[The Curious Case of the Writer] Word Trafficking
Written by
Alexandra Caselle
October 2014
Written by
Alexandra Caselle
October 2014

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

I stared at the phone ringing beside my laptop, its sound rattling my nerves like a jailhouse guard’s night stick against cell bars. It rang consistently, all times of the morning and night. I knew what the caller wanted. I knew what was at stake here. My stomach tightened into a noose knot of stress, stagnated by creative constipation.

The ringing got louder, demanding to be heard.  So I picked up the phone.

The caller said, “You are late with my product.”

You know how the sensation of below zero, freezing cold floods your head when you eat ice cream really fast and it feels like the Ice Age has begun in your brain? Believe it or not, a heart can get an anxiety freeze just like that.

I said, “I’m trying really hard, but the muse is not cooperating with me. She needs time to be courted, to be made to feel special, before I coax the words out of her.”

Frustration imploded in the caller’s voice. “I want the 100 pages by midnight, or there will be consequences.”

I said, “Writing just does not flow like that.” All I heard was silence. The caller had hung up.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

I started freelance writing to support myself while I pursue my writing career. So far, the journey has been rewarding because it has led me to the field of copywriting for businesses. I thought that I could compartmentalize writing: by day, I would write for businesses and adopt different personas to tell their brand stories; at night, I would write for myself and create art for the sake of expression.

There were boundaries between the two areas. I kept my identities separate, with no chance of slipping into a writer DID (dissociative identity disorder) episode.

The problem arose when I decided to add ghostwriting a book to my services. The client perceived writing as a product--something for which words could be contracted out into billable hours. The clock turned into a prison, each minute a cell block. I had no freedom to create.

If one has never written before, one doen’t understand the process of writing. Creativity is not a factory line where words, characters, and storylines roll out on conveyor belts and wait for writers to grab and assemble them by using outlines like instructional manuals. The process involves a fluid cycle of writing, rewriting, revising, and editing. Writers must spend time with the idea. The muse and the writer must have conversations where they get to know the idea intimately so they can render reality to life on the page.

This was not possible in this case.

The muse, once a free agent, was now being trafficked out, each of her words like call girls on the corner being sold for a bride price.

I had thought of ghostwriting as being someone’s personal Cyrano de Bergerac, romancing readers with someone’s life story. But I felt more like someone’s private dancer, putting on writing like a gaudy costume and performing with no passion.

With each experience, of course, there is always a lesson to be learned.

This assignment taught me two important things. First, I have the capability to complete a book--to take it all the way from concept to publication. The only thing holding me back from getting my own work out there is me. Yes, distractions arise: family issues, financial difficulties, everything in your life being out of place. But when you are given a story, you have to let it out. If you keep it in, it does more than fester like a dream deferred. 

The second lesson I have learned is that I do not want to ghostwrite any more books after the completion of this project. It is much easier to be a scribe for my characters than for a real person. I will, however, try out allowing the camera to be the storyteller as I begin my new journey into a degree in digital film and video production.

Well, the minute hand is quickly approaching the top of the hour. It is time for the muse to take the stage again. She and I will share a secret conversation as we look at each other, her word-feathered boa wrapped around her.

Ghostwriting is a strange bedfellow, and we have chosen to evict her out of our bed of creativity. Soon.


Have any of you ever considered or done ghostwriting?  Can writing be both a product and an art form?

Let's be friends

The Women Behind She Writes

519 articles
12 articles

Featured Members (7)

123 articles
392 articles
54 articles
60 articles

Featured Groups (7)

Trending Articles

  • Pamela Olson

    Yep, it's all a living and learning process in the writing world -- there's not exactly a master class than can prepare you for all (or even most) of the crazy contingencies! But it's an interesting journey.

    Glad you are off the project, sounded like it wasn't a great fit, and that's always a drain. :) Good luck with your book! I'm writing a novel now -- kind of terrifying but a lot of fun.

  • Alexandra Caselle

    Hi, Pamela.  Thanks for commenting.  I was worried about that,too, what if the client's book really excelled?  I was originally given 30 days to complete it. As of today, I am no longer on the project.  My writing style and process just was not a right fit for the project. This was definitely a live and learn moment.  I think that I will focus on my book now. :)

  • Pamela Olson

    "But I felt more like someone’s private dancer, putting on writing like a gaudy costume and performing with no passion."

    Great line. Thanks for sharing your story. I ghostwrote a book once, putting in ten-hour days for four months, plus four more intensive ten-hour days trying to squeeze more details and emotions out of the guy whose story it was. Basically, it's his story, but I wrote it. He didn't want my name to appear on the cover, and I thought, fair enough, I wouldn't want an extra name on my book cover, either, even if I did hire a ghostwriter. As long as you're paying me, whatever. But now his book is a bigger hit than my own memoir, and it'd be nice to have that recognition.

    Oh well. Live and learn.