I was walking home from an appointment this afternoon when I decided to walk through the Public Gardens (a beautiful fenced in garden in downtown Halifax) and spend a few minutes soaking in some sun and reading Wizard’s First Rule, the book I was talking about in yesterday’s post.

When the alarm went off to notify me I had to leave for my next meeting I packed up my things, started off, and was stopped by a man who’d been sitting several benches away from me.  He told me he didn’t mean to bother me but was an avid reader himself and needed to know what I’d been reading.  This started about a 15 minute conversation.  I found out that the man was not only a writer himself, but friends with some local people who were high up in the writing and academic world, including a successful and internationally recognized local novelist.

When I first heard he was working on editing his own book, (the topic of which seemed very interesting to me) the thought popped into my head that I could let him know that as well as being a writer myself, I also provided editing services for other writers.  Should I offer him a business card?  I wondered.  I held back, feeling like it would be slimy or something to try to get a job opportunity out of a simple chance meeting in the park.

When he started talking about his novelist friends my desire to create a connection with this man grew even more – to improve the chances of ever finding a publisher for my own novel, I know it’d be good to have people in the business who could perhaps connect me to an agent or get a publisher to at least give my words a chance.  Something held me back though.  After a few minutes of friendly chatting I went on my way, losing the chance of what could have been a potential job contract or, even better, an important literary connection.

For someone in business for herself, I’m constantly being told about the importance of networking.  From what I understand, this tool is equally important for a novelist who, despite the joy of writing for writing’s sake, also hopes to be able to share her stories with multitudes of people.  Yet something almost always holds me back when opportunities like this one present themselves.  Is it because I’m legitimately scared of coming across as ‘slimy,’ as nothing but an ‘opportunist’ out to work situations to my own advantage, or is it some other fear or shyness that makes me hold back? Did I think when I offered my services this man would be insulted that some unknown girl probably less than half his age had the gall to think she was qualified to work on something he’s been pouring years into? A combination of both I imagine.

Sitting at home several hours later I found myself contemplating the situation.  From one side of it, if I had offered a card or some other form of contact would it have been likely the man would have been offended?  Probably not.  Perplexed, maybe – but at least the education listed on my card and my status as ‘Writer/Editor’ would show him I had some justification in thinking I may be able to help him with his work.  And if he was turned off by it, despite the possibility that he might see me somewhere in the future and think of me as an opportunist he didn’t want to be involved with, I would have been in the exact same situation I am in now:  No connection, no possibility of improving my situation or helping him to improve his by my services.  ‘Cause you know what?  Despite the fact that yes, I want to find more paid work so I can have more peace of mind to focus on my own creative work, I also am choosing that type of work because I like it, I’m damn good at it, and I care about doing the best job possible for people.

So, as for this reflection today – I’m not sure I have any real answers for myself or conclusions.  I’m not 100% sure of what I should have done with this opportunity or how I should have gone about doing it, but I’m definitely leaning toward the side that says, “Charlene, you should have just put yourself out there.  How many potentially serendipitous encounters do you think life is going to send your way?”

Well . . . I guess as always I’ll try to learn from this experience and perhaps, to increase the chances of meeting another stranger with literary connections or someone in need of an editor, start reading in public places more often!

Any words of advice from my readers?  What would you have done?

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