Perfecting the Elevator Pitch

Descending Memories


I’m still shamelessly grabbing every opportunity I can to tell people I now have an agent. Anytime someone innocuously asks, “So…what’s new? How’s things?” I blurt, “Oh not too much…I got an agent for my book!!!” My officemate surely wants to clap her hands over her ears and run screaming from the room, but she’s been remarkably gracious and patient with my boasting.

So last week my colleague Penny asked the question, and after I blurted my answer, she said, “Oh! I didn’t even know you had written a book.”

Then, when I mentioned to Penny that I’d written a memoir, she said this: “A memoir…huh…interesting. So what’s it about?”

Commence awkward silence.

And then even more awkward bumbling:

“Uh. Well, um…it’s sort of a faith story…I mean kind of a story about religion. Well, actually it’s like a conversion story…about finding God. Sort of.”

Penny laughed. “I think you better work a little more on your elevator pitch,” she advised (good-naturedly).

She’s got that right. My conversation with Penny illuminated two distinct problems. One: I lack a concise description of my book for these very situations. And two: I’m still not very comfortable admitting that I write about God, especially to particular audiences.

You see, I know Penny well enough to suspect that her views may not be exactly in line with those of a conservative Christian. Not that I’m the most conservative Christian you’ll ever meet…but honestly, I worried that once Penny had heard I’d written a “God book,” she would lump me in with however she defined “Christian.” And I wasn't sure that's where I wanted to be lumped.

Of course, I didn’t have any idea what her definition was, but I was afraid of it nonetheless. I was afraid of the label. I was afraid of how that might affect our polite office friendship. I was afraid of how that might affect how she thought of me. I was even afraid of what that meant for how I define myself.

I know. All that angst over a two-line elevator pitch.

Maybe I should have thought about all this before I started to write about God.

My awkward conversation with Penny reminded me of a similar one I’d had with my big boss a couple months ago. He’d read my newspaper column that weekend and had stopped by my office to chat about it.

“Huh,” he said, when I confirmed that I wrote a monthly “religion and faith” column for the Journal Star. “I wouldn’t have expected that about you.”

Expected what? That I wrote a newspaper column? That I wrote about faith? That I had faith?

I had no idea what he meant by that cryptic statement, and I didn’t dare ask. Later, of course, I obsessed over it. I figured his comment either implied that I’m so cool and jaded and edgy that I don’t fit the Christian mold…or that I’m so evil and crass and ruthless that I couldn’t possibly be a Christian.

Given the choice, I want to be the edgy Christian. They do exist you know – look at Rob Bell. Or Jon Acuff. They’re totally cool. And not one bit sheepish about being Christian. I want to be like that.

But who am I kidding, right? If you’ve read this blog for more than three days, you already know that I could never pull off Edgy Christian. For starters, I’m a Lutheran. Totally not edgy. Secondly, I don’t wear enough black – in fact, horrors, I prefer shades of turquoise and terra cotta. And third, I don’t even have a single tattoo. And even if I did, that tattoo would somehow look preppy on me.

I’m afraid I don’t have a tidy conclusion to this post. I can’t tell you I went home from either conversation, prayed about it and then comfortably and confidently slid into my place on the Christian spectrum. Frankly I still feel pretty befuddled about the whole thing.

So for now, I’m simply focusing on finding satisfaction and comfort in the process itself, in the growing and learning and becoming whatever God has in store for me.

What about you? Can anyone relate to this? Or am I simply the weakest Christian on the planet?!

Linking up with Emily...

deodate  – (February 24, 2011 at 3:10 AM)  

Oh Michelle, I love your post and your honesty. Isn't it funny that there are some people who you just feel so comfortable with (speaking of your faith) and others that make you twitch? Don't be too hard on yourself...after all, you have an agent! That's great news..just think, soon it will be book signings.
Andie

Thelma  – (February 24, 2011 at 5:39 AM)  

"I didn’t have any idea what her definition was, but I was afraid of it nonetheless." This sums me up perfectly. I'll toss out my blog link to just about anyone, and yet not everyone for the very same reasons...
Thanks for this beautiful post!

JDaniel4's Mom  – (February 24, 2011 at 6:12 AM)  

I think people come with so many impression of what I christian is. It is hard not to try and keep all of us in that box.

