Hopelessly Devoted to You

Soundtrack for Grease
I Wore My Album Out

I loved the movie Grease when I was a teenager. My cherished movie soundtrack album wore out, as needle tracks embedded themselves deeper into the shiny, black vinyl. I even played Olivia Newton John’s part as Sandy, in a condensed version with my high school mates.

In the privacy of my bedroom, and a handful of times on the stage, I belted out Sandy’s song of undying love for Danny, Hopelessly Devoted to You. With adoration pulsing through my vocal chords, I too, felt the passion of forever romance.

And today, that’s how I want to feel about Jesus. I want my heart to thump with anticipation every time I hear His voice, smell His scent, brush against His presence, taste His goodness, and see His glory. Though I tremble when I’m near Him, I want to wildly, passionately, and bravely chase after Him for more.

Sandy & Danny at Sunset - Grease
This is my Hopelessly Devotional

Like Sandy in the movie, I ultimately want to transform myself, so at the end, I look more like Him, and less like me. I want my devotion to shine from the inside out, so the whole world knows, I am hopelessly devoted to Him.

Today, I probably wouldn’t watch Grease if it weren’t for nostalgia. As I’ve grown in my desire to please God, I realize there are parts of the movie that don’t honor Him. But when I do allow myself to indulge, I see nuances explaining my draw to the magic of Grease, way back when. The same nuances draw me to intimacy with Jesus. I am hopelessly devoted.

But what exactly does devote mean? According to one dictionary, it’s defined this way. To give all or a large part of one’s time or resources to (a person, activity, or cause). 

This definition makes me pause. Am I giving all or a large part of my time or resources to Christ? Am I offering Him the best of my energy, talents, and love?

Often I think I do, I want to, but deep down, I know I fall short of an active, hope-infused devotion. My vocal cords aren’t pulsing with passion, the way they should.

Danny & Sandy -- Grease
Flying into Forever Romance

Thankfully, Jesus isn’t as fickle as John Travolta, when he played Danny in Grease. Christ is not impacted by peer pressure. He cares little about my outward appearance. His interest in me isn’t self-serving. He loves me enough for both of us. His desire is to meet me in the clouds, where He and I will truly fly away into our forever romance.

As I write this, I can close my eyes, and see us. Jesus and me, in a magical moment, strolling through heaven.

Danny & Sandy on the Beach, Grease
Hopelessly Devoted to Magical Moments with Jesus

I’ll cling to his arm, lay my head on his shoulder, and breathe deeply of his scent while we walk. He’ll stop and turn, so we’re face-to-face. He’ll lift my chin.

Totally engaged, I’ll get lost in His smiling eyes, while I belt out our song. He will know, I’m Hopelessly Devoted to You.

Is there a special song, movie, or memory that offers a unique vision of your intimate moments with Jesus Christ?

My New Word Focus — Six Weeks Later

Like many others, a few years ago I switched from making resolutions to fixating on a single word focus at the beginning of a new year. All of my words tied to specific passages of Bible scripture, equipping me with a support system for my resolve. And they enhanced my writing, as well as general life choices.

In the past, various encouragements came to mind:

Joy by Anita Brooks
One of my past Word Focuses — JOY

All very positive affirmations. And each one transformed me more into the person I wanted to become.

But this year, I’m compelled to focus on a very different word. Mostly opposite of concentrated efforts in my past. This year, I guess God’s using a little reverse psychology on me. My New Year focus word?

Lazy.

As in, don’t be the wicked and lazy servant who buries her talents. Matthew 25:14-30.

Besides the spiritual application, there are practical applications as well. Especially when it comes to succeeding as a published writer.

  • If I fritter my time away on television, or other useless endeavors, I can’t be about my Father’s business of writing.
  • It takes practice, learning as a good apprentice, to become a professional. 
  • Allowing myself to wallow in tiredness stifles my ability to be a doer, and makes me a dreamer only. (I’ve learned I can talk myself out of being tired, can move around for a few minutes, or even allow myself a short nap to revive. Sometimes, fatigue is a mindset.)
  • A person has to start where they are in order to get where they want to go.
  • I only get so many seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months in a year, and wasting them will only leave me discouraged, guilty, and depressed. This can spin me into a hamster wheel of failure.
  • Publishers don’t like working with lazy writers.
  • Being lazy with my marketing means missed opportunities to get my message into the world.
  • Building a writing career takes time, energy, and persistence. Laziness steals momentum from what we’ve invested thus far.
Anita Brooks Ready to Write
Crawling Into My Writing Cave

The reason I’m writing about this now, versus week one or January 1, is I know myself. Often, about six weeks into a focus of this nature, I start getting lax, allowing apathy to override my renewed concentration on a specific act. I need something to propel me into my Writing Cave.

