If you’re not subscribed to Next Draft by Dave Pell, you ought to be. Phil Bronstein, Chair of the Center for Investigative Reporting, says of Next Draft “Think of Dave Pell as the Internet’s managing editor. The NYT meets SNL. Smart, funny, essential.”
He’s right. Pell manages to distill the ceaseless whirring cacophony of news stories down to a succinct 10 item list that’s a mix of irreverent, vital and engaging. As someone required to be up on my shit at all times, a well-curated news digest compiled by a non-robot is invaluable.
In the June 22 edition, Pell linked to a trend piece in the New York Times about toast ghostwriters. Yep, you can now contract out your Best Man or Maid of Honor speech to a professional who will help you articulate all those feelings about your best friend, your sister, your brother or whoever that you can’t find the words for despite loving them to death.
Understandably, a lot of people don’t like to admit to using this ghostwriting service. According to one of the subjects in the story, “Some people call us and say, ‘I don’t want people to know that I’m using you.’” I suppose I can relate to that impulse, since, at its most base, it feels like you’re basically outsourcing your feelings, which seems crass and horrible. That’s certainly not the only way to look at it, as evidenced by one of the story’s subjects.
“You don’t sew your own dress,” she said. “You don’t bake your own cake. But those things are considered O.K. to ask for help with because they’re less personal. For some reason, speaking has always been something you’re not supposed to ask assistance for, even though it makes it better.”
I’m a professional writer, and I’ve ghostwritten speeches, op-eds, prepared remarks, press release quotes and simple emails. It’s true. One of my executive clients grew to trust me to the point where any email he sent that was for his entire regional staff came from me.
That’s called trust, and that’s why there should be no shame in hiring a ghostwriter. I believe it’s a fallacy that we know ourselves better than anyone else does. There’s a theoretical construct called the Johari Window, which you can see below.
By far and away my favorite quadrant in the Johari Window is the top right, labeled “Blind Spot.” In this quadrant are things known to others, but not known to you. Have you ever had someone tell you something about yourself that’s at first flabbergasting (perhaps your immediate impulse is to get offended), but after you consider it, it’s incredibly insightful? That’s one of my favorite things in the world, and something you could never discover by yourself.
That’s what a good ghostwriter can do for you. By asking you questions, probing deeply into your relationship with whatever it is you want to write about, and recontextualizing things for you, your insights become fresher and your feelings cast anew. Writing is a gift, and we’re not all blessed with the same ones.
I can’t fix your car, I can’t play you a tune on the guitar and I can’t tell you what the stock market is going to do tomorrow. But I can write you a killer wedding toast, a dynamite keynote address, or a brief but punchy email to your employees.
There’s no shame in hiring a good ghostwriter. And, according to that New York Times piece linked above, “Ghosts, it seems, have invaded our parties, and they appear to be here to stay.”