“This is a hard letter for me to write”

The way i see it is, when it comes to the written word, there are basically two kinds of people in the world.  The most common kind of person is an editor.  You give them a page with a bunch of words on it and they read the words, tweak the words, tighten the meaning and the page gets better.

floating typewritersI am the other kind.  I am a blank page kind of a guy.  I depend on editors, not just because of my horrific spelling and grammar, but because i am sloppy and often other people need to make sure i am not making errors of fact or telling stories too far removed from reality.  And while i also do a fair amount of editing, the place i excel is when someone is starting with nothing and needs a document to get somewhere.

Thus i do a lot of ghost writing for other people, especially in the context of the community.  Twin Oaks requires written communication from visitors, long term guests and people who have run afoul of our occasionally labyrinth policies.  Many people i talk with don’t even know how to start these letters.  This is where i come in.

ghostwriter.pngTypically, i can get someone to explain their situation to me at a meal, ask a handful of questions and craft a draft response to the community which they are very relieved to have as a starting point.  Perhaps 25% of the time they can use my letter with only trivial modifications (like the above mentioned problematic grammar and spelling).   Universally, people are appreciative for the help.

Someone might be upset by this, feeling it is somehow cheating and people should write their own letters.  Nonsense i say.  The power of community is that we help each other by sharing our diverse skill sets.  I can’t cook worth a damn and will go nuts if i have to garden.   But i need these things to survive.   And while survival is not on the line with my ghost writing, i see it as part of our great skill share.

I’ll take care of you, you take care of me.

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

15 responses to ““This is a hard letter for me to write””

  1. keenantwinoaks says :

    It’s nice that you’re consistent; often your blog entries are ghost-written by Willow and other friendly hackers into your Facebook page. I have come to read your more…ummm….”engaging” entries with care, since I never know who the actual author is.

  2. Kenna J says :

    It’s like being a lawyer. Maybe you’re the community lawyer.

  3. dh says :

    Did you write the letter for the kid who burned down Heartwood?

    • paxus says :

      Nope. But only because he did not ask for help and did not seem to need it. If he had i would have helped him.

      Sadly, i don’t share your prescience.

      • dh says :

        I think you’re confusing prescience with an ability to learn from mistakes. Perhaps the Nick Secret example is a bit hyperbolic, but there is after all a band named Pax’s Guest.

        I think it is disingenuous and inappropriate for you; a propagandist, and marketer to ghost-write any official correspondence from visitors or guests. Sadly the army of editors that you’ve got under your wing on here, aren’t around to fact or spell check the letters you’re writing to convince your cohabitants that this character you’ve just eaten dinner with is trustworthy enough to place unattended inside a vacationing members personal bedroom.

      • paxus says :

        Well, the question you asked was exactly the hyperbolic one. There are a collection of members currently in good standing who i have ghost written for. We can talk about them in person and you can tell me which you wish i had not helped, if you like.

  4. Mattie says :

    Reminds me of the movie “Her” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1798709/

  5. Ghost commenter says :

    Helping each other out is great. The upsetting part is if people don’t know you did the ghost writing. We want to know who wrote what we’re reading.

  6. Kenna J says :

    Pax, I didn’t think that was an insult. I deal with lawyers quite a lot these days, and that’s exactly what they do for me. I tell them what I want to accomplish, and they tell me what to write.

    For some reason, I don’t get notified when you reply to me, but I do get notified when some other reader leaves a comment. I wouldn’t have known you had replied except for that I got a notification that Mattie had commented. No mention of dh.

  7. dbmamaz says :

    actually, what it reminds me of is an article I read about people who write essays for money. They write college papers, even theses and dissertations. I remember there being 2 main classes of clients (maybe these are just the ones i remember though). The first was wealthy kids who basically were learning that they paid people to do things for them so they could get ahead, and this was going to continue to be how they ran their lives. the other group was foreign grad students who did great research but were really not literate at all in english. So at least in this case, the client had the knowledge and the research.

    anyways, sort of interesting how ‘jobs’ resurface different places

    • paxus says :

      It does perhaps feel like the second case (i dont ever get paid for ghost writing). Some of it is helping people get their stories into language that the communities understand. Often it is about how much they need to tell the community about difficult events in their lives – balancing their privacy with the communities desire for transparency.

      • dbmamaz says :

        yes, that makes sense. I wasnt trying to imply any sort of power relationship or profit motive

      • paxus says :

        i believe you.

        And i think the differences are as important as the similarities. Unlike the international student, there is no good guide you can study to understand the culture well enough to write the letter you want, which is also the letter we want. So it is a bit unfair for us, especially when the circumstances have to be described which are painful to the teller to recount and painful to describe.

        They can tell me the story, i will draft it in the appropriate level of detail, they can then sign off on it and be done.

        Just because you want to live here, does not mean our policies and communication requirements should be torment you about the revealed details.

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