Blogger: Mary Keeley
The thought of talking to an agent or editor causes a fair amount of anxiety in many writers. Are you one of them? It’s important to represent yourself well with just the right proportions of professionalism, warmth, assertiveness, willingness to submit to advice, confidence, humility, collaborative spirit, and individuality. When you have those measured out, blend in your pleasant personality, your passion for writing, and your unique book ideas, and you have the perfect recipe for successful interaction. Oh, and don’t forget to add that special ingredient, a positive attitude. Simple…right?
On paper maybe. The practical application of the total blend is enough to make your hands sweat and your mind goes fuzzy. But be assured. You can represent yourself well. Using the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22-23) as the framework, below is a list of definitions specific to writers that I’ll call the “fruit of the Spirit for writers.”
Each of these is necessary in working with other professionals in our industry. Put these words on a Post-it note or index card as handy reminders during your phone conversations and email exchanges. The intent of this little exercise is that, when you have those cues in front of you as a self-check, your mind will be freer to concentrate on what’s being said and what you want to say.
- Love, Joy – in all interactions, even those that are tense. ‘Nuf said.
- Faithfulness, Goodness – Agents and publishers want your book to succeed. Approach your interactions willing to compromise wherever possible for the greater good of the book and working relationships. Trust others are doing the same. Don’t speak ill of your agent or editor simply because you disagree on something and they “won.”
- Peace – When anxious or agitated, your voice can rise to a higher pitch. You might not be aware of it, but the person on the other end of the phone surely will. That person, in turn, may even dig in his heels, and the end result will be unnecessary discord. Spend a few minutes before a phone call or writing an email to meditate on God being present with you, that he is for you, and that he knows what is best. This will help muster a quiet confidence that will calm your voice and your mind.
- Patience, Kindness – Agents and editors are unbelievably busy. I know, you’ve heard that said many times before. Blah, blah, blah. Unfortunately, it never seems to change. We function in varied degrees of being behind. We’ll never catch up, so be patient as you wait for a response. If it’s been four or five days without a reply from your agent or editor, send a kind reminder. He or she might have had computer problems or was involved in an emergency. Patience and kindness are equivalent to a spoonful of sugar in the medicine.
- Long-suffering – It isn’t fun receiving rejections. But along with the rejection you might have received constructive feedback. If not, request it. Some agents and editors don’t initially offer their reactions because they recognize there’s a certain amount of subjectivity. But even if you don’t receive feedback, the rejection usually means something is wrong with your manuscript, so start there. Work to improve your craft and revise your work. Recognize that in this process you still are in forward motion toward your goal of publication. And keep your spirit in check by recognizing God is at work.
- Gentleness, Self-control – Don’t nag your agent or demand your way with your editor. In a particular situation, you might think it’s in your best interest to force your will. However, it’s counter-productive and never reaps positive results in your relationships.
In all your dealings with your agent, editor, marketing person, and your readers, exercise these fruit of the Spirit for writers and you will acquire a reputation as a wonderful writer to work with. It could tip the scale in your favor, not to mention reflect Christ-like character.
Which of these fruit do you struggle with most?
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Thanks Mary! This is great reminder! I think I can see myself struggling with peace. I know when I get irritated my voice gets louder and higher. Gotta work on that!
Nichole, thanks for sharing. Join the group; it’s part of our human condition. Hopefully, placing those cues in front of you will serve as a self-check.
Oh, what a lovely post! I’m thinking I need to print those verses on a slip of paper and carry it with me into all future meetings. Thank you!
Thanks for your comment, Sarah. Great idea for all of us in the industry.
This is a fabulous post, Mary. Such wonderful advice.
This is a great post, Mary. So pertinent in the writing life, and in all our interactions with other people. I think my biggest struggle may be with long suffering, in the sense of not becoming discouraged. I’m working on this. Thanks for this mini-lesson on applying the fruit of the Spirit in the writing life. Loved it!
Jeanne, thanks for sharing. I agree that waiting to hear a positive response or forging beyond rejections are ripe times for discouragement. Why not place a little note somewhere to remind you: God takes pleasure in our trust. Hopefully, that will lift your spirit.
Thank you. I love that idea. Off to find some pretty paper now. 🙂
Great post, Mary. Thanks for the advice.
According to the description, I probably struggle with peace the most. Though I’m getting better, I could’ve benefited from this a couple days ago before a very frustrating business call. It’s good to be reminded!
Lance, thanks for your comment. Don’t we all need these reminders from time to time. I hope your next call goes exceptionally well.
Fabulous post, Mary! I think patience is a big one for me. I like things “now”–I at least like to know where something is going and what my next step should be. I’m learning to wait on the Lord and give more things to him. I’m still a WIP, though. 😉
Lindsay, you described the patience struggle well. Thanks for sharing your example of learning to wait on the Lord and trusting him.
I can relate Lindsay…patience is a struggle for me too. A WIP, I think, I’ll always be!
One of the reasons I love the ritual of “tea time” is, it forces me to slow down and breathe. Hope you have a happy weekend!
Thanks, Kate! I think I’ll always be a WIP too, at least until Heaven, right? 😉
You have a great weekend as well!
This was beautifully written and an excellent reminder that in all things, whether professional or personal, we need to exhibit the Fruit of the Spirit. Right now I am struggling with long suffering as I try to find a balance between mothering four little ones, keeping up with our home, helping my husband manage our business and finding time to write. I have to remind myself that God has a plan for my life and right now caring for my family is my first priority, the other desires will follow in their proper place.
Oh, Gabrielle, you aren’t alone. I know that doesn’t make it easier, maybe just a comfort. But God will surely bless your writing when you can finally devote the time because you are being faithful to keep family, his institution, your priority now.
