KarmaYesterday I shot myself in the foot. BANG! Right there. See the wound? I don’t regret it at all. I believe it was a good decision and I’d do it again despite the gasps of horror I heard from friends when I told them. Give me a gun and I’ll shoot the other foot.

I posted an ad on Kijiji (just saying the name makes me want to sneeze sometimes) and got a phone call. Yes, I posted my phone number online (cue more gasps, please) because it’s a way for people to get in touch with me. The woman on the other end was soft spoken and it took me a moment to realize she was responding to my Kijiji ad. Oh.

As a writer I am reluctant to tell people what I do in social settings. For some reason, people hear the word “writer” and they suddenly have a story I have to hear or tell. I smile vacantly and nod while I listen with half an ear. When I say I can send them a list of my rates, they look at me like I’ve grown a second head. Didn’t I know this was the greatest story in the world? I should pay them for the privilege of hearing it. I want to yell at them and let them know how rude they’re being. I never do. They honestly think they’re helping. It’s a little like being a doctor and asked to diagnose someone at a party.

However, when I started my business I had to get over that. Clients come in all forms and shapes and sizes and walks of life. Some share my sense of vision and others really are out to sea when it comes to the mystery of writing. It’s all right. I like them all. I honestly love my clients. They have all these wonderful stories and, unlike those at the party, they’re willing to pay me to tell them. Does life get any better than that?

So, this phone call was a woman with a story she needed to tell. Please understand that this was not a desire to tell the story. When we met at the Tim Horton’s (I love the hot chocolate), I could tell this was not something she wanted to talk about. Sitting hunched over across from me, ball cap low on her brow, she softly spoke of her story. She has a child and needed her child to understand her experiences. This story was a need, not a desire.

Sympathetic, I listened and started making suggestions on how we would progress. I told her my rates and even though she flinched, she didn’t hesitate. She needed this story to get out. I talked some more and made more suggestions on how we would handle the work when something started to tweak at me. I asked her if she’d tried to write the story herself.

There is a flash in the eyes when a fellow writer talks about writing. We all recognize it and it’s how we identify each other. We’ve all seen it and experienced it. It doesn’t matter if they’ve published a thousand books or have one small poem tucked away in their sock drawer. That flash when we talk about our stories is there as it was when I asked if she’d tried writing the story herself.

She was reluctant. Being an immigrant to Canada, she was worried that her English wasn’t good enough to write a book. I smiled and said that’s what editors are for. Save your money on the writing and pay for me to edit the work. That flash became a burn. I could see it. I could also see me losing the money for the time I would have gotten for writing that book. That’s when I did a mental calculation on how much toilet paper I have left and how much money I have in the bank. Not nearly enough on both issues but that flash, that spark made me smile.

So I sent her away with a task. Write five pages of her story and see how it went. If she still wanted me to write it, I would. I wanted her to try, though. I believed it was the best course for her.

Why did I turn away easy money like that? Ghostwriting is good money and it’s good work. She was willing to pay me and to sign the contract. Why did I send her away?

I believe in the power of connectedness. Some call it six degrees of separation. Some call it the 80/20 rule. Whatever name you have for it, it comes down to the same thing; by fostering growth in this woman and encouraging her, I foster my own growth and encourage myself. Perhaps I’ve created another writer to become my competitor. I don’t know. I do know she walked away with a smile.

For myself, I ran my business based on my ideals. No, it didn’t put food in my refrigerator. For now. Who knows what will happen in the future? Maybe she will hire me as an editor. Maybe she’ll recommend me to someone she knows. I don’t know and that’s not why I did it. I did it because I firmly believe that if I keep integrity and honesty part of my company then my company will grow. As soon as I lose those, I have lost myself.