David N.  – (February 24, 2011 at 7:40 AM)  

I think what makes a person "cool", Christian or not, is confidence in themselves. If you know who you are, then you don't have to wear ironic t-shirts and listen to Mumford and Sons to be cool. The Church needs honesty, not edginess for edginess' sake.

kendal  – (February 24, 2011 at 7:42 AM)  

oh, michelle, except for wearing black (which ido most days) we are so much alike. i struggle in some circles (book club) to let people know about my faith. my blog, sometimes, for some reason i have trouble writing the word jesus. it makes me feel faint when i admit that. i go to an edgy church - i joke that i don't fit in b/c my kids are in public school, i don't play an intrument and i don't have even one tattoo! hang in there, lady.

Leslie  – (February 24, 2011 at 8:32 AM)  

You do make me laugh... love your comments about tatoos and wearing black. But I do think the beauty of it all is that He loves US. The individuals. And I think you've summed it up well with:

"So for now, I’m simply focusing on finding satisfaction and comfort in the process itself, in the growing and learning and becoming whatever God has in store for me."

amen to that.

Heidiopia  – (February 24, 2011 at 8:35 AM)  

So interesting, Michelle-- I struggle a little with this even in my blog posts. How much faith-speak do I feel comfortable putting out there? My family has never been particularly vocal about faith and as mine grows and evolves, I find myself editing what I say. I'm working through that, thankfully, but I think it's a process: being strong in your faith and able to verbalize and articulate it without hesitation. I'll pray for you (for us!) in that regard.
Blessings, my friend!

Lori  – (February 24, 2011 at 8:45 AM)  

Michelle, I SO relate to this post. It really endears you to me because I can see myself in all the situations you were talking about! We need more honesty like yours, more tranparency. We are sometimes so afraid to be less than perfect in our Christian walk but when we start talking to other people we realize how we all struggle with the same things! Thank you for this post, I was smiling the whole way through :-)

Brian Miller  – (February 24, 2011 at 8:47 AM)  

no you not...you are honest...i like the thought of working on an elevator pitch though...i have found if you are afraid to talk about faith or who you are it makes others uncomfortable and you get more resistance...the more comfortable you become just being you the easier it is...come on you wrote a book about it...that is awesome...own it

I Live in an Antbed  – (February 24, 2011 at 9:45 AM)  

And this is why we love you! You're so adorable. And the very fact that you explain the universality of the human predicament with such wit and humor keeps us coming back for more. He wants us to continue to strive, not for Him but to be more like Him in every thought, word, and action. And so when we hold each one out for "inspection", He knows it's because we are learning to walk in submission in each of these areas for His Glory. It's not about attaining "perfection", it's about not crawling off the altar again. :)

M.K.  – (February 24, 2011 at 10:22 AM)  

No, you're certainly not the only one. Christians who spend lots of time in the non-Christian world (i.e., at work, sports, etc.) deal with this more. Christians who are mostly in their Christian homes, Christian schools, and at church, don't face this much (like me). I appreciate your honest, clear way of expressing your difficulty.

Because we do carefully craft how other people see us -- our image, and it matters to us that the image not shift too much. So, when we add "Christ-follower" to that image, we dislike the alteration in their eyes. Certainly many non-Christians will have a negative view of Christians. If they thought Christians were fabulous, they'd be one, right?

But we're supposed to be bold, and honest, and that's what you're doing here. I think they'll appreciate your honesty. And they may well enjoy discovering that you have a new side to YOU, that they didn't know about :) Makes you more complicated and interesting!

M.K.  – (February 24, 2011 at 10:27 AM)  

(Okay, at the risk of blabbing, I have another thought. Remember how it was when you were dating, or even engaged, and you went somewhere (like a party, or a conference) without your "other," and met lots of people. And you talked and visited and got to know people for the day. And they got to know you, without being aware of the most important person in your life - your boyfriend. Some of the guys even seemed interested, and were friendly. The longer the day goes, the more awkward it feels to introduce this new, previously unmentioned, piece of info: that you're committed to someone. Finally, you slip it into a conversation, and a whole segment of the group suddenly looks at you differently. The longer you wait to tell, the more you're ashamed of yourself for feeling ashamed to say something that you should be proud of.

I think it's like that for Christians in the world. When people get to know us, minus Jesus, it feels awkward to add Him to the equation later.

