We should fight against it.
It’s everywhere and it has to stop.
If we want to preserve the arts and the sciences as realms of skill and expertise, that is.
What is Ghostwriting?
Everyone is a writer these days. Or a composer, a painter, a director, a motivational speaker, a preacher, or a fantastic science writer.
In fact, a person can be all of those things at once.
Because one no longer has to have the specific skills required by each of these fields.
Enter ghostwriting, the process where an individual or a company exploits the written work of another person and presents it publicly as their own because they’ve paid for it and now they can.
Ghosting, as a general term, is the same process applied to every imaginable area in both arts and sciences.
Want to write a book but can’t glue two given words together if your life depended on it? Hire a writer. Boom! You’re an author.
Want to be called a painter but can only doodle? No problem. Hire a professional painter, sign your name on the completed canvas, and boom, your own gallery.
Do you have to give a speech, write a thesis, a Sunday sermon even? Hire a whatever and you’ll have it, ready to slap your name on it and show the final work as your own on all social media.
It’s never been this easy… You’d be an idiot not to do it, really.
But an honest idiot though.
What’s the Catch that Makes Ghostwriting a Dishonest Practice?
The poor talented bastard that creates the work — good or bad, but still, completed — never gets credited for it.
Sure, they may change the poor thing via a nice check from the person or company that hired him or her for the job, and they may get a smaller type of recognition for some minor involvement in a project, but the main problem stays: the creator is manipulated — usually in exchange for money alone — to give up their main role regarding a piece of art or writing.
Some money and a non-disclosure agreement later, the creator is a nobody in reference to his own work.
And that’s disgusting, humiliating, abusive, and obviously, a big fat lie.
You attempt to cut a link that is… uncuttable.
Ghosting is everywhere and that makes it a social problem
Where does all this ghosting that I speak of happen?
Everywhere. If a field or type of activity allows a creator in the shadow and a narcissistic beneficiary on a stage, ghosting did and will continue to happen there.
Just some examples:
- Books. Fiction or nonfiction, ghostwriting is responsible for the large number of books that end up being attributed to a single author, real or fictional — yes, some authors listed for certain books don’t exist at all — and also for the decent-to-high quality writing when it comes to completely unskilled individuals who want to see their name on a book cover — all those “celebrities” with their cookbooks, and their “memoirs”.
- Websites. People write, a company gets the credit. Instant annihilation of editorial staff or writers hired to write different pages on that website.
- Blogs. Other people write, blog owner gets the credit. “My morning routine”, “What I did last Thursday”, “My dog ate my credit card”. You’d think the stuff is both experienced and conveyed by the person whose name is on the blog but ha! — ghostwriting activated and these can be three different writers trying to maintain a style and the stories may also be the result of their creativity or inspired by their lives. Just in case you were wondering how so many incredible things can happen to a single person on the internet.
- Movies and TV. Ghostwritten scripts are everywhere. One “genius” director signs them all.
- Music. More often than you’d think, your favorite “singer/songwriter” is actually passing someone else’s work as their own.
- Visual Art. One master, plenty of disciples? Problem solved. Tons of paintings result. No talent, some money? Problem solved. Tons of paintings result. Just use “Ghostpaint”.
- Speeches of all sorts. Motivational speakers, preachers, and the guy who needs to give a “thank you” speech for receiving the “Employee of the Month” award at Fancy Company X, they all can hire ghostwriters to write their discourse. Even preachers read someone else’s words during sermons. I guess God inspires the ghostwriter that inspires the preacher.
- Academic. This is where things start to turn really grim. People hire others to make them seem smarter and get various diplomas and credentials in return. In academic contexts, this is considered fraud — plagiarism too, in some cases.
- Medical. There is no debate about the villainy involved in this type of ghostwriting. The things reverse here a bit in the sense that this time the ghostwriter usually comes from a company with a direct interest to sell something or to promote a method, and the name slapped on the paper is that of a prominent scientist that agrees to the deception. Scientist gets the credit, company gets the apparent scientific support, and makes tons of money as a result.
And many, many more.
Attempts to Justify Ghostwriting
I refute them all.
These are some of the reasons that have been provided by both ghostwriters and beneficiaries of the deceitful practice, in an attempt to make the activity seem legit or even worse, needed at a social level.
- The ghostwriters need to make money. They can continue making money even if their name is added to the work. They’d probably make less since a huge portion of the amount being paid to them for ghostwriting is not for their skill and time, but for their silence on the matter. Hush money. Anyway, NDAs don’t make you a better-paid writer. Settle for what your art gets you.
- The ghostwriter may not want their name on certain works. True. They can publish anonymously then. Nobody’s stopping a writer from refusing to sign the descriptions for sinks they’ve written ten years ago for a website. Books can have the “Anonymous” tag for the author as well. Only you, the publisher, and the NDA will know. Or you can self-publish, or use a pen name. You don’t have to lie.
- Celebrities should have the option to publish their memoirs and autobiographies, even if they can’t write the books themselves. Sure. They can collaborate with someone who has the talent to put their stories into words. Have all names on the book. Otherwise, it’s stealing, even when you pay for it. You pay for the words, not for the other one’s place in history, regardless how — apparently — small.
- The ghostwriter may be in hiding or in a legal context where they are prohibited from publishing anything under their name. Find another person who is willing to act on your behalf without taking credit for your work. You can also be their mysterious source.
Why Ghostwriting is a Social Problem and Needs to be Stopped
No, don’t minimize it.
Dishonesty that earns a place in history can lead to all sorts of bad outcomes.
- Future generations will praise the name on the book or painting and know absolutely nothing about the craftsman behind the text or artwork.
- We give free passes into history books to some individuals who lack the credentials.
- It rewards narcissism and greed.
- Talented individuals will get used to paying with anonymity for money.
- Skilled individuals will not be able to profit entirely from the centralized results of their work.
- Decently or poorly-skilled individuals will feel that their work is not enough when compared to all these great, yet dishonest completed projects. We’ll end up saying that “good enough” is no longer a perfectly decent goal. I know my writing is not great — sometimes it’s really bad — but it is mine and it conveys my message in my voice. Whoever reads what I write — on a blog, in a book, in a paper, in a course — gets to know me, and a relationship is formed. And that’s an absolutely great result for me.
- We devalue arts like writing by sending the message that anyone can do it. That celebrity X is just as good at writing as author Y who actually wrote their own book.
- We devalue… value. By saying that quantity and attached brands are more important than the act of creation. Creativity is valuable in itself, for this species anyway.
I would hate for this to happen to our world.
Which is why I will fight ghostwriting with all I’ve got. Whenever I can spot it, that is.
Art is only as powerful as its creators.
Make your voice heard and your craft seen.
You’re an artist FFS. Don’t abandon your creations. There’s no glory in that.
This article was originally published on an external platform on May 11, 2022.