What it really means to be a ghostwriter

When I go into the long explanation of what type of writing I do, people without fail latch onto the term 'ghostwriter.' Some see it as a clandestine profession that involves me being driven in armed vehicles to transcribe the stories of super rich politicians. Others infer that it's a form of creative prostitution. In reality, it's none of those things. 

Like diamonds need to be refined and cut in order to be sold, I refine and cut people's stories. The material, the raw ideas, already exist. I just organise them. So far I have written business books, a self help book and an autobiography. I interview my clients, take notes, listen to the stories (and the words they use to tell them) and out comes a book. To me, it has always felt like a simple, honest process with clear boundaries. 

Still, it's a strange profession. I have sat with a CEO in their office while they have revealed shocking facts about their personal life. I get to know clients' ideas so thoroughly that they almost feel like my own. I have just finished a book and am kicking myself that I didn't include rights to some of the royalties in the contract as I am certain it is going to be a bestseller. 

But the truth is, none of these stories are mine to tell. I foster these stories and help them grow strong. Then they return to their rightful owners. The only way to be OK with this, is to tell stories of my own. So, while I await the next ghost writing project that starts next week I will open a blank Word document and start writing for the most difficult client of all: myself.