Graceful  – (February 24, 2011 at 11:34 AM)  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle DeRusha –   – (February 24, 2011 at 11:40 AM)  

That deleted post is me -- I had a typo in my own comment on my own blog. Duh.

Anyway, two things: just wanted to say that David's comment confirmed my un-edgy factor once and for al, as I've never even heard of Mumford and Sons!

And MK, I really liked your observations, espcially the second one -- that's a really good analogy. I guess it took so long for me to get comfortable with my status as a believer -- for a long time what anyone else thought didn't cross my radar. But now, with the possible book and the blog and the newspaper column, I've "gone public" with my beliefs, and that's taken a bit of getting used to!

I really appreciate your comments on this one everyone -- I was sort of nervous to admit it, write it, and hit publish.

Michelle DeRusha –   – (February 24, 2011 at 11:41 AM)  

Just noticed I have a typo in the comment above, too. Seriously?

Maybe I need to look for a new job?

Grace on the Narrow Path  – (February 24, 2011 at 11:45 AM)  

Completely understand. I am also working on my "first book". I also have to tell you that I honestly do not know if I will ever complete it before I die or before the Lord comes back.
Anyway I have been in the same scenio several times when asked the question, "So what is the book about?". I guess I too need an agent and what is that your friend called it? an elevator pitch. LOL
Blessings, prayers and hugs,

Bren

Amy Sullivan  – (February 24, 2011 at 12:13 PM)  

Michelle,
Oh, I get this!

I struggle to quote scripture on my blog. Isn't that insane? I don't want to come off as "one of those" Christians, and so scripture is tough for me.

I think people I worked with would be shocked to know I'm writing a "christian" book, and then, what does that say about me?

Joybird  – (February 24, 2011 at 2:46 PM)  

There are always those moments, that awkwardness, that secret "please don't jusge me" thought. What i have found is that when I am doing that, I am secretly judging the person I am talking too, assuming I know what they they think about God and Christians and me, when I just don't. And I love that when I read this I could hear your voice, it made me want to go to lunch with you or at the very least read your book. I like this voice.

Tiffini  – (February 24, 2011 at 4:08 PM)  

gosh...I am laughing because I have been in this place...of where exactly you wish to be defined at. And having no control over what box others will put you in.
I too..love your honesty about it. A tattoo? Hold on to your hat but I want to get one. Been thinking about it for over a year now...:)
xo

Connie Mace  – (February 24, 2011 at 5:12 PM)  

An elevator pitch is truly not as easy as it sounds...on any topic...but especially those that rise from our very souls...

Alita  – (February 24, 2011 at 8:32 PM)  

First- squeeeee! A agent. :)

Second- This will sound very un-Christianly, but who cares what they think. Don't obsess chica. You are a mega watt talent. Your writing reaches out and helps you to look inward, too.

Third- squeeeeee! A agent! :)))

Congratulations Michelle.

Janna  – (February 24, 2011 at 8:46 PM)  

I can totally relate! I feel the same way. And while I don't write predominately about faith on my blog, I do sometimes consider if my God-inspired posts will change opinions of me or make some people think I'm a hypocrite, because (shh, don't tell anyone...)I'm not perfect. On the flip side, I don't want to come across as holier than thou because I'm just as human as the next person and struggle with my Christian walk all the time.

Deidra  – (February 24, 2011 at 9:04 PM)  

I'm good with talking about God. I start shaking when I have to type Jesus. And the Holy Spirit? Heavens!

Jessica McMullen  – (February 24, 2011 at 10:45 PM)  

Michelle,

You'll always be edgy to us!

Your devoted fans and book club gals.

Jennifer  – (February 24, 2011 at 10:57 PM)  

MIchelle, I can relate! I would say that most people know I'm a Christian, but there are definitely those circles where I feel awkward admitting it, especially around really intelligent people who aren't believers.

Also, I know I'm not an edgy Christian, and I so want to be! While my practices are pretty conservative, I'm more moderate in my theology, so I don't want people to assume I believe x, y, z just because I don't do q, r, s. I wish I were cool, but I'm just not (I don't know who Mumford and Sons is, either).

But you know what? Perhaps the people who read your blog and the ones who visit mine wouldn't like us if we were edgy. We're who we are, and that's just fine. And we should be okay admitting it, too. :)

emily wierenga  – (February 25, 2011 at 2:22 PM)  

i love this post. i think it might be one of my favorites of yours... its candidness and honesty... and i think this is what makes us shine as Christians--are willingness to be broken people. to not have it all figured out. to be real. that way, when people find out what we believe, they'll respect us all the more. love e.

