard thing germinates and begins to sprout and we pause to wipe our brows and glance down, only to stand shell-shocked at the early shoots reaching up to meet us.

Isn’t this delightful drudgery thing something like what Christ did when He wrapped Himself in our skin? He showed us how to do the everyday things, day after day, until that one glorious day when He set everything right and reconciled us to His Father and ours on the cross. All those days He spent traipsing this earth in dusty sandals was worth it to Him because He knew He was up to more than what the casual observer could see.

This is what lights my word fire. When we refuse to begrudge the drudgery, we get to taste the delight.

Tell me about that hard thing you’ve stuck with that brought delight when all was said and done?

Drag Ugly Into the Light

There’s this song, Empty Me by Chris Sligh.  The lyrics strip me down every time I play it…

“I’ve had just enough of the spotlight
when it burns bright
to see how it gets in the blood
and I’ve tasted my share
of the sweet life
and the wild ride
and found a little
is not quite enough.
I know how I can stray
and how fast my heart could change.”

It’s not that I’ve seen that much of the spotlight, just enough of it to identify with Chris’ words– to know how quickly man’s approval can become addictive.

I think you get those lyrics, too. You may not have occupied a platform or a stage, but you’ve done something at some point well enough to elicit praise. You wrote, sang, photographed, cooked, helped, coached, nursed or gave. Add to the list until you see yourself, but whatever was produced from your efforts was recognized and appreciated — and it sat well with you.

We give ourselves to man’s approval like a dog to a belly rub. And just like our pets nudge us when our attention strays and our hands grow still, we can find ourselves stretching for the next pat on the head.

At least, I can.

Allow me to swallow hard and go all first person. It’s painfully embarrassing to admit key stroke by public key stroke that I like a “You go, girl” as much as the next person, but it’s worth dragging it into the light because that part of me stands in opposition to the approval I most long to hear.

Well done, my good and faithful servant.


I can’t reconcile the two.  They’re light and dark, flesh and spirit.

On my own I can’t even see when I’ve slipped from worshiping the I Am to the age-old battle of recognize me.  The Lover of My Soul has to call me out.  Always He gives me the option of admitting and submitting, relenting and repenting, but once I do He moves tenderly and purposefully. Under His skilled hands, the lesser things of this life are cut away and my sore hearts beats with new passion.

This last pass under His sweet healing knife came as I was preparing speeches for several upcoming events. I was moving along at a pretty good clip when I found a Rock in my road. Color me stunned when God slipped in without any fanfare and showed me that I was going about my preparations with a desire to “do well” at these events.

Do well? Whatever does that mean but to do well so I won’t be embarrassed, so I’ll be approved, to ensure further opportunities– for me…

Father and I have had quite a day. I think I know what He wants me to do and say. Oh, the speeches aren’t totally wrapped up or set in stone. God knows He is welcome to pull them and start all over should He choose, and that’s the sweetest place on earth to be.

See, there’s another line I adore from Chris’ song,

Everything’s a lesser thing compared to You.

And so, I pull all of this ugliness out into the can’t take it back written world because if I don’t know anything else, I know this: My ugly can’t survive in the Light of Who He is but a yielded spirit thrives there.

I will always appreciate a kind word from you, but I aim to live on His for they are spirit and they are life.

All that said, this coming weekend I’ll be ministering with Dr. Joneal Kirby, known as The Heart Mom, the women of A&E’s Duck Dynasty, and a host of other exceptional speakers and worship leaders at the Inaugural Heart to Home Conference in Monroe, LA! I would appreciate your prayer support. Oh, and it’s not too late for you to secure a ticket and join us. Or, if you can’t make the trip physically, you individually or your church group can participate in the simulcast. All of the details can be found here.

Hugs, Shellie

Can you share one of your “uglier” moments in this business that Father has had you drag into the light?

It’s a Heart Wide Open Christmas, and You’re Invited!

Raise your hand if you’re ready to experience Christmas instead of trying to survive it.

Awesome! Me, too.

