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Ghost Writer

Published on 23 May 2024 12:35 PM

In this moment, this day, this stage, this spring, all I know for sure is that I’m overwhelmed by the outstanding beauty, colours and shapes of nature.

They convey such powerful emotions, some so beautiful - not just in the way they look but in the feeling I have for them - that I have to stop again and again in order to breathe it all in.

I love to write and I love to paint, but I really really love to write!

As a child at school I used to write a lot, and my English teachers always seemed to like me, which was brilliant as I was not normally a ‘Teacher’s Pet’ kind of child. In general I tended to fit into the category of ‘naughty child’ the one who breaks a rule or a piece of kit, and never manages to get away with it.

For a while, and a good few years back now, I worked for a small publisher as a ghost writer. A ghost writer basically sits with an author, whose name will appear on the cover of the book, and the two of them discuss the story the author wants to tell. The ghost may have some writing from the author that they can reference.

Often the ‘author’ has a good story to tell but lacks the skill, or the commitment, the ability, time or real desire to set it out in writing. He/she may have been a mountaineer, a pig farmer or an olympic swimmer with a wealth of experience and a great story to tell, but how can he convey that experience when the scents, feel, colours and shapes of it just won’t reform themselves into words on a page.

Story-telling, be it fact or fiction, requires the re-forming and transforming of life, shape and mood, of texture, heat and emotion, using no more than black words on white paper. Those moods and thoughts, the ability to convey the sense and feel of them, lie, for me, at the heart of a readable or compelling piece of writing.

Some would-be authors, that being the case, decide to hire the ‘Ghost’, who takes over the writing, but works closely with the author to, hopefully, produce the story he or she hopes to convey. Sometimes this can be difficult to achieve: it can’t be easy for an author to hand over the reins of their work. At others the original piece, with some careful editing, could be lifted into something very readable, in which case I would tend to work on it more as an editor than a ghost.

At that time, ghosting really suited me as I’ve always found it utterly compelling to try to see, sense or feel what’s in the other person’s mind, either to reflect it back to them, or to get it down in writing. Being a ghost, without even having to die, was, for me, a wonderful gift. Those writers who handed over the reins gave me not only the chance to learn and grow, but the added opportunity of opening my mind to experiences I’d probably never get to live through.

Alongside being a ‘ghost’ I was also a counsellor, and I can see, looking back, that there’s a link between the two jobs. Both roles had me trying to walk that mile in those fabled ‘other shoes’ in order to help in the determining, or reshaping, of a possible route or destination that might lead to a more successful outcome.