The Plight of the Ghostwriter

It’s not like I woke up one morning and said, “I want to be a ghostwriter.” I certainly didn’t spend hours upon hours as a kid dreaming of writing books for other people. And I never thought you could make a living doing so.

Hell, I didn’t even know something like us existed.

No, probably just like you, when I dreamed of being a writer, I dreamt of writing my own books! Yet, here I am, a full-fledged ghostwriter. I’ve written close to fifteen books, none of them mine. Beyond that, my ghostly fingers are in a number of large-scale writing projects all over the business world. Technically, I’ve sold close to a million books. But no one’s ever heard of me.

Sure I have some modicum of writing fame. Within the community of people looking for a ghostwriter, I’m known. A handful of editors and publishers have trusted me enough to give me access to their email address. I even have an agent. But I’m woefully unknown to the general public.

And that’s the plight of the ghostwriter, isn’t it? We spend the majority of our waking lives writing as someone we’re not, exchanging fame and credit for a paycheck—and a pretty damn good one. It’s a conflicted existence fit for folks who bravely stratal the line between self and others hours at a time.

When I begin a project with a client, I spend hours upon hours trying to capture their voice. I listen to their speech, watch their actions and interactions, read everything I can get my hands on written by them, listen to anything they’ve recorded, and try my best to understand their subject and context. Before I know it, I’m thinking like them and losing a bit of myself.

People often ask me what it’s like to be a ghostwriter. I respond that it’s a little bit like being a chameleon. And sometimes you just end up being like the confused chameleon that is so crossed up it’s sporting conflicting colors. After all, it’s not easy to wake up yourself, spend most of the day as someone else, and then try to revert back in time for dinner. We’re the method actors of the literary world.

Yet there’s something magical about it too. Most adults lose their ability to think outside themselves. To pretend they’re something they’re not—at least on purpose. We spend our whole lives solidifying who we are and crafting impenetrable projections. We don’t allow for make-believe and creativity. We become meat and potatoes.

We ghostwriters are kids at play. We’re always pretending we’re something we’re not—starting with being authors. We’re really just actors who write our own lines. And I’m OK with that, though someday I hope I end up on the playbill.

And that bit of introspection has brought us to this point, the top 5 posts for the month of July at Cheers!

Building your platform: Tips from a top publicist

How does ghostwriting work?

Ghost productivity

How to ghostwrite a book in 6 months

How to impress a potential client before first contact (Part II)

[Photo by Dumbledad]