So this post isn’t just about you, although I certainly hope it encourages you to revisit your resolution or New Year’s focus, but it’s also about me. I’m creating a tickler for myself, to help me avoid the pitfall of so easily forgetting the promise I made to me, before God.

Ecclesiastes 5:5 says, “It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it.” A resolution or word focus is a vow you make to yourself.

I’m not saying this to make anyone, including myself, feel guilty. But I can’t ignore the truth of the statement, and the reminder that I need to do a better job of acting on my God-given ability and opportunity. After all, a lazy attitude toward learning new things, or accepting new challenges, will make me stagnate.

Anita Brooks, Dare to LiveAs the tagline on my website says, “It’s Never Too Late for a Fresh Start with Fresh Faith.” I believe it, and I live by it.

So this year, my focus is on the word lazy — something I hope to learn to live without. Each day dawns bright with new hope, and each moment burns deep with opportunity.

What have you resolved? How are you doing in your renewed efforts?

The Jealous Writer

Are You a Smart Writer?
Are You a Smart Writer?

Confession time. I have a problem with writer jealousy. It’s not a serious case, but enough that it requires energy and effort to keep it at bay.

As a child, I was known as The Smart One. But like most who want what they don’t have, I preferred any of these titles, The Cute One, The Funny One, or The Sweet OneAlas, I wasn’t gifted with any of those labels. And I allowed my thoughts over what I wasn’t to overshadow the gift of who I was.

As a woman, I know discontent. Over my hair color, body shape, shoe size, and the shade of my eyes. Insecurity reeks a crushing blow to productive energy. I’d love to recapture the minutes and hours of my youth, spent on wishing I looked more like someone else. I could reinvest my lost time in doing something meaningful.

Are You a Funny Writer?
Are You a Funny Writer?

As a professional author, I too battle the green-eyed monster. When I read an eloquent beauty, a humorous author, a sweet wordsmith, or a creative powerhouse, I often wish I wrote like them. I tremble in the shadows of a thick plot, riddled with mystery, nuances, and intrigue. I covet the ability to paint rich landscapes, where every small touch blends to perfection. I feel sad that I can’t make readers belly laugh like my hysterical peers. My heart’s desire is to embellish dialogue with verbs so strong that the reader forgets where they are as soon as they climb into the story. 

Are You a Sweet Writer?
Are You a Sweet Writer?

But there’s hope for a jealous writer like me. 

  • Through age, I’ve learned it’s okay to be me, as designed by God. The child in me couldn’t see the benefit of my unique outlook on things. But now I know if the building’s burning down, pretty, funny, and sweet won’t get you out.
  • Through maturity, I’m learning to appreciate my gifts. I am who I am, and so are the irrevocable qualities others see in me.
  • I’m a serious student by nature, and can’t help sharing God-inspired knowledge and wisdom. Like a sponge, I absorb and release.

    Are You a Cute Writer?
    Are You a Cute Writer?

I don’t know if I’ll ever get past reading a hilarious story, and wishing I could write like its author. But I resolve to remember that just as an arm can’t do an ear’s job, neither can I write what someone else is called to. I may always long to write a great novel, but not until I finish the current race set before me.

Jealous writers who allow themselves to wallow won’t have time or energy to produce their own good work. I am a professional, aged-to-perfection, mature author. This is how I choose to focus my thoughts, so I can create the projects I’m uniquely qualified for. After all, if I don’t write them, who will?

Do you ever struggle with writer’s jealousy?

Write From the Truth of Who You Are
Write From the Truth of How You are Wired

It’s A Christmas Parade!

As our treat to our wonderful WaterCooler Readers, we thought we’d do another blog parade. Each of our authors below is blogging about their Writer’s Wish List. Hmm . . . I know I’m intrigued to see what’s on these lists. Funny? Quirky? Serious?

