My writing buddies will appreciate this: Writer Steve Almond, who I met at the Conversations and Connections conference in Washington, D.C. back in April, says it’s important for writers to love their characters. He says to pay attention to them, listen to them. Represent them fairly and realistically. Don’t gloss over the scenes that have uncomfortable emotions – hold their hands through every second of it. Even the villains. Maybe, especially the villains.
For many years, I’ve considered that “I love you” means “I want to spend my energy on you.” I like it. Beyond the writer’s mandate to spend energy on our characters, it’s also there in marriage or parenting; or the platonic love and support I hope my writing buddies have for each other; or in the workplace, or in team sports. What makes a team, a family, a partnership, a circle of friends truly special is this: Do we care about each other enough to go the extra mile to ensure one another’s success?
Love in business? This is the most challenging and intimidating slice of life for many of us with an artistic bent. I’m thinking about the company I just left, a company that grew from 20 to 450 employees during my 12-year tenure; but I could be writing about just about anything I’ve ever gotten involved in whether it be business, family, sports, or writing:
Good bosses, peers, and subordinates all have three things in common. First: They have each other’s back. They know that if you look bad, everyone on the team looks bad and everyone will have to work really hard to get each other out of dog-doo; so they go the extra mile to help people on the team look good. Second: They make sure you do your job correctly and you’re not taking advantage of them. Because if some people have to scramble around too much to cover for others, yep: You’ll all find yourselves back in the dog-doo. Third: They always say things to make their teammates realize they’re not total idiots. They encourage one another by listening and discussing each other’s ideas, and by telling stories about how so-and-so’s brilliant process improvement helped them to knock that sales proposal out of the park. Positive feedback for a job well-done, and a respectful ear, can build mediocre performers into solid ones and can turn solid ones into stars. I’ve seen it. A lot.
All of that sounds to me like love. First is sacrificial love. Second is tough love. Third is fellowship love. All involve giving your energy away to others. All are essential ingredients of a true community. Now go out there and find someone to spend your energy on!