You really have the heart of a pastor..encouraging the “flock of authors” in your realm.
Thanks for the reminders of “Do unto others.”
Patience, I struggle with patience. I love lists and plans and projects and waiting just isn’t my cuppa tea.
A verse given to My Sweet Husband and I has become our life verse: Isaiah 40:31 But they that wait upon the Lord…
It took me awhile to appreciate the Lord’s wonderful sense of humor.
Have a blessed weekend!
Kate, that’s a great verse to apply to this context . . . and in any area of our lives, of course. In beautiful language it describes the wonderful promise for those who wait patiently.
Wendy Paine Miller
This is going to be a simple way to put this, but it’s the truth–I really like and respect this post.
Thank you, Wendy.
Mary, your initial list had me thinking, “well, there goes my shot!” Ha! Ha! It’s not that I don’t have those qualities, but they tend to appear one-by-one rather than all at once. 🙂
One thing I remind myself of when I’m preparing an important e-mail or getting ready to pitch in person–I don’t have to be perfect. I’m a very dedicated, professional person, but I also have a sense of humor. It’s okay to be ourselves.
What I love about your post is the emphasis on patience and a good attitude. Let’s assume others are working hard for us and want us to succeed. It saves a lot of worry and fretting!
Jill, thanks for sharing your sense of humor. Yup, being human, we’re imperfect. And you absolutely need to be yourself. YOU are an integral part of your unique brand. But reminders to apply these fruits more and more consistently can help bring out our best selves, which in turn makes it easier to have a good attitude.
I worry that I’m the perfect Proverbs 32 woman. “And then there’s her sister. She cries under stress. She cannot hold her tongue in traffic and tells people to learn to drive their chariot. She’s too nervous and needy and rambles on and ON. She is ADD and follows too many blogs. Her agent is on leave to Galilee to find rest in a boat.”
Has anyone seen that Proverbs 31 woman? Jennifer, I love your dry sense of humor and colorful, well-written description of the human condition! Thanks for eloquently stating the case for why God included the Fruits of the Spirit in the Bible: to be our compass. And why reminders can help.
You’re far in the opposite direction of “doomed.”
Thankyou! I have to laugh at myself, I have teenage boys. Whenever we’re in the van together and hear the radio ministry Proverbs 31 Ministries, my 18 year old will say “Whoa, Mom, that is SO not you”.
Thank you , thank you so much. Mommy loves you too.
I do have patience, and long suffering, and all the good stuff. I just save it for when the kids need me to behave in public. 😉
Time-tested principles that apply not only to agent and editor relationships, but all relationships in life. Thanks for these reminders, Mary.
You’re welcome, Sarah.
My husband says when I’m upset my voice doesn’t rise, it goes south (I grew up in central Florida). He also assures me that adding ‘Bless their heart’ does not make anything I say okay.
It’s so important to remember we’re all children of God. If I can do that, and treat those I interact with accordingly, I’ll be a much better person.
Around here, it’s “God love her”.
I heartily agree with you, it comes down to the bare bones of treating people well, and how we wish they’d treat us. Grace, dignity and humility can easily be paired with professionalism and a business-like manner. A smile and good manners go a long way.
Well-stated, Jennifer. Thanks.
Ann, how funny. Thanks for explaining the Fruits in a nutshell, so to speak.
What a lovely post. It’s a great way to end the week.
I would say patience is tough for me too–though I’m learning it from being involved in an industry where waiting is the name of the game.
Thanks for a wonderful week.
Cheryl, I can relate. Funny how God places us in situations that grow us in the very area in which we struggle–sometimes even in areas we don’t know we’re struggling in until, in hindsight, we see the growth.
Thanks for sharing.
I LOVE this! It gives it a whole new depth.
Thanks, Connie. Recognizing everyone’s comments, I should have included that we need the Holy Spirit’s help to apply these fruits of the Spirit for authors.
Cindy R. Wilson
I like your way of looking at this. It’s a great way to approach the writing journey in general. I’d say I struggle with peace during waiting, trying to stay calm, trying not to jump to conclusions and I guess, along with that, trying to trust God that He’s got me on the right path. Thanks for this post.
Cindy, I agree. It’s a battle to stay peaceful in the waiting mode of the writing life because your work is something I’m sure you are passionate about. Kate shared an encouraging verse earlier, Isaiah 40:31. I think the promise in that verse is calming to the heart. I hope it helps.
This is a fabulous list, Mary! Thank you. I also like how you mentioned to request constructive feedback. In your opunion, what would be the best approach when asking? Awesome post! Thanks.
Thanks, Martha. When approaching the agent or editor, first thank him or her for replying to you. Then simply ask if there is any feedback he or she can offer that would be helpful to you. Most agents or editors are willing to offer some comments at that point.
Once again, the right answer comes from God. Thank you, Mary, for the memorable reminder.
And my personal struggle? Whichever characteristic I think I have well under control is the one most likely to jump up and bite me–the whole pride and fall thing. God gets another one right; I’m seeing a trend here.
Lee, your description is so applicable. It’s the three steps forward, two steps back scenario. How blessed we are that God understands and is perfect in patience with us. In the meantime I know I need frequent reminders.
LOL, God has me on the fruit of the month club – and His favorite fruit to send me is patience. I want patience and I want it NOW. Sadly, the world isn’t on my timetable.
Heather, how funny. Yep, remaining patient is hard when waiting for agent or editor feedback. Agents and editors struggle with patience too, because we can’t respond as quickly as we would like. Apparently, God knows patience is a much-needed fruit and provides many opportunities to exercise it.
I love this post.