Not long ago, someone asked me a tough question. “What’s the most important attribute of a good writer?” I struggled with that for awhile. So much goes into writing. There are the mechanical aspects—mastering the language and grammar. Writers have to learn a variety of critical research skills—interviewing, evaluating, investigating. They have to be observant and astute, always seeking to represent the universal truths that bring human beings together.

These are all important skills of a writer, but as I thought more about it I realized the number one characteristic of a good writer is simple. It’s something Jesus exhorted his followers to do. “Love one another as I have loved you.” Last year, I experienced an intensely painful situation that taught me more about love. This experience not only deepened my understanding of the world around me, it also plunged greater depth into my stories. Getting involved in the lives of others is often painful. It demands our whole heart. It requires a great deal of risk. But, in turn, loving others the way God commanded us to fills us with empathy and compassion, and that comes through in our stories.

Next time someone asks me that question, I’ll be ready with an answer. A good writer loves people. Wants to know them, understand them, serve them. True love gives us the ability to write the most meaningful stories.

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