Save a Soul Today

tom waits in concert

Sometimes, when you look at the news, or just contemplate the state of world affairs–wars, pollution, economic stagnation, murder, suicide bombings . . . It’s easy to think there just isn’t any hope for us all It’s easy to get angry, but don’t forget: the world has always been full of terrible stuff. And, for those of us who survive it, it’s fodder for our art.

As a memoir ghostwriter, I help people come to terms with their world by writing about it. But you can, of course, also come to terms with it through song, visual art, fiction, or any other art form. Self expression is a human need and reading or looking at other peoples’ self expression is a great source of pleasure, even if (or especially if) they are expressing anger or sadness. I have ghostwritten memoirs, fictional stories, and even scientific books, but for all these clients, the book was an expression of a heartfelt need to come to terms with the world, and, in a way, control one little corner of it.

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To Slay Dragons or to Dream of It

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I never wanted to be a writer. I didn’t. I wanted to be someone exciting. I never wanted to stare at computer screens and think deep thoughts. I wanted to travel the world and slay dragons. So, in my own way, I tried it. I traveled. I worked in exciting jobs, like the Hollywod film industry and international teaching. I never stopped writing all that time but didn’t take my work too seriously. Eventually, I realized all that adventure didn’t suit me. I got exhausted and lonely and lost and didn’t like all the interacting I had to do. I finally came to the conclusion that I’d much rather work alone than with others and I’d rather excercise my intellect than my ass-kissing skills.  So, I started taking my writing more seriously, and gradually, after experimenting with the different types of work out there, for writers, I concluded that I didn’t care for any of it. So, I decided exactly what I wanted to do, hired great editors to teach me along the way, and invented my own job. I combined some unique aspects of my personality with certain skills in which I had been educated, and certain talents that came naturally to me, to come up with the idea of being a memoir ghostwriter. Somehow, the clients came along, and what money I made, I invested back into writer’s conferences, editorial input, and software programs. Over time, as I continued to invent my life and career, I got pretty good at it, and that’s how this memoir ghostwriter was born. 

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Between Wonder and Belief

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Get ready, this blog veers away from my usual writing tips and memoir ghostwriter dicussions to talk about something that’s, shall we say, “out there.” As a rule, I don’t believe in things. You know what I mean, things you can’t touch and see. I was raised by atheists. Most people I know, who were raised religiously, find it hard not to believe in something (whether that thing be a Christian God, past lives, astrology, or the Great Pumpkin). By the same token, I find it difficult to believe in anything. You can show me evidence of miraculous phenomena but I just can’t stir any deep feeling of belief in supernatural powers of any kind. I think it would be cool if such things existed, but I’d be lying if I said I believed in them. What I tend to settle on is hoping that if supernatural powers or God or angels or things-that-are-meant-to-be do exist, I sure hope they can do their thing without me believing in them, because otherwise, we’re going to be S.O.L. And really, whatever, if anything, is out there controlling the universe, it better be able to function independently, otherwise, by my estimation, it’s not a very powerful whatever-it-is. By the same token, I find religions that insist upon their followers fervently believing quite absurd. One can’t will oneself to believe. You either do or you don’t. It’s a naturally occuring thing. This makes Santa Fe a very weird place for me to live because everybody but everybody in Santa Fe believes in something.

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What’s Deeper than Happiness?

I’ve been reading Victor Frankl, a renowned psychiatrist, lately. As a man who survived a holocaust concentration camp, where his parents and wife died, he seems, to me, more philosopher than psychiatrist. To me, what Frankl has to say speaks to Americans in a big way.

He tells us that the pursuit of happiness isn’t what many of us think it is. Happiness is something that is fleeting, and measured by the degree of pleasure of the moment. That’s why pursuing “happiness” often makes people unhappy. What makes people truly happy is pursuing meaning in life and feeling that one’s life has a purpose.

So, when you see people under stress and pressure from their jobs and family lives, and they seem so “unhappy,” think again. These people might be unhappy in the moment, but if their stress comes from the diligent pursuit of a life filled with meaning, they are happier than any man or woman who avoids responsibility and simply lives for the pleasure of the moment.

