Confessions of a Ghost Writer: The Big Scary

I recently read a column in CodeLikeaGirl (on Medium) in which Kira Leigh eloquently expressed the sheer scariness of pursuing a career as a freelancer. I was compelled to respond because while Kira is fairly new at freelancing, I’ve been doing it for a while now and I wanted to share my story.

It seemed somehow fitting that I post it here, too, as part of my Confessions.

I’ve been freelancing as a ghostwriter, editor, book doctor and cover designer for about twelve years now. The good news is that it becomes mostly less scary. The bad news is that you may still have bouts with poser syndrome. My particular variety has to do with the quality of my writing—which has won me a “New York Time Bestseller” banner that I can put on my own books—and my qualifications to be attending professional writing or genre conferences. I suffer Poser Heebee-jeebies before every convention I attend.

I first toyed with the idea of quitting my day job as the manager of a software development team back when my third novel came out. I didn’t pull the trigger, though. I told myself I liked my job too much. I liked the people I worked with too much. Both of those things were true, but the real reason I didn’t quit my job to write full time was that it was scary. It took several years of watching the company I worked for go down hill to get me to hang out my “moonlighting” freelance shingle. I punched up my high tech resume though I really no longer wanted to do high tech. My heart was no longer in it.

Within days of me creating a moonlighting page on my website, I and my entire department got laid off and I was drop-kicked out of a company I’d worked for for 15 years. Oddly, I was ecstatic. Energized. I took it as a tap on the shoulder from God: “Follow your calling. Do what you love.” I spent the rest of the day working on my website, put my CV out on a number of freelancing and job search sites, and by the end of the week, I had my first freelance writing job—from a connection, believe it or not. I have not looked back.

This is not to say that during lean times I don’t consider getting a tech writing job at Apple or an editing job for a media concern, but work continues to come in, largely from repeat clients who have more than one book in them. I do fiction almost exclusively now, though I’ve done exposees, how-to books, memoirs and business practices books—both editing and ghosting. And while some of my clients have proven … challenging, I find I even enjoy working with those individuals; keeps me on my toes and gives me stories to tell on Clients from Hell.

🙂 I’ve even gotten cheeky enough to fire a particularly difficult client.

I wish you all the success in the world. And share some advice I got early in my writing career: If the world is blowing up, write. If chaos is breaking out all around you, write. If everything in your world is falling apart, write. And if everything is going better than you could possibly have expected, write. No matter what, just write. It is our way (to borrow a phrase from my hero, Ray Bradbury) of making reality behave by pretending to look the other way.




Confessions of a Ghost Writer: The Big Scary — 3 Comments

  1. By all practical calculations I should have been bankrupt two years ago. I’m still at it, still living month to month, but I haven’t had to sell the stock I inherited from my mother 13 years ago. the work dribbles in, sometimes in waves, sometimes in trickles. But it is out there. Sometimes it comes to me, sometimes I have to go look for it.

    I love writing. And more and more I love writing the stuff NY won’t touch because they don’t know how to market it. Independence has made me a better writer.

  2. Thanks, Maya. Alongside my own writing, I’ve done a lot of freelance editing and some ghostwriting, and agree with you that the jobs are out there and can be very rewarding. I was never able to rely completely on that income, however, so relied on teaching writing as well. Being a writer seems to mean a lot of juggling!