And yet, I’m acutely aware of how the over-hyped commercialism of the season will threaten to obscure the sacred story, once again.

Immanuel, God with us.

Christmas, God help us.

I want to do it differently this year, don’t you? I want to ignore the madness and listen for the holy. Have you said that as often as I have in years past?

We can, you know. We can dismiss the marketing, the magazines, and the endless social media pins urging us to do it bigger and better. For the love of Jesus, we really can quit doing Christmas long enough to live it– just not on the steam of our own good intentions. We’re tried that, haven’t we?

If we’re going to worship Jesus well this Advent season, we’ll need His strength and His grace. We’ll need His abiding Presence.

This is not a challenge. That would defeat us before we begin. This is an invitation to walk through the twenty-five days of Advent together. Our goal will be to keep our eyes on Jesus—and if we start getting steamrolled by our gift list and party schedule, we won’t berate ourselves. We’ll simply train our grateful gaze back on Jesus and begin again for the joy set before us. Immanuel, God with us.

HWO_ChristmasHeader_postcardI’ve prepared twenty-five prompts, one for each day of Advent, beginning on Sunday, November 30 and taking us through Wednesday, December 24. Each day has a Scripture passage, a brief thought, and a suggested action.

It gets better! I’m super excited to have four awesome author friends joining us for this sweet journey, Tricia Goyer, Dr. Joneal Kirby (The Heart Mom), Mary Snyder, and Marybeth Whalen. I’ll be kicking off Day One on my own blog and then my buddies will each take a turn hosting five days of A Heart Wide Open Christmas in a lovely blog hop that will culminate back at my blog!

For consistency, the day’s image will always be found on my blog, and I’ll be shooting it out first thing each morning via my social media platforms to remind those who are participating. That image will be conveniently linked to the week’s hostess where you can engage with the full content however best suits your schedule.

Whether you choose to read your brief devotion, print out your ornament, enjoy community conversation, or all of the above, you are cordially invited to join us for A Heart Wide Open Christmas!

Hugs, Shellie

It’s totally not necessary for you to let us know that you’re participating but, for the sake of community, we would sure love it if you did!

What the Apostle Paul Might Have Said About Marketing


Looking for marketing help, dear writer? Why, you’re in luck! Step right up to the Internet and tell old Google what you need, but be prepared to stay a while. A plethora of reading material and marketing advice abounds online, addressing the subject from every imaginable angle–and then some.

Except, perhaps for this one: Don’t overlook the value of marketing your neighbor’s work.

Hear me out before you write me off (weak pun apology). I’m convinced that this would be the type of advice the Apostle Paul might have offered had he ever taught a class in Marketing #101. In God’s School, the way up is down. Or, as Paul said in Philippians 2:3,”Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”

Yes, it’s challenging to understand how to apply those holy words to our writing lives. Especially when we’re constantly reminded that our platforms are everything and publishers find us only as attractive as our last sales numbers. But if God’s word doesn’t apply to all of our lives, it applies to none of it.

Selfish ambition is building our platforms with tunnel vision to the work of everyone around us.

God’s way is to step away from my work long enough to value yours.

It’s a valuable principle of marketing. I once thought I stumbled across it accidentally, but I now believe it has been entirely by God’s design. He orchestrated it through my work as a radio talk show host when I began reserving a segment of time to interview other authors. In the early days of All Things Southern LIVE, these were authors I met during my travel– until publicists began discovering this new venue and pitching their clients’ work.

I need to say this: I don’t promote everything that comes across my desk. Sadly, this is often a matter of pure time constraints. I don’t have the air time to interview even half of the authors whose galleys find their way to my desk. At other times, it’s a matter of my personal reading preferences or my understanding of the reading habits of my listeners. However, for these very reasons, when I do read something that entertains me, challenges me, encourages me, or flat out stretches me, I’m able to bring it to my listeners with authentic excitement. My audience knows this, so they trust my recommendations.