I don’t know . . . you’ll have to click on the links to find out!

1. Lucille Zimmerman
Blog Link: http://www.lucillezimmerman.com/2012/12/10/ape-author-publisher-entrepreneur-how-to-publish-a-book-by-guy-kawasaki-shawn-welch-a-book-review/

2. Janalyn Voigt
Blog Link: http://janalynvoigt.com/one-authors-christmas-wish

3. Kimberly Vargas
Blog Link: http://www.kimberlyvargasauthor.com/?p=241

4. Cheryl Ricker
Blog Link: http://www.cherylricker.com/2012/12/smells-and-whistles/

5. Jordyn Redwood
Blog Link: http://jordynredwood.blogspot.com/2012/12/wishing.html

6. Melissa K. Norris
Blog Link: http://melissaknorris.com/?p=1351

7. Gillian Marchenko
Blog Link: http://wp.me/p2Ds6m-zA

8. Dr. Rita Hancock
Blog Link: http://edensfreedomsisters.ning.com/profiles/blogs/the-eden-diet-joins-a-blog-parade-find-out-how-to-win-dr-rita-s-b

9. Karen Jordan
Blog Link: http://karenbarnesjordan.com/a-writers-wish-list-grace-gifts

10. Kelli Gotthardt
log Link: http://www.kelligotthardt.com/1/post/2012/12/writers-wish-list.html

11: Jan Dunlap
Blog Link: http://jandunlap.com/2012/12/the-wishlist-of-a-writer/

12: Cindy Dagnan
Blog Link: http://cindydagnan.com/cindy-sigler-dagnan/2012/12/14/one-writer%E2%80%99s-wish-list/

13: Anita Brooks
Blog Link: http://brooksanita.com/a-writers-fantasy-wish-list

Merry Christmas!!

Overcoming Your Speaking Fears to Market Your Books

Overcoming Speaking Fears
Writers as Speakers — Welcome Your Audience

Does terror of speaking in front of crowds threaten to paralyze your writing career?

Imagine a large stadium filled to capacity. The announcer introduces the main speaker. The audience claps and cheers. Adrenaline pulses in a flood through your veins. You approach the podium in slow-motion, while your legs beg to run away as fast as they can.

You arrive at the center of the stage, open the presentation slides on your electronic tablet, even as you pray you don’t make a fool of yourself. Your mouth opens, at the same time the heel of your hand brushes the edge of the tablet, knocking it on the ground. The clatter echoes across the hushed platform. Your fingers tremble as you lift the darkened screen. You scan the crowd in front of you; noticeable fidgeting causes a contagious rustle. You clear your throat, offer a half-smile, and scramble to remember what your notes said.

Once again, your lips part, but instead of a greeting, a guttural growl boomerangs through the microphone. 

Is this a nightmare for anyone but me?

These days, whether writing non-fiction or novels, authors need to work twice as hard as public speakers to market their books. 

But why do our minds threaten to sabotage us when we stand in front of smiling faces, in a sea of expectant people clamoring to hear the messages we’ve waited to share? Are we doomed to fail when panic replaces our passion? What goes on inside our brains?

Though I agree with most people who rank public speaking in their top five worst fears, there are tips I’ve learned to help reduce my anxiety.

1Study your material intently.

2Practice in front of a mirror.

3Read the Bible. This simple answer saved me in the past, when anxiety medication, panic inhibiting techniques, and other methods failed to help me move past fear. I discovered that immersing myself in God’s Word calmed my frazzled nerves.

4Follow sound advice. The Anxiety Coach offers practical instructions to settle emotions that threaten to keep you from spreading your message.

5Wear comfortable clothing. Function along with your fashion.

Water -- How Input Affects Output

6Get serious about laughter. Humor relaxes emotions, body, mind, and spirit. Watch a funny program immediately before leaving to speak. Read a riotous book or article. Listen to a comedic CD or download on your way to the presentation.

7. Thirty minutes before speaking, drink water to hydrate your vocal chords, brain cells, and emotional sensors. Water is a miracle drug. (Thirty minutes should allow your body time to shed waste, so you can visit a restroom before taking the stage.)

