Confessions of a ghost writer

A ghost and a typewriter.
Design: Abir Hossain

In my experience, once an ability of yours becomes well known, you quickly become a target of "Hi can you please do this for me? Please please please!". The most common victims of this situation are budding artists. Or so I thought, before I started writing.

Once word got out that I started as a contributor for this particular publication, I became somewhat of a local celebrity in at school. My peers began to consider me as the gold standard of writing at our academic level. From proof-reading an email to writing an application to the principal, I was sought to do it all. As we grew up, the need for writing skills became more apparent.

When university applications rolled around, I was bombarded with requests for editing, proof-reading, and even help with writing material. Because I was a good friend and often found it hard to say no, I took on the tasks in exchange for treats. Soon, word spread to juniors and mutual friends, and an influx of essays and term papers came my way. I saw the opportunity to monetise my skills, my business instincts kicked in and I began charging people for my services. Business boomed and my pocket money was covered.

I soon discovered ghostwriting has more trials and tribulations than writing for myself, however, especially for those clients who do not even know what they need.

Generally, I expect the client to give me some pointers about what to write. It takes WEEKS to even craft a polished piece of writing for yourself (a person you have known your whole life) so it is frustrating when people think I will be able to concoct their life story out of thin air. 

A major red flag is when they are unsure of the number of essays a particular university requires or the prompts I need to address. So, I have to research university websites to find out application requirements and make up justifications about their choice. This is an extra burden on top of the pressure I already have of pleasing the admission officers with the writing bit.

Unreasonable demands about deadlines and payments is another issue. "Please, it will only take you like 5 minutes!" is a common request. In my experience, it does not take me 5 minutes. Even if it does, it is only a testament to the amount of time and energy I have spent honing my craft and because of this very reason, I deserve to be well compensated. People often forget I have my own work and I cannot accommodate theirs in a short notice.

That being said, I have also worked with wonderful people who understood the scope of my work, gave me sufficient notice, provided me samples and outlined the essay, all while offering me fair compensation. They are a breeze to work with and in the end, we are both happy.

Alas, the good old days are over. ChatGPT has killed my side hustle, but I have lived to tell the tale.

The writer is a ghost.