Confessions of a Ghost Editor

ghost editorFor four weeks, I had to pretend to be someone else. I messed up once, signing my own name to an e-mail. I concocted an excuse for the mistake, and didn’t sign an e-mail after that.

The person who sends me most of my work was out of the country, without her computer. She didn’t want our projects to lag during her absence, so she asked me to deliver work via her account. I didn’t really mind.

I am a ghost editor. I am not anonymous, because I don’t exist—even namelessly. Rather, my work is presented as someone else’s. As I temporarily assumed this person’s identity, I couldn’t help but wonder: How important is it to get credit for what we do?

This question strikes me as one the ego would ask, as well as rush to answer. Naturally, the part of us concerned with accomplishing something demonstrable in the world desires to be openly acknowledged. Or at least not to have its being negated.

It’s not my business why someone would allow a client to think she did work she didn’t. What is my business is why I have remained contentedly in the shadows for so many years, not developing my own reputation—a name for myself, based on merit and achievement.

In Shakespeare’s Othello, Cassio laments the loss of his good name: “Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial.” I think I disagree.

Reputation is the estimation of others. But the “immortal part of us” is beyond estimation. So reputation must be associated with the “bestial” aspect of our nature—our body, acting upon the earth.

The immortal part of me doesn’t care about seeing its name in the acknowledgments.

Not that it has a name.

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