Monday, January 17, 2011

Law 1: Love is Long Suffering

Making Monday

I've discussed patience a number of times, particularly in the context of Making Monday. We've looked at patience as one of the unpopular virtues of makers, how authors need to be patient with readers, and how patience is arguably the supreme writerly virtue. Patience figured prominently in our discussion of the First Law of Making because it's central to that first step on the path to true making.

Today we're going deeper.

I first heard the phrase, "long suffering," in the Apostle Paul's description of charity or love. (1 Corinthians 13:4) [Although in KJV English, the phrase is, "suffereth long."] The word, "suffering," bothered me--both the suggestion that benevolence might bring pain and the implication that one who exercised the virtue of charity would gladly bear the pain.

We usually think of joy and pain as polar opposites. In time, I came to understand that, at least in the context of creative endeavors, they are different dimensions of something deeply felt and experienced. Becoming a parent is the most commonly shared experience of the mix of joy and pain that is long suffering (after all, it has happened billions of times yet we still call it a miracle). But it's something I've also experienced, to differing degrees, with other projects like novels.

This may sound like a variation of the old saw about artists suffering for their art. That's part of it, but only touches on one side of the experience.

Then there's the worn triptych of, "blood, sweat, and tear," which we usually hear as in the context of self-declared martyrdom. But consider, for a moment the tarnished truths in this phrase: blood may have been spilled or it could be the energy and vitality devoted to the project; sweat comes from effort; and tears might spring from either joy or pain (or both at the same time).

Like the endless string of disappointments that are the day-to-day reality of rearing offspring that we forget in an instant when our child favors us with a smile, true making is as much about the thousand and one things that go wrong, or at least not quite right, as it is about the transcendent moment when everything comes together and you get a shiver down your spine.

True makers are long suffering for the love of both the process of making and the thing being made. They accept and embrace the moments of anguish and joy that are the substance of making something worthwhile. And they allow neither to distract them from making.

Image: Bill Longshaw /

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