8. Prior to walking onto your platform, breathe in slowly through your nose, count to ten, and release slowly through your mouth. Repeat twice, so you follow the process a minimum of three times.

9. Prayer walk to the front of your audience.

10. Don’t make a big deal out of flubs. Remember, most audiences won’t recognize mistakes, so carry on, or make light of it. Besides, mess-ups make us more human to observers.

Speaking is part of the modern writing model, but no need to worry. You can overcome and share with confidence.

How do you take courage in the face of public speaking fears in order to promote your books?

Overcoming Fear to Market Your Book
Promote Through Speaking

Ten Sources to Spur Promotion Ideas

Promoting Artists
Concert Promoters Get Creative

Authors are expected to do much of their own marketing. Been there, heard that — you can keep the tee-shirt.

So what’s a writer with little or no marketing experience to do? Research.

And get started early. Though my first book is almost a year from publication, I’m working on a Promotion Plan now. Naturally a strategic thinker, I’m thinking ahead. (If you haven’t yet sold a project, this is prime brainstorming season.)

In a previous job, I worked sales and marketing for a clothing manufacturer, where my biggest account was Nike. They are marketing masters.

A minimum of eighteen months out, they plan the launch for any new apparel line. Nike knows the investment in time and energy pays back with interest. They study competitors. Survey customers. Review totally unrelated products. And sometimes, try things that fail.

But in the thinking stage, they don’t toss any crazy idea.

As a new author, I don’t have a mega-marketing budget like Nike. But their basic principles work with two hundred dollars like they do with two million. If you’d like to peek at some of their aggressive 2013 marketing strategies, click here.

Taking what I learned from past experience, here are ten sources I’m using to brainstorm a unique Book Promotion Plan:

1. Read creative thinking books. Some of my current faves are: The $100 Startup, The Four-Hour Work Week, The Power of Full Engagement, The Well-Fed Writer, Red Hot Internet Publicity, The Wealthy FreelancerPlatform, and Shameless Self-Promotion and Networking for Christian Creatives.

 

2. Hunt for colorful partnering alternatives in the everyday. Look around you with fresh eyes. Is there a marketing marriage in the making?

 

Spur Book Promotion Ideas
Creative Ideas Under Your Nose

3. Study other author websites for promotional ideas. In the following examples, it’s the concept, not necessarily the content, that interests me:

4. Observe projects, organizations, or businesses of different styles, to spark unique promotional ideas. i.e. Concerts, chambers of commerce, beauty salons, amusement parks, hardware stores, talent shows, and more, are marketing fodder.

 

Promotional Ideas at Salons
Observe what Different Businesses Do

5. Create a line of products to complement the book’s message. Brand image magnifies with diversity — and promotional products spread your message further.

 

6. Target different personality types, genders, ages, and regions to reach a wider audience. Never discount a potential demographic in the brainstorming phase.

 

7. Ask for ideas. Get your brave on. Ask the checkout person, waitress, plumber, even employees of places you visit on vacation. They may offer fresh perspectives. But don’t fail to tap into your professional networks as well.

 

Adventure Sports Spur Creativity
Riding Dolphins Promotes Adventure

8. Help others with pure motives. I believe we get what we honestly give.

 

9. Stay true to the title. I use this as an editing tool, but it works well with brand marketing also.

 

10. Consult the Master Platform-Builder. God constructs the sturdiest and sometimes strangest ways to display our messages. Trust Him to know the end in your beginning.

What spurs your book promotion ideas?

Behind the Gate

Santa Anita Horse Racing
Behind the Gate

Nostrils flare, eyes bug, while clouds of dust rise from impatient hooves. The feisty thoroughbred bends her regal head in a failed attempt to nudge the gate open. Her hot-blooded demeanor quiets as the Jockey calmly holds her reins and whispers gentle encouragement.

The bell rings. The gate lifts. And she shoots out like a pent-up cannon ball. Her spirited gait promises bold results. Her agile movements belie powerful muscles, honed to skilled perfection. At the right moment, and at the Jockey’s urge, she extends her stride in the home stretch. Her eyes fixate on the finish line before her, ears attuned to her Master’s call, and the two blend into one. Her nose touches invisible tape.

This paints an image of the Christian writer’s life. Like thoroughbreds, we are designed to run the race set before us.

