“Don’t you mind not being credited for your work?”
In his recent article on ghostwriting in The Independent, ghostwriter “Jonathan Campbell” (a pseudonym) answers the question most often asked of ghosts, “I genuinely don’t.”
But like most ghostwriter confessions, Campbell’s piece is full of bitter (and amusing) yarns about self-indulgent, thoughtless and stupid former clients. This is typical:
One famous British television actor and presenter refused to be interviewed by a ghost we’ll call Amanda, but kept inviting her to parties. “I was never introduced to anyone, but he liked me by his side during conversations,” she says. “Then if he uttered anything that made people laugh he would turn to me and say, ‘Put that in the book!'”
The preponderance of these war stories to the conclusion of any tales about dream clients suggests that Campbell does mind something about his job as a ghost. At the end of the piece, Campbell tells the sorry tale, likely apocryphal, of a ghostwriter, “Paul”:
For many years he was one of the most successful ghostwriters in the country. He worked with actors, sports stars and royalty and saw each of his books fly to the top of the bestsellers list. And then browsing one day in his local Waterstone’s, he spotted a table displaying the shop’s top five picks—all written by him.
After years of anonymous success, something inside Paul snapped and he started throwing the lot on the ground. He was still yelling, “I wrote these! I wrote these!” as security bundled him from the shop.
Perhaps “Jonathan” could avoid the fate of “Paul” if he could admit to himself (as all speechwriters should, in my opinion) that he does indeed mind not being credited for his work. And then perhaps go find some writing work that he can put his real name on.
In this blog post at VSOTD.com, “What is a speechwriter?” I offer a few more of my unsolicited opinions about speechwriters. I’d love to get your reaction—[email protected]—and publish it, anonymously or otherwise.