I write about love because I tell stories; and it is impossible, I believe, to tell any kind of powerful or valuable or meaningful story without writing about love. And, too, I have found that it is impossible to write a story without love. The writer must love her characters, must open her heart to them, give the whole of herself to them, in order for those characters to give themselves back to her.
–Kate Dicamillo, “Characters who Love Again”
Today I’m pondering love’s role in the making of literature. Love is a basic ingredient, like water in a soup. Without water, you have no soup.
Before there’s any hope of writing well or of an audience appreciating your work, you must love writing itself. You must love being alone, tending the wondrous workings of your own mind and heart. You must love questions. You must passionately love the way silent stirrings inside you take form when given language. You must adore words. You must open your being to the many ways words change you.
Before there’s any chance of rendering your material with accuracy and interest, you must love it. You must love people, in all their grit and grime and brokenness and inconsistency. You must be willing to look as directly as you can at what is, and not shy from representing this truth to others. You must love the truth.
If Kate Dicamillo is right and it’s impossible to tell any kind of meaningful story without writing about love, love itself must be our centerpiece—desire for it, lack of it, how it malfunctions, how it transforms, why we deny it, how it surprises, where it originates, how it ends… Isn’t this the stuff of literature?
To connect well with readers you must love connecting. You must love the intimacy of entering another’s story, and you must love welcoming others into your own story.
All this makes me wonder: Couldn’t learning to write well, then, be an exercise in learning to love well? Or the reverse: Mightn’t learning to love well benefit our work? Is it possible that writing instructors have been misdirected, giving our attention to teaching craft when in fact we should be working through the craft on the human heart? Or is it possible that craft itself is our means for learning to love?
“Look,” writes Brian Doyle. “I don’t know much, but I know these things uncontrovertibly and inarguably: One: stories matter waaaaay more than we know. Two: all stories are, in some form, prayers. Three: love is the story and the prayer that matters the most.”
–Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew