Language takes chaos and brings it into form. It articulates that which is vague and in the mind, and aligns the chaotic thought form into a state that can be understood. When words are not pinned to things and they are unknown, life is chaotic and very quickly becomes ‘scary’. Nobody is free of this conundrum. It is part of our condition. But when words are attributed to objects, states of being and situations, alignment is brought forth and – as if the chaos that was ruling the psyche has now been alchemised—order is formed. We have Aha! and the Now I understand! moments of realisation. When something is not named, and exists in the unknown realm, the mind leads itself into disarray, because the imagination (having seen so many things) while inside this chaotic, unknown and scary state projects what become monsters onto what it sees. It grabs content from its visual archive and pins it onto a blank canvas.
People can spend years, decades, indeed their entire lives in these chaotic, unstable states of being, and a person lives in angst. If luck permits, such a person can catch a glimpse of order, and the opportunity to exit the chaos reveals itself. That would be the time to go for it! This is the time to start writing! Suddenly the inspiration to order what can now be observed as chaotic becomes necessary – but not everyone has the time, know how or linguistic intelligence to write an entire book. Furthermore, the concept of doing it well and doing it right and doing it justice is too pressurising. The relationship between ghostwriter and subject is alchemical. It brings order out of chaos.
The naming of something that has energetic potential makes it become something. It brings it out of the ether (the unconscious) and brings it into formation (the conscious). It brings it in–formation (information). Suddenly, as if a chemical reaction has taken place, something has become realised, known, identified and understood.
When an entire life story is archived, the lessons of life can be contextualised and accepted, and measures can be implemented to avoid the perpetuation of the chaos. In her book No Go the Bogeyman, Marina Warner shows how the bogeymen unfold with purpose – and how we conjure them into form through lack of reason; like in Terry Pratchett’s comic fantasy series Discworld where the monster appears as an anthropomorphic personification of a child’s fears. As a form of therapy, therefore, bringing life story and everything that has been ‘so chaotic’ into linear chronological formation is the process of appeasing the monster – of facing our fears – and as Jung would have said of it, ‘integrating the shadow’. The ghostwriter helps the subject face their fears by ordering their story into chapters.
Being specific and trying to be descriptive with precision as a writer is therefore mutual to our understanding something and the process therefore of ghostwriting life story is more than just telling a good tale; it exists in helping bring order back to a person’s imbalanced life. ‘The un-name-able is far more terrifying than the nameable,’ said Jordan Peterson, as the mind will recruit that which it can imagine and then place that onto the ‘other’ that it is observing. With this, we can get ourselves into some funny old states – drive ourselves mad in fact, and ‘we can put monsters everywhere,’ as he says on The Rubin Report, ‘if you can’t name it, you’re telling yourself that you’re so terrified that you can’t bring your attention to bear on it,’ and this is why I have great respect for a person who engages a writer to ghost their life story. And it works: for the relationship between ghostwriter and subject won’t allow for a dynamic where the person avoids facing their shadow, as the ghostwriter has a responsibility to draw out of their subject all of the life story that they have been repressing. ‘This bit isn’t important,’ a person might tell a ghostwriter, but that may not be the case whatsoever. Remember, the chaos has won if you can’t face it.
Lajos Egri in his great work The Art Of Dramatic Writing challenges Aristotle’s assertion that character is secondary to plot and explains how well understood characters will in fact drive plot. Acknowledging therefore, that knowing your character is essential to the comprehension of a story, a ghostwriter is responsible for being curious and educated in the fields of psychology, must understand the multidimensional nature of the human condition and must be able to assume the position of non-judgement while they sort a subject’s journals, interview transcriptions and letters in order to give the life story form.
In conclusion, there is nothing scarier than that which is unspeakable (and imagined) and not only is it therefore important for people to exercise their imaginations onto the page – it is dangerous if they don’t; especially if their nature is creative. To not write and to not name and to not articulate that which is either real or imagined is not only an assault on the intellect, and degrading to it, but it is an assault on whatever role consciousness is playing in our being. To write therefore is a duty and an act of and for the good of this world, for as Kafka wrote in a letter to his closest friend Max Brod in 1922, two years prior his death, ‘A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity’; the perfect quote to reference considering Brod was in many ways Kafka’s ghost.
Kafka, in his dying words, requested that Brod destroy his unpublished works, but instead he did the opposite; he took Kafka’s novels and diaries, and brought them all into form and in doing so – he archived them in our record by saving them from the Nazis. History has subsequently considered Brod to be Kafka’s biographer because amidst the chaos of war, Brod fled Prague in 1939 with a suitcase of papers and went to Palestine. It was there that he brought it all together – into order, and as Brod published the writings he now held, Kafka’s works gathered wider and greater praise.
Like any healthy relationship, something creative that is both tangible and useful needs to emerge from it. When the ghostwriter gives order to the chaotic story, the book is the tangible material asset that is brought forth – like the lotus that cultivates through its struggle and rises to the surface unsoiled by ‘mud and water’. A thing has appeared – a book – and what was once just a ball of potential has now become something definite that will last forever. Order out of chaos – it is the relationship that cultivates form.