But sometimes, our impatience grows as we wait behind the gate to run our God-ordained course. We assume we’re ready, yet our Trainer holds the gate’s release until our maturity is complete.

Training Thoroughbred Horses, by Preston M. Burch, offers tips that mirror undeniable patterns in the way God trains us for Christian writing.

  • Burch said, “Owners set thoroughbreds apart, before birth, to be racers. Carefully crafted breeding is designed to create a winning horse.” Just as horse owners carefully consider which mare and stud to breed, our Creator planned our DNA with qualities uniquely designed to make us writers.
  • “Successful training of any thoroughbred starts with a quiet lead pony that walks in front of the young yearling as they circle round and round.” We need wise influence. The Lord sends mentors who walk in front of us. Often, we must circle back to a place visited before. In hindsight, we see the need to round similar circumstances, until walking in God’s direction becomes second nature.

    Horse Training Round and Round
    You Must Circle Round and Round
  • “After they learn to follow quietly as a good follower, then they are allowed to trot.” Our enthusiasm often makes the pre-requisite to follow first easy to miss.
  • “Proof of advancement comes with ability to figure-eight trot by the pressure of reins on the neck, versus the pull of a bit on their mouth.” Pressure creates character. First, by the surprise grind of teeth against metal when someone tells us our words run rampant. Over time, we learn to respond to a gentle tug on the neck — where it takes less pressure to generate a pattern of grace, diversity, and style in our sentences.
  • “Once bridle-wise training is accomplished, next comes jogging, and then cantering. The horse continues to be accompanied by the pony to this point. By this time they should be fit and well-behaved.” Here, our writing muscles are small, but growing. Diversity improves with practice, but like the thoroughbred, we still need guiding influence.
  • “If you try to hurry them onto the track before they know what the bridle is for, they are hard to control and will easily hurt themselves, another horse, or a boy.” Our desire to race can drive us to foolishness. Believing we are ready too soon, we break for the track. In our uncontrolled urge to publish, we can hurt ourselves and others.
Jockey Encouragement
And You’re Off

You and I are God’s thoroughbreds. Jesus is our Trainer, and the Holy Spirit is our Jockey. Waiting behind the gate is hard, but with perseverance the day will come for us to run the track laid out especially for us.

When we are fully prepared, the gate will lift. The crowd will roar. The air will surge with electricity. The bell will ring. And then…you’re off!

Are you waiting for a gate removal so you can launch?

I Once Was Blind

Dr in Lab Coat

“Your eyesight may not return.”

In a haze of blurred white, all I could make out was a fuzzy outline of the optometrist’s lab coat as he held the door knob.”I’ll be back shortly; I need to confer with my colleague.”

The door closed, and I was alone. I didn’t mean to whine, but when you’re a writer facing permanent blindness, a few whiny words slip out.

Saline tears raced over my cheeks, and met at the center of my chin. They waterfalled into my lap. I raised my face toward the ceiling. “Why is this happening? How can I write without my eyesight?”

Sterile silence answered my questions.

When the doctor returned, he placed a piece of paper in my hand. “Get this prescription filled. Put one drop in each eye every two hours, even throughout the night, and come back to see my colleague tomorrow.”

“But tomorrow’s Sunday. You aren’t open.”

“He’s coming in for you.” His gentle hand assisted me out of the chair and led me toward the door by the elbow. It would be a very long, miserable night.

By the next morning, thousands of invisible pins pricked my body. My head ached, and walking outside turned sunbeams into fiery branding irons that seared my corneas. My husband drove me to the eye doctor.

When I shuffled into the office, the physician’s voice did not reassure me. “Let me take a look.” He clucked as he prodded, not bothering to hide his concern. “I’ve never seen anything like this. I don’t even know where to refer you. This is serious.”

Fresh tears careened rivers off my face. I could hear him rifling through papers.

“According to these reports, your eyes are worse than yesterday. I want you on complete bed rest when you get home. Come see me Tuesday. I’ll try to figure out what to do by then.”

I went home, crawled in bed, and cried out to God. A voice whispered in my mind, “What verse do you claim?”

“Though You slay me, yet will I trust You.”

“Then trust Me.”

“But how can I write if I can’t see.”

“Trust Me.”

