The Problem with Ghostwriting

"You know you make me a ghost."
—Ingrid Michaelson

The problem with being a ghostwriter, which is one of the things I'm doing now, is that many of my most brilliant sentences can never be attributed to me. 

Sure, those sparkling strings of words may be about a topic as banal as project management, but that doesn't make them any less witty or wise. 

I almost typed my most recent favorite sentence right into this post, but then I remembered that we live in the days of Google, and you'd be able to find the full article lickety-split. And then the secret would be out. I tried rewriting the sentence to make it unGooglable and yet retain its glory, but there's no substitute for the original. 

I don't necessarily feel like ghostwriting has to be a dirty little secret. It happens more than you may realize. After all, the articles I'm writing now are not my ideas, so I don't need the credit for them. I spend an hour with the "thought leader" in question, pulling as many ideas out of him or her as I can. I use direct quotes when possible, and then I craft a readable, well-organized, scannable article (because, short attention spans), embellishing with related research as needed.

The entire time I'm writing, I imagine the author's actual speaking voice in my head. Then the article goes back to the author for review. He pulls out anything that doesn't sound like something he would say, adds a bit more of his own personal flair, and makes suggestions for me. I revise as needed and turn in the final.

Yes, sing it Ingrid. I'm a Gho-ost.

It's actually a pretty great gig.

You combine what the thought leader is good at (coming up with innovative ideas that resonate with the intended audience) with what I'm good at (writing and organizing ideas) and it's the perfect symbiotic relationship. She gets to just sit and talk, spilling her ideas out loud in a quarter of the time it would take her to write them. I get great material to shape into something greater.

The ideas themselves are appropriately attributed to the person who thought of them; I just make them more accessible—and sound prettier.

Certainly, a little bit of "me" inevitably creeps in, and I discover my own dormant ideas and experiences related to team management or hiring best-practices. Perhaps I'll start collecting them—those that truly come from my own head—and become a business thought leader myself. Ha.

At the very least, I should save some of my own brilliance for my blog. I'm getting better at that. I think I've already blogged more this year than all of last year, and prospects look good for the remainder of 2015. 

In case you're wondering whether ghost-writing has ever happened in the craft and scrapbooking industries, the answer is YES. Entire books by scrapbookers you know and love were ghost-written by staff writers and editors. Not all or even most of them, but I do know of a couple of instances (none by me). If you sometimes wonder how certain scrapbooking celebrities are able to do it all, the answer is that they can't. They often have help. And there's nothing wrong with that in my book—as long as they're making their own memories, creating their own scrapbook pages, and thinking their own ideas.

Some people just need a "professional idea polisher." Like me.

(For the record, note that none of the books that were published under the Simple Scrapbooks label were ghost-written. Stacy Julian, Cathy Zielske, Elizabeth Dillow, Rebecca Cooper—they all wrote their own books. Every word.)

Angie LucasComment