Giving Advice to Writers

It’s always a delicate matter—this business of editors giving advice to writers. These things must be handled with great diplomacy so as not to ruffle the authorial ego. I give you an example to emulate.

Some years ago my wife, Phyllis (before we were married and she had her own “in-house” editor), was writing regular letters to donors and potential supporters about her ministry on campus with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Every few months she would bring her readers up to date on news and such. She asked her friend Marilyn to help her.

Marilyn not only edited her letters but also would call to remind Phyllis when the next one was due. Without Marilyn, this not entirely pleasant task would have been crowded out of Phyllis’s schedule.

One time Phyllis felt inspired; out poured the letter before Marilyn even had a chance to prod her. “Marilyn,” she told her friend on the phone, “I’ve already got the next letter done. And it’s great. God wrote this letter. You’re not going to have to do a thing to it!”

“We’ll see,” came Marilyn’s typically dry response.

When they got together, Phyllis gave Marilyn the letter. She read it through without comment. “Isn’t it perfect?” Phyllis said enthusiastically. “I told you God wrote this letter!”

“Phyllis,” Marilyn said flatly, looking over the rim of her glasses and knowing just how to deftly handle an author of this sort. “No, Phyllis. God writes better than this.”

2 responses to “Giving Advice to Writers”

  1. I recall expressing my concerns to an enthusiastic worship leader about a particularly incomprehensible and opaque song they had chosen.

    They responded, “But it’s a great song! The Holy Spirit gave that song to the worship leader during this conference.” And they told me the story.

    “If that’s true,” I responded, “the Holy Spirit should get more practice writing songs and find an editor. He doesn’t seem to be very good at this sort of thing, based on your testimony.”

  2. You’re right, Greg. God (like the President of the US) probably gets both credit and blame for things he doesn’t deserve.