Friday, October 26, 2007


The one consolation when I did that final travel writing project more than 20 years ago was that there are even worse things that people do and call themselves writers. Most business “writing” falls in this category, for reimbursement goes well beyond the free accommodations given to travel writers in exchange for lying. In most, if not all, business writing you are being paid directly or indirectly to lie to promote clients who do harm.

The next step down is ghost-writing – which is a way out for people scared to death of their own stories.

And one step below reducing yourself to another person’s ghost is the pretentious falsification of what is real in the name of fiction.

At the bottom is falsification of your own story.

I speak not just as an observer. I speak with the authority only a once active alcoholic has when speaking of alcoholism.


Anonymous said...

It is high time that someone who knew this said this. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I used to believe what this man is saying. Then in meditation it came to me that he is excluding ordinary people, who are the backbone of our society, solid people who would like to move on. He seems to hate good news. Is he one of those elitist black-clothed, Woodstock artist types?

Anonymous said...

I don't like your take on ghostwriting. So what if I make my living that way? it doesn't mean i'm not a wrter.

Anonymous said...

In the limited sense of improving someone else's words on paper, ghostwriting is writing, but so too are fawning business promotion pieces, and instruction manuals, and press releases for the Pentagon,and the transcribing of dictation. But I don't think this is what Fred means when he honors someone as "a writer."

Lkd said...

I think I agree with Fred, when the ghosting done is a cold impersonal contract -- a stranger telling someone else's story without personal knowledge of their path, their story or them.

But I have done ghosting of a different sort -- a good friend with an information processing disability sent me a thousand page run-on sentence. Together we took that and crafted a memoir in her voice, not mine. It's a voice I sometimes know better than my own, for I am on the "listening"side of it, in our conversations. Being on the "speaking"/"crafting" side of my own voice, I sometimes do not know what that sounds like -- or even what will be said next.

This was not my story, though I was there for parts of it, there was no need for my presence in the story or my overt influence in the telling. It was her direction for my writes and re-writes so I think it goes way deeper than editing.

To help another be able to tell their story in their voice, surely there is honor in that?

Fred Poole said...

I do indeed see honor -- along with compassion, empathy and skill -- in this story of what Lkd did in support of a disadvantaged friend who longed to get to her own clear voice. This is a far cry from the cold, write-anything-for-pay, free-lance business that gives the title "writer" a bad name. For it seems clear that Lkd is speaking here of the sacredness of a person's actual story -- which is the opposite of helping a person maintain a self-serving false persona. And I thank her.