Viramo talks about his professional life as a writer.
The Bible may have been written by a ghostwriter – it doesn’t matter, it has the message – and whosoever the writer was, he must have been enlightened, otherwise he could not have written such a beautiful parable. HE was Jesus.
Osho, The Secret of Secrets, Chapter 16
While I don’t claim to be enlightened, and I’m no Jesus Christ, I do claim the job title of Ghostwriter. Now in my Golden Years, I seek not to retire but to inspire. I have been in the writing game for most of my life, and Existence has led me on an exciting and unpredictable path, landing me in this unique literary genre: ghostwriter.
Yes, I will write you a beautiful parable; I will help you create a book that will make the spheres to dance! (Thanks, Rumi). I will edit and polish and elevate your ragged manuscript. I will guide you through the mysteries of self-publishing. As your ghostwriter, I step into your shoes, rattle your memories, plumb your consciousness, channel your thoughts and feelings, and help you produce a literary masterpiece.
My most recent ghostwriting gig was the just-completed book on Osho’s most outrageous, most successful publicity stunt, 93 Rolls-Royces. For this project I spent hours interviewing the author of record, Deva Peter, rewriting transcriptions of other interviews conducted by his wife, and filling in details based on my own experiences as a sannyasin. Because Deva Peter spent many intimate moments with the master, he has some great stories to tell. He not only painted many of the Rolls-Royces, in consultation with the master, he also taught Osho how to drive a speedboat. Thus I needed to know the tiniest of details: What was Osho wearing? Did he drive a Rolls to the lake? Which model? What did his room look like? How did it feel being in his presence, up close and personal?
Ghostwriters are usually anonymous and get little or no credit – except money – for their work. No problem. The real job description should be ghostwriter-editor plus proofreader plus writing coach plus wet nurse. Ghostwriters deal with the most intimate details of the client’s life. Ghostwriters must be open-hearted, discreet, loving, non-judgmental.
Of course ghostwriting isn’t just about memoirs. I also do fiction, how-to books, personal growth epics, virtually anything. Recently I was ghostwriter-editor for a very detailed fantasy book, The Scarlet King; ghostwriter for the life story and professional career of a famous chef; ghostwriter for a self-help book about the power of intention, based on years of moldy notes and vague recollections. I gave this book its title: It’s Your Movie!
Over a lifelong literary career, I have also been a writer on innumerable subjects, a book and magazine editor, newspaper reporter and columnist, photojournalist, investigative reporter, novelist, feature writer, and publicist. Actually, I have been a writer for as long as I can remember.
My journey as a writer often seemed similar to that of Mojud, the Man with the Inexplicable Life, the beautiful Sufi story told by Osho in Wisdom of the Sands. Mojud’s story is one of absolute trust and a longing to live dangerously. Mojud had Khidr, the mysterious guide of the Sufis, who often whispered in his ear. I had luck, serendipity, and trust in the path laid out by Existence. Also strong survival needs.
Faintly I can remember showing some writing talent as a little kid in school, maybe seven or eight years old, and my mother taking credit for my gifts. “He takes after me,” she often claimed. Parents tend to do that. Nature or nurture? DNA or environmental influences?
“Man of bright prospects!” Khidr addresses Mojud one day, before leading him into his inexplicable life. I always felt my ability to write was a gift, although Osho often talks about the tabula rasa, an infant’s mind as a blank slate.
My Life as a Writer
At age sixteen I was a sports reporter, covering baseball games for our local team. At age eighteen I got a job as a copy boy for Nebraska’s largest newspaper, the Omaha World-Herald, and when a night reporter fell ill, I found myself holding a side job as weekend police reporter, feature writer, and high school football reporter. My first paid job as a writer.
Soon, I was chief feature writer and gossip columnist for the Ralston Recorder, my hometown newspaper, at age nineteen. Life in tiny, bigoted, all-white Ralston grew tiresome, so I left home and headed for the big city. It was a tossup between the East Coast and the West Coast. I had dreams of working for the New York Times someday, but I opted for the security of Los Angeles – family and contacts, et al. There were four daily newspapers there in the late Fifties, but no job offers for a hotshot young reporter. So I took a succession of uncreative jobs to pay the rent and eat three squares a day. Finally I gave it all up and became a homeless beatnik, living by my wits, writing poetry on napkins in coffee houses, and hanging with for-real beats in the creative hothouse of Venice, California.
