It's been an odd couple of days for me. I am a woman of relative leisure this week, editing a magazine piece here and there and welcoming more houseguests tonight, even as my book subject and her agent meet with editors at the big five publishing houses, five meetings each day, plus a couple of stragglers on Thursday. By this time next week, we should have a deal. I am trying to be zen about it all, telling myself that however this unfolds, all will be well.
Last evening, the agent texted me and said yesterday's meetings went well. An editor I've worked with in the past also emailed me and said she had her fingers crossed, she was excited about the project and thought this proposal was my best one yet. If it was, it's because of everyone involved, but especially the agent with whom I had many long, deeply thoughtful conversations about the content. He was wonderful in every way, and I think his nudging me in certain directions made the final proposal all the richer.
I am reminded of something the actor Lupita N'yongo said in a piece in Marie Claire earlier this year: "Go where you are loved and you'll do your best work." She was quoting advice given to her by her friend and fellow actor Danai Gurira. "You must always go where you're loved," she explained, "because I believe in the principle that the perceiver affects the perceived. So if the person's perceiving you with love, you're more likely to do a better job."
The agent in this case began with love. From our very first phone conversation, he connected from a place of human vulnerability, and conveyed his faith that I could do this. And even though there were other writers in the running, somehow he always made me feel as if he was rooting for me. I suspect he made every writer to be interviewed by his client feel the same way. Then, when I was selected, he expressed his happiness, when really, the more usual response is business as usual, let's get on with it.
When I gave him the first draft, his critiques were gentle and loving and always delivered alongside things he could praise. Most people in this business ignore what is working in a piece of writing, and go straight to what can be improved. But when we know what is working, we know to deliver more of that. And when we are treated in a loving way, we respond in kind. We're committed, invested, dialed in for the long haul.
I'm so very grateful for this project, even though it comes with some significant challenges—and don't they all. But the challenges feel so much less worrisome when the team is operating from a place of love. May it ever be so.