“How did you become a ghostwriter?” someone asked at a networking event. It was many leaps of faith until I aligned with the mentors who could help me catch the vision of my future.
Some of you already know my family labeled me an artist at the age of five. This was solely based on my ability to copy a simple line drawing from the phone book. Because of them, I tried many different expressions of art. Which tool a long time, especially since art supplies were costly. It took years to figure out I could do anything, but art really didn’t light me up.
Paper, pens and pencils were always available. I drew a lot but I loved creative writing assignments best. No one in my family took notice of this. Nor did they pay attention to the summer that my sister and I wrote our own short stories. Always, they focused on my art, even though my dad was in publishing.
In junior high, I wrote the advice column of our teeny class paper called Our Times. Classmates deposited questions in a locked box on the English teacher’s desk, which I retrieved each day. The column was a bit of a joke. No one with serious problems was talking about them in 7th grade. The toughest problems were mostly the work of pranksters.
“My dog is the teeniest in the neighborhood, but she mated with the biggest dog on the street, and now she’s expecting! What should I do??” (A: Let nature take its course.)
My dad was the wisdom behind many of my published answers. My writing got little attention until I wrote an anonymous letter expressing my utter hopelessness regarding the future–which was discovered by a teacher. Based on my handwriting, they found me out. Suddenly, my words had enormous power. Like a kid holding a loaded gun who doesn’t understand what can happen until it goes off. The principal pulled me aside and introduced me to Mr. Payne, the on-staff counselor, for a lengthy stint of therapy.
(Note to self: nothing is anonymous.)
After the counseling incident, I took my writing underground. I discovered fiction was a safer place to write from. After I penned a few exceptionally lame stories, I read Go Ask Alice. Despite my bad experience with journaling, I began to journal again. Except for one unfortunate incident when I was nineteen, I never showed these thoughts to anyone. They were free thought, typical of the age: heartbreak, experimentation with cannabis, drinking, smoking and psychedelic rock music. I was the oldest of six kids, a witness to the disintegrating marriage of my parents, the splintering of my siblings, the questioner of one parent’s anger, despair, and eventual attempt to take their own life.
Writing saved me.
By writing to get it off my chest, I remained grounded enough to function in the larger world and become an observer of people. What I discovered during those years: I’m quirky. We’re all quirky. We all have family laundry we don’t want aired. Even if doing so helps us gain our healing. We all have shame and secrets. We all have hopes and dreams and aspirations for our future.
When I moved out, my hundreds-of-pages diary fell into the hands of my mother. Although I coerced my brother into rescuing it, (I implicated him in our drug experiments) he admitted he couldn’t risk being caught with it and burned it. However, she’d seen enough and banished me from the family home for several years. After that, I wrote sporadically until college where I pursued art and English majors. My first semester English professor loved my writing. In art class, I argued my way to better grades. My second semester college professor called all my writing assignments crap. My English grades concerned me more than my art grades–she was failing me. I dropped out of college, depressed and smarting.
But, it didn’t stop me from writing, even if sporadically. I wrote hundreds more pages, and threw them all away before moving to Florida. Clean slate. My first reinvention of self.
Although I was notorious among my letter-writing friends for my dozens of pages, I didn’t begin journaling again until my daughter was about seven. Creating art took up a lot of my time, but it wasn’t a living and I questioned this a lot.
The only relative who had suggested repeatedly that I should be a writer was my youngest brother. I discounted him because he was seven years my junior. Not until I became a single mother and met my trusted spiritual mentor, Vera Hassell, did I consider being a wordsmith as a living. “You really need to do something with your writing.”
I toe-dipped the waters by taking a writing test found in the back of a women’s magazine. They replied saying I’d be a great candidate for their writing program. What if that was an honest evaluation? Two years later, I enrolled and studied article and novel writing. I joined a writer’s group with my daughter who was then fourteen. I began getting published, won an award, and began sending out pieces to various publications. My youngest brother was proud to be proved right.
A man from the writers’ group wanted us to write a play together because he loved my dialog. We butted heads a lot because our literary visions were different: his was a three act stage play, mine was epic movie screenplay. Finding the writing of “plays” too limiting, I wrote the nearly 400 page novel Painting the Rain and expanded the story line. I fell in love with writing books.
Things came together much more quickly when I invested in mentors. That saying, “When the student it ready, the teacher appears” comes to mind. One showed me how to launch and run a writing business. I started writing professionally as a content writer. The next mentor introduced me to ghostwriting through a mini course. There I had the epiphany that I loved everything about writing books. I wanted to help new voices share their stories in the marketplace. I knew enough to help them publish their work.
One mentor led to the most recent mentor who taught me the “much more” that a ghostwriter needs to know and certification. The course and prerequisite class took over a year. She provided precious resources for running a ghostwriting business as a bonus. At this time, I’ve assisted with over a dozen books.
It didn’t happen overnight, and I didn’t do it all on my own.
What does this mean for you?
You may not even know what you’re great at or what you want to do. There is a lot of trial and error in trying to find the thing that we love doing. Art was fun for many reasons, the people I met, the shows I was part of and the great work I saw. Aside from being a really cutting edge community, it took me places. I met truly lovely people. I learned to interact with many kinds of artists. Now I use those experiences to inform my writing. What I learned in pottery is that it’s easier to make adjustments while you’re in motion. Sometimes that “mistake” will be the most spontaneous creativity–much like being a pantser. I learned to trust the process.
Whether you’ve found your groove yet or not, trust that nothing will be wasted. The networking and skills you learn along the way will all be useful for reasons you can’t possibly imagine in this moment. I can honestly say, everything that seemed like a leftover insight or unused talent has come into play since launching a ghostwriting business.
Stay the course! Hold tight to your dreams and keep moving forward–even if it’s only 1%! Your next break could be right around the corner, in the next conversation, through the next person you meet or the next event you attend, or the lady in front of you at the grocery. Seeing a dream through to its realization can be one of the most spectacular events of your life. It’s worth pursuing no matter how long it takes.
Need more encouragement for following your dreams? Check out Designing Your Own Life.
What are you doing differently this year to nudge your dream forward?