In that moment, I decided to obey, and my whole perspective changed. I knew that if God wanted me to write or do anything else, He’d make a way. Others had authored in spite of blindness. Helen Keller, Jennifer Rothschild, and Jim Stovall came to mind.

Several days later, I met with Dr. Malhotra, a cornea specialist, who quickly identified the problem. He diagnosed me with Cogan’s Dystrophy, or Map-Dot-Fingerprint Dystrophy.

It took almost five weeks for the torn skins over my corneas to heal. My sight slowly returned. It was September, 2009.

Supplements for Map-Dot-Fingerprint Dystrophy
Supplements for Clearer Vision

Flash forward, three years. Though my vision challenges me from time to time, I’m able to see, and I write nearly every day. To maintain my sight, I take fish oil and vitamin supplements, use lubricant drops daily, and put salt ointment in my eyes at night to keep the skins taut and smooth. I’ll do this the rest of my life, and hope for few corneal flares.

Meds for Map-Dot-Fingerprint Dystrophy
Lubricant & Salt Ointment

Cogan’s Dystrophy makes it appear as if a fingerprint has been left on each eye, hence the more common name. I choose to believe God branded me with His own fingerprints to fulfill His special purpose in my life.

I once was blind, but now I see. And whether I’m to do it with my eyes or not, I will answer His call to write.

What obstacles have you overcome to fulfill your call to write?

God's Fingerprint
God’s Fingerprint

 

One of the One

Unseen Journey to Publication
Curves Ahead

It was not an encouraging statistic.

On a cool fall day, the speaker stood at the front of the seminar class and eroded my confidence with his authoritative words, “About one percent of writers succeed in getting published. Because most give up and drop out of the race.”

I’d waited until my forties to do anything with a secret desire to become a writer, so his gloomy prophecy almost made me run from the room. Thankfully, I didn’t let his statistical shadows deter me.

A Shadowy Path
Shadows Crowd the Writing Road

Instead, I silently inquired of God, whom I believed had brought me to this place, and asked what He thought about the publisher’s statement. The answer came as a whisper, “With Me, all things are possible.”

At that starting line in my writing career, I vowed, “I will allow God to make me one of the one percent who succeed.” Little did I know how I’d need my early resolve to navigate past future bumps in the writing road.

Writing Path with Obstacles
Obstacles Litter the Road

Practical applications were required to pave the way.

  • I devoured books on the craft of writing, the business of publication, the magic of marketing, and the art of building a loyal readership. (I’m still studying these necessary parts of the process.)
  • I turned off my television, powered up my computer, and started practicing what I learned.
  • I created a Writer’s Cave and pursued my passion.
  • I faced my Fears and wrote in spite of them.
  • I followed God’s lead when I wasn’t sure where to invest my talents.

    Hard to Know Where Your Writing is Going
    The Road to Writing is Often Unclear

I determined to follow and not race ahead of God.

  • When impatience threatened to devour my energy and time with tangled emotions, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that God controls my dream.
  • I sought God’s kingdom first, before the allure of writing success. Each day, I committed to read my Bible before I wrote anything.
  • I submitted my desires and said, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
  • I trusted God, as the Creator of Time, instead of sweating it when I couldn’t accomplish as much as I believed I should.
  • I wrote down encouragements, so when hardships threatened to swallow me, I had factual reminders that God created me to write. I kept the list close and read His positive reinforcements as needed.

Over time, the hours of study, priority-driven choices and submission to God smoothed the course. But I endured many personal trials along the way.

One shocking revelation brought the news that my dad isn’t my biological father. My youngest sister faced life-threatening illness. My grandson was hurt. Every day, circumstances fought to distract, but in between the upsets, I tenaciously wrote one word at a time. While I traveled tough terrain, I held onto my God-given mantra — I will be one of the one.

Cloudy Writing Days
A Straighter Road Under Cloudy Days

Eventually, the road to becoming one of the one straightened. My portfolio of articles grew, my speaking platform rose, and my writing improved. As I obeyed His voice, God cleared the way.

I’m steering toward my goal of being in the one percent of writers who succeed at their craft. My first book releases in 2013. Growth will span my lifetime, but I refuse to give up. If God says I can be one of the one, then who am I to argue? After all, He put me on the road to writing.

What gives you the gumption to speed ahead in pursuit of your dreams?