You know how sometimes a familiar word starts sounding alien, and you get stuck repeating it over and over trying to taste your own alienation until it snaps back to normality?

With is not one of those words.

With always feels soft and familiar.

With is a padded plus sign.

With shows us how clam sauce enhances linguini, how two people share intimacy beyond their public affection, suggests its alternative without shocking.

With tells us nothing about position or directionality. Where is the clam sauce? With the linguini. Neither one matters more; there is no hierarchy of with.

In movies, it suggests an add-on or a first appearance. Would you like this year’s fresh starlet with your cast of thousands?

In salad, it’s the enormous pepper grinder I always say yes to, which comes with pepper, not the only way around.

To, for on, adjacent against upon. Prepositions are all about the how of the with.

None of which on its own explains why I work WITH my clients, not FOR them. Stick with me a while longer.

First of all, I get lonely easily, and I like to have conversations with people. I not only enjoy talking to them, I enjoy talking with them. What emerges between people within conversation is some of the most interesting stuff of life.

Secondly, when you meet with another person, you have created a mutual obligation to get shit done. On my own, with the imperfect freedom I’ve created to run my life, my life sometimes runs down to a halt. With another person relying on me to show up, I show up. Fully present. Ready to make magic. Or symbiosis.

I was talking to my VA about my landing page and I said, “I’m gonna work on it with Pearl,” and she said, “You don’t need Pearl — you have a really strong brand message.” And I said, “I would not have this business without that woman. She creates accountability for me, I show up, she totally gets my messaging. She augments, she writes half of it. There’s this whole symbiotic relationship.” I’m really good at identifying people who help me do better, and I said, “I’m not getting rid of her!”

copyrright Pearl Klein

—Dr. Heidi Skye

The third reason I write with instead of for is that I discovered that my lifetime dislike of homework (which I avoided most of my grade-school career by going to alternative school!) bleeds over into my business. If I am sposed to be doing work, whether for myself or for somebody else, I dig in and resist. I procrastinate. I defer. I do anything and everything but.

So I made a virtue of necessity and built my work around the way that works best for me. Which led to me to the fourth reason I write with: It works better. The people I help are those with an idea on the tip of their tongue which their critical mind is telling them to bite. I tell them to unclench their teeth and talk, and the ideas which have been waiting to be loosed upon the world are loosed.

As we started to work together, writing those words, I felt like I was finally starting to put some letters and sentences together that represent what I’d been feeling but couldn’t express and that’s where I think a bit of freedom came. It was like someone opened the pressure relief valve; all this junk is gunked up in your brain somewhere but I couldn’t get it out. To start to help it take shape and find the words is very freeing.

copyrright Pearl Klein

—Lisa Starbard

Ultimately, we are with others or we are alone. Words go with each other or they don’t. Sit with me a while and we’ll find the ones for you.

Composition note: I started writing this some time ago and got distracted by two things: searching for an image of the Seattle sculpture Adjacent Against Upon and transcribing some wonderful conversations with my client-friends. The conversations that go beyond or outside the scope of work often yield insights into what I’m doing that I’m not conscious of, sometimes revealing the kind of appreciation you might normally have to wait for your funeral to hear. I get to have these conversations ALL THE TIME, one of the central joys of my life. As for the sculpture, I made two discoveries: that it was installed the same year my family moved to Seattle, and that the photo I wanted to use was taken by my dear friend Omar Willey, published in The Seattle Star, his New Online Magazine. Writing is always an act of discovery.

The Creative Writing Test Kitchen has been humming along, percolating and pressure-cooking some new offerings. Coming up next: The Creative Business Writing Test Kitchen, where solopreneurs come to play around with words, get experimental and messy, and put their experiments to work in their business communications. Check it out!