When this post goes live, Valentine’s Day will be right around the corner, which is good, because this post is about love. Not romantic love, of course. Did you know that the Feast of St Valentine originally commemorated two or three different saints, and was associated with the beginning of Spring?
The connection between Valentine and romantic love is only a few hundred years old (700, to be exact). Before the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer made the link, the love that we celebrated on the Feast of St Valentine was not romantic love, but the love given by one who serves.
As writers, we serve readers and, in a sense, we serve our stories. This post is about the love that we bring to that service.
Love your reader
As writers, we need readers. A living story is a collaboration between a writer and a reader. We provide the plot and the characters in our words, and the reader creates the pictures, the smells, and the input of all the other senses; feels the emotions; adds in the descriptive details we’ve left out.
Our readers are prepared to take time out of their busy lives to go on the story journey with us. They even pay hard-earned dollars to take our characters home with them. They deserve our respect. We love our readers by working hard to learn our craft; by writing, rewriting, and rewriting, until our work shines like the gem we know it can be; by giving them the very best we have in us.
We love our readers by thanking them for taking the time to leave a review; even one we don’t much like. Some people will not like what you write, and that’s okay. They have a right to express that opinion. (Jan O’Hara has written an excellent post on how some famous writers have set limits on that right when it impinges on the enjoyment of others. Some people forget that your right to wave your fist in my face stops just before my nose begins.)
Loving our reader doesn’t mean agreeing with them. Trying to agree with every single reader would be a swift road to insanity. The book is yours, and loving your reader requires you to first love your art.
Love your art
Your writing is part of you; the child of your brain and heart. Love your work the way a good parent loves their child. A good parent teaches manners, honesty, and hard work, not to be mean but because one day the child will be an adult, facing the world without the parent’s protection. If you want your book child to succeed, don’t accept bad spelling, continuity errors, and lost plot points. Write, rewrite, and rewrite.
And love what you do. According to Rob Parnell, you have the ingredients for success if writing is something you just have to do; if you get anxious when life keeps you from your keyboard, if the story is burning inside you to get out.
In order to be successful, you only need to love what you do. You don’t necessarily have to be any good at it – at least when you start.
Over the years I’ve seen this play out frequently – especially in writing. Technical proficiency and literary mastery pale into nothing when compared to sheer enthusiasm and drive.
I’ve been advised to tell agents, publishers and reviewers which other author I write like. I’m very uncomfortable with that question. Part of loving ourselves is finding – and being true to – our own voice. I can be a good Jude Knight. As I practice my craft and learn more and more, I can be a better Jude Knight. I’d be a mediocre Grace Burrowes or Stephanie Laurens, which is okay, because those two roles are already taken.
So love yourself. Believe in the voice you have. Trust your belief that your story is worth telling, and that the way you tell it is the right way.
Also love yourself enough to learn your craft. You wouldn’t enter a marathon without training, and you wouldn’t expect to win an Olympic gold medal without training a lot. Treat yourself with respect, and practice, practice, practice.
And finally, as the Desiderata that was popular when I was a teenager says, beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. We make plans, and sometimes they don’t work. Life happens. Or we make mistakes. There is a touch of arrogance in expecting more of yourself than you do of anyone else. So be kind. Love yourself.
Jude Knight has spent a career in commercial writing, and is now writing historical romance novels. She has a novella, Candle’s Christmas Chair, available free at most e-retailers, and is publishing her first novel, Farewell to Kindness, in April.
Free download links on my book page: http://judeknightauthor.com/books/candles-christmas-chair/
Follow Jude on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JudeKnightBooks
Friend Judeon Facebook: http://facebook.com/judeknightbooks
Subscribe to Jude’s blog: http://judeknightauthor.com
Subscribe to Jude’s newsletter: http://judeknightauthor.com/newsletter/
Follow Jude on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/judeknight