Valentine’s Day is about romantic love, but today I’m going to talk about a different kind of love–the love a writer has for his or her readers, publishing friends and colleagues. You’re right, it’s not the love we have for God or family, but if we look at the famous passage (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7) that defines exactly what love looks like, I can make the argument that we are indeed called to love our writing community and readers. Let’s explore this yardstick.
Love is patient. If there is one thing we learn in this business, it is the need for patience. Everything moves at a snail’s pace simply because there are too few people doing too many things. But exhibiting that patience is always a gift of love.
Love is kind. Kindness is greatly underrated. It’s the grace we extent to others. As a nonfiction author, we demonstrate that kindness to our readers when we share information with them instead of giving instruction. It’s all in the delivery.
Love does not envy. This goes without saying. Another writer is always going to be doing better, getting a bigger contract or more media attention.
Love does not boast. And, for that author who does get the big contract, pay attention. Love shows quiet thankfulness, not boastful exuberance.
Love is not proud. We know that this does not mean we shouldn’t take pride in our hard work. When the Bible talks about pride, it refers to the person who refuses to acknowledge God’s hand in all that happens. Like the two-year-old who insists, “I do it myself!” I love what Stephen Lawhead said about God’s part: “The writer begins with little more than the thread of an idea and the desire to follow it and see where it will go. But as he works at his creation, his labor becomes a sacrifice, of his time if nothing else (but most often, of much else besides). And if he is faithful to the High Quest, God, I believe, accepts the sacrifice and enters into it in ways unforeseen by even the author himself.”
Love does not dishonor others. This one happens all too often in our field because we are called to read critically. It so easy to go the next step and announce, “I’ve only purchased one of her books and got halfway through before I gave up.” It’s good to dissect writing to improve ours, but we don’t have to go the next step and dishonor the writer. Mother Theresa once said, “If you judge people you have no time to love them.”
Love is not self-seeking. This one is hard because we are pushed to do our own publicity. It would be so much easier if we could let someone else talk about how great we are, but. . . It’s important to remember, the attention we are seeking is for the book, not for us.
Love is not easily angered. ‘Nuff said.
Love keeps no record of wrongs. Yikes! How many times have we been tempted to keep a list of things that went wrong with marketing or those with whom we work. This is a reminder to fix things immediately and keep short accounts. Oswald Chambers wrote, “Never look for justice, but never cease to give it.”
Love does not delight in evil. I think this is important for those of us who write for the Christian market. Too many books on the bookstore shelves relish evil, allowing the reader to wallow in it. I’ve always loved this quote from The Tick: “Yes, evil comes in many forms, whether it be a man-eating cow or Joseph Stalin, but you can’t let the package hide the pudding! Evil is just plain bad! You don’t cotton to it. You gotta smack it on the nose with the rolled-up newspaper of goodness! Bad dog! Bad dog!”
Love rejoices with the truth. We cringe at the stories of writers stretching the truth to make a better story. Truth is powerful and as writers or journalists, we need to commit to the truth. Phillips Brooks, in an article I read a long time ago, said, “Truth is always strong, no matter how weak it looks; and falsehood is always weak, no matter how strong it looks.” I saved that bit of wisdom in my file.
Love always protects. Yes, we protect each other, but part of our job is also respecting and protecting intellectual property. It’s just plain honest.
Love always trusts. This one can be hard. Trusting our editors, our agents and even our readers can make us feel vulnerable at times, but our trust is a sign of love.
Love always hopes. This needs no explanation. Every writer practices hope each day of his life. Right?
Love always perseveres. As writers, we probably understand this better than others. I can’t tell you the number of calls I’ve received that sound something like this, “This book is awful. I’m halfway through and I think it’s my worst book ever. But I’m going to get to the end and see what I can do in rewrites.” And, of course, it’s usually a sign that the book will be their best ever.
Love never fails. Thank goodness love never fails because we do and we will. We need to keep trying not to fail those we love and care about. Including our readers.
The greatest thing we can strive for, as writers, is love.