Ghosts hover between any writer and their stories, their poems, their essays, their screenplays, their theses, their plays, even their journal pages. I’ve never met a writer who wasn’t haunted. The ghosts may never go away, but to meet and name them is the first step in no longer being ruled by their presence.
The ghosts can be a person, a judgement, an invasion of your private words, an expectation, a prediction. The ghosts anyone or anything that moved in between you and your writing. Most of our ghosts come from our childhoods – the parent with whom you could never get it right; a mean teacher; an older brother or sister who was the shining star; the parent who read your private diary; the English instructor who read your writing to the class as an example of how not to write; the family in which secrets were never told; the parent who meddled in not just your writing, but your hopes for your writing.
Later in life, the ghosts surround us, seemingly not the childhood hauntings, but responses to our writing: the editor who loses the manuscript, the seemingly endless array of rejection letters, the agents and editors who, buried under impossible workloads, take a year to get back to the writer, the agent who writes a personal rejection, saying “Your writing is beautiful, but I can’t sell it in today’s market.” Still, our more contemporary ghosts are only echoes of the whispered messages of our childhoods.
I hope by now that you have a place you can be alone and in quiet. Call it shelter. Call it sanctuary. Call it your true workplace. Take an hour to go there. If it helps to set a timer, set it for twenty minutes. Close your eyes. Let your imagination drift into your first meeting with your ghosts. At first you may find nothing. Then, perhaps a shape will begin to form. Be patient. When the ghost’s outline is recognizable, introduce yourself. I don’t know what will come next for you. There may be one ghost or many. You will find out.
When the meeting time is up, begin to write immediately. As always with this kind of work, let the words flow with no interruption or correction. Write the encounter for the rest of your private hour. I would love to learn what you learn. You can reach me on this site’s contact page.
Share on Your Social Media