I Tried Ghost Writing Once–And Didn’t Like It

You’ve probably seen those ads online for freelance writing jobs. I especially like the ones that expect you to pay a fee in order to have access to jobs. The only time in my adult life I ever paid to get a job, was when I worked for the City of New York at a college library, and that’s because I had to get bonded. But that was a job that came with a contract and a union. As a writer, I shouldn’t have to shell out money to write articles for an online magazine.

I took a stab at a ghost writing position once. For legal reasons, I’m not allowed to mention the name of the company. But, I will tell you this: ultimately, I didn’t take the job. The vetting process included writing sample chapters for what was to become a book. When I read the synopsis and the outlines for the characters and chapters, I thought, Yeah, sure, I can write this. Then I sat down to write, and I found myself struggling. The more I tried to force myself, the harder it was to put any words on the page. At first I thought it was because I was working on an idea that wasn’t mine. Then I sat down and re-read the synopsis and the outline, and I figured out what my problem really was.

The story was stupid. I mean, really stupid, and not it a cute clever way.

Now, I’m not saying I a fantastic writer. I’m not Walter Moseley or Ursula Le Guin, and I don’t aim to be. But I am a pretty good writer, and what I’ve written so far was way more interesting than what this company wanted me to crank out. I know what you’re probably thinking: a job is a job, and I shouldn’t be so picky. Here’s the thing: I can’t bring myself to attach myself to a poor piece of writing, even if I will be a ghost writer and never receive any real credit for the work. To me, sitting and writing a nonsense story is a waste of time and energy; two things I greatly value. And I figured, if this is what it’s going to be like to ghost write for this company; if this is the kind of material they’re putting out there for people to read, then I can’t do it.

There’s one other reason. Freelance writers today charge between ten cents and one dollar per word. This company wanted to pay 2 cents per word. Anything less than the current rate cheapens the writing.

I suppose situations like this one force you to ask yourself what your value is. How much do you value who you are and what you do? How much should it be worth? Are you willing to undervalue yourself to make a few dollars, or are your time and skills more valuable than the tiny price someone is trying to offer?

I can tell you this: ghost writing is not in my future.

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