So, how does this help my marketing efforts? Well, that’s the beautiful thing. God’s way is always a win-win. Over and over I’ve seen how celebrating the works of others rebounds to bless my own career.

We’ve all been told to build a reader base and encourage that connection by staying in touch. We also know how distasteful it is to promote our own work. Introducing other authors to our readers–when we’re genuine about their work–allows us opportunities to stay engaged and interact with our communities in a natural way. In turn, our relationship with those authors invariably leads to our introduction to their readers.

Now that is marketing we can all manage. Can I get a witness?


How to Market Your Work Without Running Screaming into the Streets

timeline_heartwideopenRaise you hand if you just love marketing and you can’t wait to get started promoting that book, blog post, or magazine article you’ve written?

I see.

Well, raise your hand if you would like that book, blog post, or magazine article you’ve worked so hard on to find its way in front of real life readers?

What a conundrum.

Or an opportunity.

It’s that perspective thing again.

Like so many of my author friends, I dislike the “look at me” aspect of marketing my own work. I feel like the youngest of three little girls vying for my parent’s attention at the annual elementary school open house.

“Look at me!”

“This is my desk!”

“That’s my drawing on the bulletin board!”pleasingus_heartwideopen

That may have been TMI–too much information. Y’all probably don’t say that anymore, do you? Forgive my outdated references. I’m never using the cool phrases at the right time. Ask my kids.

But we were talking about our love/hate relationship with marketing and I wanted to let you in on one of my game plans.

I read an article recently that gave some startling statistics on comparative “face time” our messages are given on the various social media platforms. Of course, I can’t find that piece again because I had fallen down an Internet rabbit hole and have no idea how I got there or how I climbed out. You’ll have to trust me: The amount of time a reader’s eyes “paused” on an image (and shared it!) just slayed the time the same reader spent on mere text.

Poor little words. (I love you, words!) Words are my life, too, y’all, but we need to be wise about using other media to get them some face time, which we hope will translate into sales, shares, and retweets, right? Right.

A few simple apps on our smart phones will help. I’ve used InstaQuote to show you Heart Wide Open_n1a few examples of what I’ll be doing when my next book releases. I would stop here and tell you about Heart Wide Open and how it will be in a store near you March 18th, 2014, but this is not the time or the place.

Along with InstaQuote, I used PhotoMarkr to add a copyright to my images before posting them on Instagram. Now, seeing as my Instagram is connected to my Twitter, which is connected to my Facebook, which is connected to my hip bone…wait, too far, again. The point–one share hits all of my platforms.

And since I composed the text so it just happens to fall into Twitter’s 140-character count (Oh, the intimacy_heartwideopenthinks we can think!) I can post the full text in Instagram’s status box and Twitter will get the quote. Then, if interested, Twitter friends can hit the link and see the Instagram image.

My intention is to create a file folder of these tweetables and the images in my spare time. (Insert maniacal laughter at the mention of spare time.) Seriously, it only takes a moment to make these images. I made these three in about ten minutes. As the release nears, I’ll share these with the publicity team at my publishing house and with anyone else who has agreed to act as an influencer.

We’re done here! I hope I’ve given you a marketing idea that you can build on without running into the streets crying. I’ve tried that, y’all, and it doesn’t do a thing for sales.

Hugs, Shellie

2012 Writers and Readers Reach Out

Over the years I’ve challenged my readers at All Things Southern to join me in an annual benefit for the less fortunate. We’ve done everything from drilling wells in Africa with Life Today to partnering with World Vision to buy chickens and goats for needy families around the world.

Last year I became fixated with the exponential power represented by the fellow writers I meet in my travels. Knowing these wordsmiths all had a circle of readers that enjoy his or her work and interact with them via their websites, blogs, Facebook and Twitter, I wondered what we might accomplish by combining our individual platforms and multiplying our efforts. The dream led me to launch Writers and Readers Reach Out. The positive results fueled my desire to do more. For the second year, I’m asking writers and readers to embark with me on 30 Days of Thankfulness to coincide with the season of Thanksgiving.

