Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Importance of Building Relationships by Patty Smith Hall

Patty Smith Hall Headshot
God didn’t not give you influence so you could lead people better; He gave it so you’d love people more. 

Bob Goff

This statement from Bob Goff’s book, Live in Grace, Walk in Love, has hounded me since the moment I read it during my daily devotionals. I’ve never considered myself much of a leader, though others have thrust me into that situation many times in the past. I’ve been a Sunday and Vacation Bible School teacher, led volunteer efforts in my community, even served on the national board of my writing group, yet I’ve never understood what it meant to be a true leader until these last few months. So, what did I discover?

You need to love people more than you want to lead them. 

For me, this became apparent over the last few months during our forced isolation. I missed people. Not just family and friends, but the people I’d see at the park or the grocery store. Masks stole our ability to exchange a smile with someone in desperate need of one while handshakes and soothing touches have become a thing of the past. 

I couldn’t even hug my momma and daddy. 

In all that solitude, I began to think about the people in my life and realized it wasn’t just an imposed isolation that was causing this problem. It was me. I’m a workaholic, mainly because I love what I do, so there are times I’d rather work than spend time with people outside of my family. When I’m overwhelmed, I tend to shut down rather than reach out to people who could help me. It’s an unusual problem for an introverted extrovert to have, but there it is.

Now that I’ve identified the problem, what do I do to fix it? 

Being on lockdown meant my opportunities to reconnect with friends were limited, so I focused on what I could work on—building a relationship with my readers. I thought about ways to reach out to my email list. How were they coping? What could I do to ‘love’ them through stay-at-home orders and social distancing? Here are two ways to do just that: 

1)  Pray for your readers.

Before I went indie, I thought of my readers in the abstract—they were just out there. They buy my books and I’d heard from them sometimes, but I didn’t consider them a part of my life. But when God laid them on my heart to pray for them, they came into focus. I sent out a newsletter, asking how I could pray for them. They answered back; some were front line workers who feared bring the virus home to their family, others had family members fighting the virus while still others had lost their job and were worried how they would pay their bills. One dear lady had lost her husband at the height of the outbreak and had to bury him without the comfort of her children or friends. Yet, most said they were praying for me because I am a part of their lives, and they’ve swiftly become a part of mine. 

2)   Serve your email subscribers

Sometimes, writers get caught up in the whole ‘I’m an author!’ mindset. We gust about our books or talk about ourselves. It’s a regular ME festival, which goes against what Jesus taught about having a servant’s heart. How do you have a servant’s heart toward your reader? Give them a short story. Write a devotional for them. Let them know that you care about their opinions. Give them a voice. 

In the last two months, I’ve sent out more newsletters than I did in all of last year. I ask my readers what they’d like to see in my next book. I gave them devotionals as well as a e-copy of the devotional magazine I write for. I sent them a short story. Even then, it didn’t feel like enough, so I asked Thomas Umstattd Jr. of Novel Marketing Podcast for more ideas. He suggested Zoom meetings and even pre-arranged phone calls to connect with readers and give them a chance to talk about whatever they want.  Another way to serve is to do a Facebook Live and read from a book in the public domain. Since the pandemic began, readers have been listening to Darlene Franklin, A.D Lawrence, Shaen Mehl and myself read chapters of Little Women throughout the week which has drawn people to my Facebook page. 

I’ve still got a long way to go in renewing old friendships and making new ones, but I’m getting there, a few steps at a time. How about you? What did you learn about yourself during the lockdown? How has it changed your writing?

You need to love people more than you want to lead them. via @pattywrites #SeriouslyWrit


Patty Smith Hall lives in North Georgia with her husband of 36+ years, Danny. Her passion is to write tender romances based in little-known historical moments. The winner of the 2008 ACFW Genesis award in historical romance, she is published with Love Inspired Historical, Barbour and Winged Publishing, and is a contributor to the Seriously Writing blog as well as Journey magazine. Patty is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. 

Hearts in Flight

Serving her country as one of the Women's Army Special Pilots is Maggie Daniels's dearest wish. But there are obstacles to overcome above and beyond the enemies in the Pacific, including her overprotective family, skeptical fellow pilots—and handsome, distant squadron leader Wesley Hicks. Whatever it takes, Maggie will prove herself to Wesley, until she succeeds in winning his admiration…and love.

Wesley can see that Maggie's a first-class pilot. She's also too fearless by half. The war has cost Wesley so much already. Can he let go of his guilt for a chance at happiness—and can he learn to trust in God…and Maggie…enough to believe in love for a lifetime?