Today I’m celebrating a completed project, submitted to the client a full 24 hours before the deadline. It was a substantial ghostwriting gig, a technical writing assignment in the health and wellness space.
In the interview that landed me the contract for this book, the recruiter asked me why ghostwriting appealed to me, and two answers came immediately to mind.
First, because it aligns with my mission as a freelancer – to use my words to tell your story, to elevate your brand, to deliver your message. In this assignment, the client had the technical knowledge of the content matter, the bones of the piece, but he did not have the words to put flesh to the bones or dress the book enticingly and compellingly.
That’s where yours truly, your friendly neighborhood footloose freelancer comes in. I’m able to lend the words to make it pretty, readable, easy to understand. I enjoy learning about the content I’m dressing, and I thrive on the act of dressing that content in beautiful language.
The second reason ghostwriting appeals to me is because it is fully about the message, not the messenger. It’s about the story, not the storyteller.
Don’t get me wrong; I also enjoy telling my own stories and delivering messages in my own voice. Those messages are tinted with my unique style, colored with my own passions and preferences, my endorsements and objections, my motivation to be seen, heard, and understood in the telling.
As a ghostwriter, all of that is stripped away, and only the message remains. Any bias or strong conviction interjected is not mine, but that of the client. Any writing style contributing to the delivery is distinctively shaped by and connected to this single project, this unique message.
It’s an enthralling way to strengthen my skills as a writer, of course, and it’s a meaningful way to strengthen my character as a human by practicing humility and bravery. Humility because I know this will never be about me. And bravery because I have found it takes no small measure of courage to tell someone else’s story in a way that makes him proud to attach his name to it. To use my words to accurately represent the body of work that he has poured heart and soul into. To lend my strengths and gifts to the work in a way that honors him and his message.
The responsibility to get it right, strike the perfect tone, and allow the client’s voice instead of my own to shine through is a big one. Delighting the client with the finished product is so overwhelmingly gratifying that it’s indescribable.
Sure, the cover of the book will have another person’s name and headshot instead of mine. He will get the feedback, the praise or criticism, the recognition. But isn’t that fair since it was his work that built the foundation? His story to begin with? His voice that told it? My fingers zipping across the keyboard helped play a part, as did the millions of words that are always circling in my brain.
But at the end of the day, or the end of the book in this case, the message stands strong. I like that my contribution gives it breath, flavor, color, and clarity. And I like that it’s not about me.
In writing, as in life, sometimes it’s important to let the message stand alone and not make it all about me.