Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Giving up the ghost

After all that good, solid rationalization ... I turned the job down anyway.

Even now, the reasonable part of my brain is raising a ruckus. (OK, that part of my brain isn't really the ruckus-raising type. But it's definitely grimacing uncomfortably!) See, it believes there are only two good reasons to turn down work that doesn't involve trafficking in 13 year olds. (1) I already have some work, thanks, or (2) Gee, I'd love to, but I have so much of this dang money I couldn't possibly manage any more.

We all know #1 isn't true, and let me assure you, #2 isn't either. So what's the deal?

For years, I have done what can best be described as ghostwriting. We don't call it that in my industry, but that's what it amounts to: taking what someone else wants to say, and helping them say it more clearly and effectively.

I've been told I have a knack for this. At my best, I can rework a piece of writing so that the original author says "Yes -- that's exactly what I meant," even if they didn't know exactly what they meant until they read my version.

The trick to this is to be, like a ghost, invisible. What matters is the content, or whatever version of the content the intended audience needs to read. Your own thoughts and opinions? They don't enter in. Your voice doesn't exist. Those things all stay safely locked up behind the attic door. They may rattle their chains once in a while late at night, but they keep pretty quiet during the daylight hours.

Let me be clear -- there's nothing inherently wrong with what I've been doing. It's good work, challenging work, necessary work ... and I may very well return to it one day. But at some point, locking yourself up in that attic becomes a habit.

For now, I'm tired of speaking in someone else's voice and limiting my thoughts to what some imagined reader wants to hear. In the last few weeks I have begun, for better or worse, to let loose the ghosts.

And you know what? I've got some ideas up there, people! Trunks full of 'em! They're a little wrinkled and musty, but they're there. I suspect there may even be a voice lurking somewhere among these cobwebs. I intend to throw open the attic windows, let the light in, and root out what's been hiding all this time.

So hold my calls, please. This may take awhile.


  1. My money is on the size of that voice being GIGANTIC. :) I can't wait. :) Consider those calls held.

  2. Good for you! Your voice is already speaking, just by making that decision. I can't wait to hear more from your voice, and I hope to take some tips on finding my own voice. (But I still need help with my resume! = ) ).