I was in the planning stages of the drive and personally burdened by what I was learning about human trafficking when I read Passport through Darkness, by Kimberly L. Smith.  I knew immediately that Make Way Partners, the organization that Kimberly and her husbanded founded, should be the recipient of this year’s efforts. Make Way Partners works with individuals, churches, and organizations to help prevent and combat the evil of human trafficking and all forms of modern-day oppression.

If you’ll take the time to read just a few of the real-life stories on Kimberly’s blog of women and children who Make Way Partners has rescued from slavery, and for whom they provide long-term care, I believe you’ll want to participate in this beautiful journey of restoration.

Eight years ago, Kimberly began chartering small mission planes to fly her into the war zone where U.S. sanctions and Islamic regimes rendered thousands of orphans unadoptable. Providing food and opening a first-grade school in a lawless land with no other educational systems, MWP partnered with an indigenous leader to rescue and care for these most vulnerable orphans. Year-by-year, they have added a new grade to their school. Now, graduating eighth grade, the orphans of MWP have more education than many current leaders of their nation.  It is time to build a high school, making it possible to raise up the next generation of educated Christian leaders who will stop the cycle of violence and slavery.

Read about a few of these amazing students and the complete high school proposal here:

The quotes scattered here are those of the late Helen Keller.  Inviting Ms. Keller to share this journey with writers and readers feels right, for it was the power of a word written in the palm of her hand that unlocked Ms. Keller’s heart and mind and subsequently impacted untold lives around the world!

As readers and writers, no one knows the value of education better than we. Let’s dream big and build a high school for the world’s most vulnerable orphans!

Thirty days of thankfulness. It’s not a long time, but it’s a perfect time to join hands and do something grand, together. ~Shellie Rushing Tomlinson

Details for participating authors:

~Writers and Readers 30 Days of Thankfulness begins Nov.1st, 2012

~Each author posts the drive and invites his or her readers to join the effort.

~Participating authors and their websites will be credited and hyperlinked
on Kimberly L. Smith’s author site as well as the MWP blog and Facebook page. The Make Way Partners community is 15,000 strong, representing all 50 states and 10 countries. Kimberly will be blogging about Readers and Writers Reach Out and encouraging her supporters to read works from authors who are of the same mind and passionate to support the same things they care about.

(Authors, please contact if you would like to participate.  Please email Audrey with your name, blog site, Facebook page, website, or any other acknowledgement that you would like to use for your readers to track this opportunity.)

~Each author will be supplied with a button to use on your website, blog, Facebook wall, etc., linked to the donation button at Make Way Parners. You’ll notice the donation form has the following field: “How did you learn about Make Way Partners?” The software can easily track the efforts of individual authors by having the reader respond in that field with the shortened name of our drive and the author’s name. Example: WritersandReaders,authorJohnSmith

*The individual author will have access to how much he or she has personally raised but all other records will be private. There will be no public competition. At the end of the 30 days, we will publically announce the grand total raised, thanking all participating authors.”

Suggestions for participating authors:

~Please feel free to copy and paste this blog post directly, or use your own words to share the story.

~Instead of asking readers for a certain dollar amount, we respectfully suggest asking them to consider the weight of the subject. What would we be willing to do or give if it were our children and grandchildren being bought and sold?

~Strictly optional: On my personal blog, I enjoy having a giveaway in conjunction with the drive. Everyone who donates get entered in the drawing for a signed book, t-shirt, DVD, or anything else I decide to put in a goody bag. Last year I contacted one of my radio sponsors who gladly donated an Ipad for the giveaway! This idea might work for authors who don’t have a radio show, but do have a store or business in their area that would like to participate by sponsoring the author’s drive. In addition, Make Way Partners will give a free copy of Passport through Darkness to every donor.

~Keep the drive before your readers through your own platform during the thirty day focus, aiming to blog about it at least once a week and discuss it frequently via social media.

~Use your media contacts to schedule interviews to talk about Writers and Readers Reach Out 2012. If we can make use of your contacts but you’re unable to donate the interview time, please contact me. It may be that Kimberly or I, if not another of our participating authors, would be able to fill in.