Laura@OutnumberedMom  – (February 25, 2011 at 3:19 PM)  

I think you're in the RIGHT place. You wrote that you're focusing on finding satisfaction and comfort in the process itself, in the growing and learning and becoming whatever God has in store for you.

More power to you. Once we figure we have it all figured out, that's when we're really in trouble!

H. Gillham  – (February 25, 2011 at 4:07 PM)  

Bwhaha. You the weakest Christian on the planet? That's laughable. Edgy? Naw, but you are cool. :)

I know what you mean though; it's hard to understand how to interpret a puzzled look from a colleague once he finds out you are a Christian. I think that most people expect a Christian to fit a certain stereotype, and when we don't, they go, "Oh, I didn't know you were a Christian. I thought they were all blah, blah,blah...."

When I taught school, I couldn't profess my faith, but I could model it. I was pleased that my students picked up on my faith through the way I acted and lectured. :)

You have an agent?

I'm kidding. I knew that. I think if I had an agent, I'd get a bumper sticker: "Back off, buddy, I have an agent."

Hugs.

Dawn  – (February 25, 2011 at 9:22 PM)  

Ok, first, I loved this post. Loved. Your befuddled insecurity is your penance for being so braggart about your book AND your agent. :) It must be God's sense of humor at work yet again.

But there's still hope - you did give yourself the name Graceful. You must have it in you. That's a pretty good place on the spectrum to be.

Just loved this, Michelle. Enjoy every moment of the journey. Even the messy, unprepared ones.

Cheryl Smith  – (February 27, 2011 at 10:40 AM)  

I'm catching up, and laughing. Rob Bell, Lutheran, preppy tattoos. OMG! You're funny, Michelle!

And how did I miss you had a book during our conversation? Was I so other focused, or did it not come up? How very cool!

You just reminded me of this elevator pitch I was roped into doing in an elevator, at SobCon09. For someone with ADHD, it wasn't my best moment. Funny! http://www.culturesmithconsulting.com/2009/05/my-sobcon-elevator-pitch/

Susan DiMickele  – (February 27, 2011 at 8:32 PM)  

I'm a total wimp too. Here's the good news -- God made us writers. And I bet there are lots of people who read your blog who are searching. Just wait until they read the book! (The other good thing about being a writer is that once your faith journey is in print there is no turning back. You're out of the closet for good!)

Cheryl Smith  – (April 27, 2011 at 10:49 AM)  

I'm catching up, and laughing. Rob Bell, Lutheran, preppy tattoos. OMG! You're funny, Michelle!

And how did I miss you had a book during our conversation? Was I so other focused, or did it not come up? How very cool!

You just reminded me of this elevator pitch I was roped into doing in an elevator, at SobCon09. For someone with ADHD, it wasn't my best moment. Funny! http://www.culturesmithconsulting.com/2009/05/my-sobcon-elevator-pitch/

I Live in an Antbed  – (April 27, 2011 at 10:49 AM)  

And this is why we love you! You're so adorable. And the very fact that you explain the universality of the human predicament with such wit and humor keeps us coming back for more. He wants us to continue to strive, not for Him but to be more like Him in every thought, word, and action. And so when we hold each one out for "inspection", He knows it's because we are learning to walk in submission in each of these areas for His Glory. It's not about attaining "perfection", it's about not crawling off the altar again. :)

Brian Miller  – (April 27, 2011 at 10:49 AM)  

no you not...you are honest...i like the thought of working on an elevator pitch though...i have found if you are afraid to talk about faith or who you are it makes others uncomfortable and you get more resistance...the more comfortable you become just being you the easier it is...come on you wrote a book about it...that is awesome...own it

JDaniel4's Mom  – (April 27, 2011 at 10:49 AM)  

I think people come with so many impression of what I christian is. It is hard not to try and keep all of us in that box.

Thelma  – (April 27, 2011 at 10:49 AM)  

"I didn’t have any idea what her definition was, but I was afraid of it nonetheless." This sums me up perfectly. I'll toss out my blog link to just about anyone, and yet not everyone for the very same reasons...
Thanks for this beautiful post!

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