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Does Anyone Want to Read Your Memoir?

man reading book in tall grass

Ouch! I just read an article online all about how people shouldn’t bother writing memoirs. The blogger’s admonitions against such a terrible endeavor read as follows: just because you did a bunch of interesting things in your life, just because you suffered, just because you saw great moments in history come and go, that’s no reason to think anyone else wants to hear about it.

She warned that publishers are only interested in memoirs by famous people. Naturally, I feel I must weigh in on the subject. First of all, I don’t disagree, exactly, I just think she is leaving out some important information. And, of course, I do feel very strongly that people should write memoirs–good ones.

Fact of the matter is, in order to attract a publisher’s attention, your book has to be damn good. I don’t care if it’s a memoir or a work of fiction. The book being a memoir isn’t going to make it bad or less than interesting, it’s just not going to be the selling point.

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Writing as the Opposite Gender

girl with pigtails beside VW bug

Recently I had a conversation with a writer who was writing from the perspective of the other gender, for the first time. He thought dialogue would be the most difficult aspect of that and asked me for some tips, so I thought I’d share the gist of the conversation with you guys.

In my work as a memoir ghostwriter, of course I have to write from a lot of different perspectives, so I write from a male perspective a lot. And, personally, I don’t think there is any particular trick to writing from the point of view of another gender. You just have to know the person really well, and then you’ll know what he or she would say.

I think the biggest mistake people make in situations like this is trying to make the point of view stereotypically “female.” If you’re worried about accidentally offending people, this is actually the best way to make sure you will offend them. After all, we’re all unique, and women can be tough and aggressive, and men can be soft and caring, and most people are a complex combination of the two. The main issue that might come into play, for me, in a situation where the author is writing from the perspective of either another gender, or a different culture, is in the book’s action.

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The Cute Cats Phenomenon

kitten sleeping

Back before the future arrived, people were predicting what the future would hold. That was back when George Jetson sped to work on a rocket each morning after his wife Judy operated the machine that made his pancakes and eggs. (Incidentally, the machine then fed the dog and washed the dishes all by itself. I … Read more

Humor Has its Place, Even with Sad Subject Matter

double image of woman screaming

I’ve had a number of calls lately about sad memoirs and stories of great internal struggle. A lot of people with these types of stories want to know if humor can be incorporated into a story of mourning or struggle against depression or even mental illness. The answer is yes, but carefully. Of course, I would never recommend writing a book that mocked someone in a state like that, even if you are mocking yourself. These issues are very serious and if you mock them, or mock yourself for succumbing to them, you basically look like a jerk. But humor in any type of writing is a part of the author’s voice more than any aspect of what he or she has to say.

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Write Knowing You May Have to Cut It

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A lot of people ask me about writer’s block, how I deal with it, and so forth. Honestly, I think the notion of a creative block is almost as romantic and fantastical as the romantic notion of “the writer’s life” I was writing about yesterday.

I mean, people get blocked in all kinds of endeavors, and usually that’s because they don’t know what their goal is, or they don’t know what steps to take to achieve it. Most blocks of any kind (I learned this while ghostwriting a time-management book) occur because you haven’t broken your task down into small enough chunks. Any daunting task is just a too-complex job. Make it into ten smaller jobs, listed in order, and then you’re facing something you can actually do. That’s true, but it’s also theory. So, let’s look at how this applies to creative work.

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Humor in Memoir Workshop

I recently conducted a workshop entitled “Humor in Memoir.” Originally, the workshop was actually called “Laugh and the World Laughs with You.”  I gave this workshop at the Association of Personal Historians annual conference in St. Louis, MO, last October.

This was an attempt to try to teach memoirists how to inject humor into their work. If you’ve read my ghostwriting site, you’ll know I use humor a lot in all the work I do, but when people ask me how I do it or what situations call for humor, sometimes I just shrug. It’s intuitive! But I wanted to answer that question once and for all and codify (if you will) writing with humor, so that people who just don’t have a natural knack for it can try to learn to do it.

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