~When twittering or pinning this drive please use hashtags #WritersandReaders2012 or #WR2012. Thank you!

Hugs, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson (twitter @shelliet)

This is your donate button:

Simply save the .gif to your desktop and insert it into your posts. The direct link you will be pointing to should be:  

***UPDATE– Yes, bloggers are welcome and encouraged to participate, too.  Also, I’d like to thank LITFUSE Publicity Group for donating publicity efforts.

Divine Delay Buttons, Anyone?

Call me a throwback. The world may have moved on but I will always consider coarse language a sign of a poor vocabulary. I’m personally fond of a phrase my late grandmother enjoyed using to admonish potty mouth people. “Goodness gracious,” she would exclaim. “You’ve got something in your mouth I wouldn’t hold in my hand!”

I’m noticing more and more use of the delay button on television— and we rarely watch much of anything around here other than news, sports, and cooking shows. No programming seems exempt from gutter talk. Even on a news report some well-meaning anchor will run a clip of someone with every other word “bleeped” out and the ones that remain aren’t necessarily easy on the ears. While we’re on the subject, they could get a little quicker with their bleeping, too. One generally gets enough of the first syllable to know what word is being bleeped. Sure, I find the bleeping less bothersome than having someone cuss up a blue streak in my face and then say “Excuse my language,” but if I had a choice it would be none of the above. I’ve often thought it’d be neat if those cell phones on all of our hips could send out harmless but effective “mind your mouth” zaps on every four letter word. There could even be an app for that. (Then again, there’s the risk that some people might light up like an electric mosquito zapper on a hot Louisiana night, so maybe not.)

The other day I saw a news piece that must have been trying the soul of whoever was trying to keep up with the potty mouth protestor ranting on the steps of Congress. The poor bleeper could scarcely finish one beep before it was time to start another. What that operator needed was a longer delay button. Heads up: Here’s an admission that may surprise you, but for the record, so do I! Oh, not for coarse language. I have my weaknesses, but that’s not one of ‘em. However, I’m constantly reminded of my need for an extra long delay button where social media is concerned.

Opinions, everyone has ‘em, and granted, the very nature of social media just begs us to share, but composing on the fly and hitting send too quickly can damage an author’s goals and platform in a nano second. But far more importantly for the author who professes to write under the compulsion of God, allowing ourselves the luxury of starting or joining a particular thread can strain or permanently damage relationships between ourselves and those readers in our communities who need Christ the most. It’s not overly dramatic to remind ourselves that someone spending eternity with God or separated from Him could hang in the balance of our updates.

I won’t presume to tell anyone when to weigh in on political, societal, and religious debates, in large part because those lines will be different based on our various ministries. I will suggest that Ephesians 4:29 should always set the bar, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

Only the Holy Spirit can tell us when to speak and when to refrain. I making it a practice to ask God for a Divine Delay, not to bleep out what I shouldn’t say, but a heavenly prompt to remind me to seek His counsel before I post. Won’t you join me? While we’re asking Him to “Set a watch over our lips and a guard over our hearts that we might not sin against thee,” we might want to add “And guard our Twitter and Facebook fingers, too!”


Don’t Let Your Muse be a Prima Donna

Granted, there’s nothing particularly sexy about the image here, but that’s exactly the point I hope to make today. I have plenty of writing mistakes behind me, and, no doubt, I’ll probably have more ahead of me, but my biggest mistake, by far, has to have been my slow recognition of how to live with a flighty muse.

I fell in love with words and books as a little kid, and the magic holds as much of a spell on me as it ever did. Even now, watching the letters group up into words and the words into sentences on this page pleases my eyes and settles my soul; only now I know there is nothing mysterious about the magic! I once thought of my muse as this elusive creature who must be cajoled into making an appearance. I had to attend to her every need with just the right coffee/surroundings/writing pad, etc.  Otherwise, like some spoiled prima donna, she might get offended and disappear as quickly as she arrived. There’s a good country word for that sort of thing: bologna!

