Tomorrow is the traditional date of Imbolc. Imbolc is an old European festival traditionally celebrated February 2nd. In Catholic tradition this date is known as Candlemas, and is sacred to Saint Brigid. In popular culture it has come down to us as Groundhog’s Day. This holiday marks the first stirring of the seeds, deep within the womb of earth. Nature is beginning to wake up. The days are visibly longer. There is a sense of freshness in the air, and a feeling of possibility. Imbolc is the traditional time to set new intentions and begin new projects for the coming year.
I celebrate Imbolc by setting my intention for the coming year. I actually write my intention on a little slip of paper, roll the paper into a ball, and plant it in a pot that I have decorated myself. I also plant a real seed in the pot too, and boy do I take care of that seed and make sure it grows and blooms.
This year my intention is to take a yearlong sabbatical from ghostwriting in order to write my “own stuff.” It feels very scary to write that and put it out there.
I’ve been a ghostwriter for 17 years now. It’s been a wild wonderful ride filled with the most amazing stories. I was privileged to hear them first and help get them out into the world.
I’ve blogged before about the joys of ghostwriting and how much it has given me. I’ve been fairly successful. I’ve been involved – mostly as a ghostwriter, sometimes as a content editor – in nearly 50 books in those 17 years. I finished the last one just last month.
But there are some downsides to ghostwriting. The biggest one is that I’ve been so busy writing other people’s stories that I’ve neglected my own. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t written my own books – I have. Over ten of them, in fact – fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Nearly all of them published before 2010.
But for the last five years or so, as my ghostwriting business has grown, my own work has languished in drawers or my laptop file folders. I had and have plenty of great ideas, and have worked on most of them sporadically, some more than others. Over time, this list of “almost finished” and “just starting” books has grown. Right now I have thirteen books in various stages of completion. Some are just notes and plans, others are halfway done, a few are mostly done, and one is completely done but is just sitting there in my files waiting for me to submit it for publication.
As the time has gone by, guess what else happened? I got older! I started to fear that if I didn’t get moving on my works-in-progress, I would die before those wonderful ideas could be born.
Battling with this fear of never getting around to my own work was the fear of stopping ghostwriting altogether. On the most practical level, what if I ran out of money or ideas, what if I never get another ghostwriting job? What if the “book biz” people I know stop referring potential clients to me? What if the reputation I worked so hard to build will go down the drain? Most importantly, I love ghostwriting! I don’t want to never ghostwrite again.
I was moaning about this battle of fears to a friend of mine, when she said something wise. “You don’t have to quit ghostwriting – why not take a sabbatical instead?”
Ah, the power of words. Sabbatical sounds so much less threatening than quitting. I could write my guts out this year on the thirteen book ideas, and perhaps I might finish one or two of them. Then I could make another decision. It’s not all or nothing!
So as 2015 was ending and I was finishing up my ghostwriting projects, I started refusing new ones. That was so hard! I am such a sucker for good stories. Have you ever noticed that when you make a bold declaration of intent, suddenly offers or situations arise that challenge that intent? Almost like the mysterious Universe is saying, “Oh yeah? Do you really mean it?”
Nevertheless, my plan for 2016 is this: I am taking a sabbatical from ghostwriting for one year. In the months to come I’ll let you know how it’s going, and perhaps even give glimpses into those thirteen wonderful ideas that are itching to be born.
I hope the Universe will wait until 2017 to tantalize me with new ghostwriting opportunities. Are you listening, Universe?