Monday, January 18, 2016

My Sabbatical Year

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I’ve been a ghostwriter for 17 years now. It’s been a wild wonderful ride filled with the most amazing stories. I was privileged to hear them first and help get them out into the world.

I’ve blogged before about the joys of ghostwriting and how much it has given me. I’ve been fairly successful. I’ve been involved – mostly as a ghostwriter, sometimes as a content editor – in nearly 50 books in those 17 years. In 2015 alone, I ghostwrote and finished three books (the last one just last month).

But there are some downsides to ghostwriting. The biggest one is that I’ve been so busy writing other people’s stories that I’ve neglected my own. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t written my own books – I have. Over ten of them, in fact – fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Nearly all of them published before 2010.

But for the last five years or so, as my ghostwriting business has grown, my own work has languished in drawers or my laptop file folders. I had and have plenty of great ideas, and have worked on most of them sporadically, some more than others. Over time, this list of “almost finished” and “just starting” books has grown. Right now I have thirteen books in various stages of completion. Some are just notes and plans, others are halfway done, a few are mostly done, and one is completely done but is just sitting there in my files waiting for me to submit it for publication.

As the time has gone by, guess what else happened? I got older! I started to fear that if I didn’t get moving on my works-in-progress, I would die before those wonderful ideas could be born.

Battling with this fear of never getting around to my own work was the fear of stopping ghostwriting altogether. On the most practical level, could I afford to? If I ran out of money or ideas, what if I never get another ghostwriting job? What if the “book biz” people I know stop referring potential clients to me? What if the reputation I worked so hard to build will go down the drain? I love ghostwriting! I don’t want to never ghostwrite again.

I was moaning about this battle of fears to a friend of mine, when she said something wise. “You don’t have to quit ghostwriting – why not take a sabbatical instead?”

Ah, the power of words. Sabbatical sounds so much less threatening than quitting. I could write my guts out this year on the thirteen book ideas, and perhaps I might finish one or two of them. Then I could make another decision. It’s not all or nothing!

So as 2015 was ending and I was finishing up my ghostwriting projects, I started refusing new ones. That was so hard! I am such a sucker for good stories. Have you ever noticed that when you make a bold declaration of intent, suddenly offers or situations arise that challenge that intent? Almost like the mysterious Universe is saying, “Oh yeah? Do you really mean it?”

Nevertheless, my plan for 2016 is this: I am taking a sabbatical from ghostwriting for one year. In the months to come I’ll let you know how it’s going, and perhaps even give glimpses into those thirteen wonderful ideas that are itching to be born.

I hope the Universe will wait until 2017 to tantalize me with new ghostwriting opportunities. Are you listening, Universe?

Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 10 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 40 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit kimpearson.me.

6 comments :

  1. What a dilemma, but you've made the right decision, FOR YOU. My very first editor was a ghostwriter of over forty books, some of famous people. He could parse a sentence better than anyone I've ever known. The one problem I didn't find out until later was that as a writer of non-fiction, he had no idea about POV. It wasn't until later that new friends taught me what I didn't learn from him. He's gone now, but what a great character he was. Best of luck.

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  2. Since I'm back to taking an occasional editing job, I guess my "retirement" was more accurately a sabbatical. I like that term. It's less final. So go for it, Kim. Write your heart out. Getting the nose (or fingers) back to the grindstone (keyboard) is a great feeling. :-)

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  3. I can't wait to read some of your own writing! I mean... the stuff closest to your heart. I hate to call it the "real" writing, but it's kind of that.

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  4. Treat your writing like a job, otherwise, it is amazing how fast the time goes and how many things can rush in to fill it up!

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  5. Kim, my advice to you is to follow your heart ... not your head. Follow it over a cliff if that's what it directs you to do. The heart is much more tuned to the universe then the 'ol coconut. Wow ... listen to Mr. Philosopher ... like he knows what the hell is going on.

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  6. Thanks for the validation, everyone. I am following my heart, although my head is still yammering away.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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