If I might digress a moment to a much more important subject, I’ll use my last breath on this green earth helping my fellow believers understand that this same principle is applicable to our life in Christ Jesus. I believe it’s vain to wait on some supernatural hunger for God’s word and His fellowship in prayer to bonk us all on the head and propel us to our quiet places. And yet, I know that when we bend our will to His and seek Him diligently, He meets us and begins forming those very desires within us. Now, THAT is good news, any which way you slice it. And now, back to your regularly scheduled writing post.

My muse wears work clothes. She has to, y’all. Deadlines call from every corner. Oh, yes, I love words and writing as much as ever, the process will always feed my soul. But if I were waiting on a flighty muse to show up and perform, I’d be dead in the water.

Like so much else in this life, I’ve found that success comes when one foot, or word in our case, is placed in front of the other, time and time again. I can’t get the hours back that I’ve wasted in the past, waiting on my muse to show up and perform, but that’s okay. Experience is, after all, a mighty fine teacher. I may have stumbled towards the understanding, but I’ve learned that my muse, she is me. I’ve taken the power back, and it feels good. Who knows, if she’s good, I may even treat her to a caramel macchiato!

Do you wait for inspiration, or do you start without it?

What Do Collard Greens have to do with Marketing Mojo?

Hey y’all, let’s chat…I’m Shellie, they call me the Belle of All Things Southern, and I’m here to talk about marketing. Don’t roll your eyes at me. These talks are good for us. (Right, Super Agent Greg?) Being an incurable storyteller, it’s my natural inclination to open any discussion with a tale to illustrate my point, and my Papa tells a childhood story that perfectly captures my thoughts on marketing. So, please, join me on memory lane.

Ola Mae Rushing was my paternal grandmother. I remember her as a widow woman, worn slap dab out and spending most of her days resting her bones in a squeaky green recliner, watching the seasons of the Louisiana Delta change outside her picture window and Bob Barker charming the masses on her black and white TV. Together my grandparents had raised a dozen kids to adulthood before Papaw Rushing passed away. After his death, Grandmaw sat down and retired–from most everything. Papaw Claude had worked the land as hard as a plot of ground has ever been farmed during those early years, but life was anything but easy. There had always been more month than money and more hungry mouths than food to feed ’em, which brings me to the point of our story.

One day Grandmaw set a single pot of collard greens on the table and told everyone to help themselves. Papa was just a little boy, and collard greens were the last thing he had in mind to fill the pit in his hungry stomach.

“I don’t like collard greens!” he announced. “I hate collard greens. I ain’t eating any collard greens!”

The way Papa tells it, Grandma promptly escorted him outside for a Come to Jesus meeting.  Upon his return, Papa wasted no time pulling his chair up to the table and saying, “Pass the collard greens, please.”

That’s the sort of love/hate relationship I have with marketing. To be perfectly honest, it takes a remedial Come to Jesus meeting to keep my thinking straight on this one, but God is ever faithful to help me adjust my attitude. This writing life is a hard one, but it’s a blessed one. I’m getting to do what I’ve dreamed of doing from childhood when I spent my days in the arms of my favorite tree with a pile of books, a #2 pencil, and my Red Chief notebook. I write words, and people read them.

Sure, my “brand” was a huge surprise. I never intended to be a walking, talking, southern celebration, and I never ever set out to write humor. This is the platform that God built. Due to its perpetual deadlines, I get to build line upon line relationships with people, which brings us to a place where I can speak more important things into their lives than Suck Your Stomach In and Put Some Color On or Sue Ellen’s Girl Ain’t Fat, She Just Weighs Heavy. Not that those aren’t serious issues, but I live to talk All Things Jesus. Towards that end, I’ll gladly pull my chair up to my desk today, tomorrow, and as often as is necessary with a smile on my face and a burning resolve in my heart.

“Pass the marketing notes, please.”

Hugs, Shellie

What helps inspire your marketing mojo?

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