When 1 Beautiful Ghostwriter-Client Relationship Ends


Ghostwriters don’t automatically deal with a lot of death, but I’ve been lately. Three friends lost their mothers in a matter of weeks. My wife and I have been attending memorials and making condolence calls.

Also, a friend died at just 67, sending shockwaves through our social circle.

And now, a ghostwriting relationship is at an end.

I’m not equating the emotional weight of losing a person with losing a relationship, especially one as transactional as one between a ghostwriter and client. I’ve known this relationship was ending for awhile now — unlike my 67-year-old friend who I saw New Year’s Eve and thought she didn’t look good but never imagined she’d be dead of heart failure a week later.

That’s because ghostwriting relationships are inherently terminal. They end when the book is done, and that opens the ghostwriter to a wealth of emotion. 

In my case, it’s sixteen months of traveling down a very emotional path with a Phoenix-area Realtor, telling her extremely compelling story of marrying a psychopath who bilked investors out of $1.4 million, only to discover her husband led a double life, only for her to suffer incredible post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and have to defend herself against the state going after her for the money he stole, only to beat the judgment and then get the law changed so it can never happen again.

How could I not have strong emotions? I felt her anger and frustration. I marveled at her tenacity and drive. I admired her family and friends for their candor. And I felt my own annoyance when she and I forgot our roles and moved into each other’s areas of expertise.

According to New York-based author and ghostwriter Judy McGuire, what I’m experiencing is normal.

“You get so close to someone,” she told Mental Floss. “You hear all their dirt. You’re like their shrink. It’s a very one-sided relationship, but it can be very intense. And then it’s over. That can be good (if they’re annoying) or a little sad.”

I have completed the manuscript and sent it to my client. In its current form, it’s almost 75,000 words and 279 double-spaced Microsoft Word pages. What it will eventually become is up to the editors, designers, agents, and publishers she may next hire. But I’m confident the story won’t be significantly altered. It’s too damn good.

Lauren Ogren, a California-based marriage and family therapist, told psychcentral.com that a relationship ending might not be a physical loss, but something significant is gone, and people have to mourn the past memories.

Ogren explained that emotions and reactions during the grieving process can vary and include emotional ups and downs. That’s how I felt: up at her victories, up at her trusting me with such sensitive information (that didn’t always paint her in a favorable light), down at her trying to cover some of those warts, down at her memory lapses.

So now I have to deal with my feelings. I need to take my time and process however long it takes. I need to feel what I’m feeling and going to feel. I need to take care of myself (which has been easy because I took sick, forcing me to look inward).

“It’s [typical] to fluctuate between feelings,” Cadmona A. Hall, a psychologist and associate professor at Adler University in Chicago, told psychcentral.com. “One day, you might be incredibly sad. Another day, you could be feeling relieved and happy to move forward with a new life.”

One thing I remember as a ghostwriter: The relationship might feel like a marriage at times, but it isn’t. It’s business. It will end. The two sides will move on. Hopefully, the emotions will dull and the memories will survive.

But from death comes life: Another project is scheduled to start this week. The cycle begins anew. I can’t wait.

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