Fast-forward a few years to a picturesque scene in a fashionable Brentwood (L.A.) neighborhood. I have married into a wealthy family and gone to work for Daddy’s firm. Soon I discover the joys of drinking and writing. The booze fuels my new career as a short story writer. I manage to crank out at least one story a day, which I sell to American and European “men’s” magazines. But I escape this woeful existence and take a job as a copywriter for a big-time advertising agency. One thing leads to another. I go with the flow, taking a job with a public relations firm. Soon I am knocking out press releases for financial clients, and dreaming up promotions to bring customers into banks.
Somehow, accidentally, I find myself as managing editor of a publishing company that produces magazines on racing cars and so-called “hot rods.” I don’t know much about cars, but the mags’ writers are borderline illiterate – so I meet my first ghostwriting challenge. My job is to make sense of (and rewrite) their scribblings on drag racing, souped-up sedans, and “funny cars.” When times get tough for this publishing house, debts mounting up, the owner takes on a sideline for extra income – producing “girlie” magazines. These are innocent days, and our magazines – sample title, Pixie – only show bare breasts of the young models. My job is to write short (fake) biographies of these girlies, and also to create short stories and articles of interest to manly men.
Once again, one thing leads to another. Through a girlie photographer, I discover the world of “nudie” movies – clumsy softcore films with modest sex scenes. I partner with the photographer, and soon I am head of a publishing empire that produces more than a dozen magazine titles based on these movies. I make a lot of money. I produce an ill-fated softcore movie called Beaverella. I have enough money left over to buy myself more than two years living in a medieval village in the South of France. While there I write and sell two pulp fiction novels, plus several articles about the good life on the glamorous French Riviera. One day the French authorities bust me for customs and tax violations. They take my Volkswagen bus and most of my possessions. I return to America. My money is gone. For years I eke out a living freelancing articles for those so-called “men’s” magazines.
A Sannyasin in the World
My life can be neatly divided into two parts: Before Osho, and now, with Osho. It’s springtime, late Seventies. An ex-wife turns me on to Dynamic Meditation. In the first two minutes my whole world is transformed. I scrape together enough money to make it to Pune.
When Osho gives me sannyas in 1979, he tells me, “You have been straining too hard. You have been trying to prove something to yourself and to the world unnecessarily. We are not here to prove anything. We are here to live, to love, to dance and to sing.” And near the end of his message, he says, “So whether they give you a Nobel Prize or they crucify you, it is all the same!”
Back in America, as a sannyasin in the world, my fortunes quickly change. I take a series of temp jobs as a typist and somehow land at Ashton-Tate, a major software company. From typist I take a jump to feature writer in the PR department, software documentation writer, and soon after as managing editor of the company’s burgeoning book division.
It’s 1983, and the master is calling from Rajneeshpuram. I leave the lucrative book editor job, give up my stock options, and move to the Ranch. No writing jobs there for me! But in Pune Two I write and edit for the Rajneesh Times and also edit Osho’s books. Back in Los Angeles, I magically transform myself into a freelance legal secretary, writing in legalese for the first time. But soon … enough of the big city! My wife Deva Liberty and I move to Sedona, where Kaveesha’s branch of Osho’s Mystery School has also landed. We start up an advertising and public relations firm, creating clever campaigns for a variety of clients. On the side, I write articles for tourist magazines and find new thrills as an investigative reporter for local newspapers. I write a controversial column called “Rim Shots” for one paper, and produce feature articles on art and entertainment for another.
Life is good. Writing doesn’t always come easy for me, but now I am in the flow. I write two science-fiction novels, both self-published. The first, I Married a Psychic, is acquired by an old, established sci-fi house, Wildside Press. The second, The Alien Manifesto, languishes on Amazon, Kindle (as an e-book) and on Smashwords.com.
I create a website and a blog, and run an ad in local papers: ghostwriter-editor for hire. It’s an experiment that works: business floods in. Out of these platforms I find myself editing books and ghostwriting for several clients.
The Golden Years. I write poetry, meditate, exercise, listen to Osho. Two blogs sharpen my writing chops. Ghostwriting? See 93 Rolls Royces. I could be traveling, scurrying about, visiting sannyasin hotspots, climbing mountains … but no. There is nothing to prove, nowhere to go. Simply relaxing, watching the grass grow. Osho told me, back in Pune One:
Once you forget proving, great relaxation happens. Your whole being comes loose. The stiffness, the hardness disappears; the ice starts melting. You become flowing. That is the meaning of viramo, and that has to become your lifestyle now.”
Osho, October 9, 1979
Today I am a ghostwriter, loose and relaxed and open for new business. If I can help you with your literary project, please visit my website: marvlincoln.com. You can also email me at marv (at) vortex23.com
Text by Viramo – photos by Anugito (except Book signing and archive photos)