Thursday, September 18, 2014

A tribute to Stealth Authors and Artists


 A geocache we discovered. A perfect example of anonymous generosity, in the spirit of stealth gardeners, writers and artists. 

I visited Great Britain when I was a University student. It was a holiday with my parents, and we visited a countless number of breathtaking churches and cathedrals. The abundance of stone craft and marble work amazed us. There were Biblical heroes with finely-honed facial expressions, and anatomical details, such as veins and Adam's apples, which we would never have imagined could be chipped into stone. A little creepier were the models on top of tombs and crypts of the people who lay beneath; kings, queens and statesmen staring up at us. What intrigued me most was the incredibly high quality of these works of art.

We all associate the Statue of David with its creator, Michelangelo, to the extent that both names are paired together instantly all around the world. But these long ago British craftsmen, whose work had just as much of a Wow factor for me, remain anonymous. If we looked closely enough, we might have seen tiny initials etched into the clay or stone, but just as often we couldn't. It would seem the artists were working solely for love of it, and to bring God glory. It was simply their calling. Being unacknowledged didn't seem to enter their heads or detract from the standard of their work.

I wondered whether writers would be equally happy to remain unnoticed, for even the most self-effacing author knows that his name will appear on the cover of his book, along with the title. Since I asked myself that question, excellent modern authors, who don't mind reminding anonymous, have been drawn to my attention everywhere.

My husband is a musician trying to build a repertoire of old songs, as he plays for senior citizens in nursing homes. He and I have been listening to the free Pandora radio station on our Ipad, especially interested to read the histories of the bands and solo artists who are being highlighted. There are pages and pages of well-written information, including great descriptions, fantastic imagery and impeccable research. Yet the authors don't sign their names. They make me think of the thousands of people who spend painstaking hours editing information on Wikipedia, not to earn a name for themselves but because they are passionate about the topics.

You might have heard about Stealth Gardeners. Their hobby is also known as Guerilla gardening. They creep out at night and beautify ugly patches of land and other eyesores, at the risk of being arrested for trespassing. Personally, I'd welcome them anytime they wanted to visit my place. I guess the Wiki editors and other people who write content for websites may consider themselves Stealth Writers. 

I find these people such an encouraging example. When we're working at fulfilling our calling, there is no rule that says we always need our name connected to it? If that's necessary, we may be working in the wrong spirit. Those of us who have written books and articles may consider their anonymous examples. Some of our work, although not completely secret, may be more hidden, such as blog posts that disappear into cyberspace and book reviews which join hundreds of others. If we're tempted to skimp and not put as much TLC into these things as we do for our more visible work, perhaps we should consider our motivations. Even our smaller bursts of writing may be little geocaches, which may be discovered by anyone at any time.


I take my hat off to big-hearted people everywhere, who are simply committed to making the world a more beautiful place through their passions, even if it's anonymously. Just below is a photo taken last week at the beach. The work of art sitting beside me is a good example of what I'm talking about. Although the plaque is there near my feet, who bothers to stop and read plaques? Not me apparently, for I cannot tell you the name of the fun artist, but I enjoyed his (or her) input.


Paula Vince is a South Australian author of contemporary, inspirational fiction. She lives in the beautiful Adelaide Hills, with its four distinct seasons, and loves to use her environment as settings for her stories. Her novel, 'Picking up the Pieces' won the religious fiction section of the International Book Awards in 2011, and 'Best Forgotten' was winner of the CALEB prize the same year. She is also one of the four authors of 'The Greenfield Legacy', Australia's first and only collaborated Christian novel. Her most recent novel, 'Imogen's Chance' was published April 2014. For more of Paula's reflections, please visit her blog, It Just Occurred to Me. You may also like to visit her book review blog, The Vince Review where she also interviews other authors.


19 comments:

  1. Thanks for another thought-provoking post Paula. I've been thinking about this a bit lately as we've started our own writing and editing business. From a business point of view, it's important to get a byline so that you have examples to show potential editors and publishers (e.g. your name on a magazine article or biography). As it's a business, paying jobs are also important.

    However, as I've been doing more research in the area lately, I've come across hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles that don't have bylines and are written by staff writers. There might be a list of contributors, but they're not always tied to specific articles. Then there's the whole area of ghostwriting. Sometimes you'll see books that have the name of the famous person in big letters, with a smaller "with Joe Bloggs" at the bottom, so you know Joe had a lot to do with writing the book (Joe may have even written the whole book). But some ghostwriters don't appear at all and they have to sign contracts to say they won't reveal that they wrote it. It raises a lot of issues. Not being concerned about taking the glory for ourselves is admirable, but to me some of those biographies are being dishonest in giving the impression that they were written by one person when they weren't. I guess they may have had a lot of other input though, such as interviews, providing documents and photos etc, but they're still presenting themselves as if they wrote it. Lots to think through.

    Sorry I've gone off on a bit of a tangent there. I think what you say is really true. There are lots of people faithfully plugging away, fulfilling God's call on their lives without expecting rewards. Thanks for prompting me to think about this again Paula. When we get to heaven, it will be great to see all those unsung heroes getting their rewards for their faithfulness.

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    1. Hi Nola,
      Ghost writing is an interesting case, and I can see how it could get murky. I agree that the dishonesty issue does seem to cross a line, in many cases. It seems sad when people aren't acknowledged at all for doing what may seem the lion's share of the work. Maybe a good subject for another blog post.

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    2. Thanks for the suggestion Paula. I'll have to look into it a bit more. Would be interesting.

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  2. Thanks, Paula. There are so many unsung people in this world, doing lovely things we will never hear about in this life at least. I often feel a bit bad when I speak somewhere that I am the one up front people are paying attention to when there are others slaving in the kitchen who have already spent hours planning and setting up for the particular event. And my name is all over my books that I sell later--it is so easy to get an inflated opinion of oneself!

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    1. Hi Jo-Anne,
      I've sometimes had a similar if I've stayed around long enough to watch all the credits roll past after watching a movie. There are so many more hardworking people involved than just the actors and producers. It's amazing how many there are.

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  3. I try to make the statement, 'Bloom where you are planted' my watchword, although it's something I find hard to do.

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    1. It sure is, Lynne. Another phrase I can think of is 'Audience of One' which is also challenging.

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  4. Wonderful Paula, thank you so much!!! A great message from selflessness and humility.

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    1. Hi Rachel, it is good to be able to acknowledge these people, even though we don't know their names.

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  5. Interesting piece, Paula. You're right about all those marvelous works of art in Cathedrals all over England, and we will never know the artist. I guess I might have to check my motives - marketing the author name has become part and parcel of what we do these days. After all, I have to get someone to read it. I've heard in lectures a number of times that the word is not just about the writer, but about the reader. Without the reader, writing is really nothing but self expression. It needs the reader to read, absorb, interpret and process it for it to actually become something.

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    1. Hi Meredith, it is a challenge indeed, in these days when we are encouraged by so many sources to make a name or 'brand' for ourselves. I agree with about readers being our real heroes. They seem to be a dying breed in these days of technology and I appreciate each and every one of them.

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  6. Excellent post Paula. Love the way you think. Thank you for bringing all the stealth creators to mind. It's only after I read your blog that I realised how many of them abound in our world. Makes me ask a lot of questions of myself too. The world pays tribute to those in the limelight and yet - it is made of sacrifice, hard work and work done by many many unknown people who make the world a better place. I will keep my mind and heart and emotions open now to stealth creators - and may all of us writers join in!

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    1. Hi Anusha, I wonder if several famous celebrities will have to line up behind these stealth people who are being told, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.' There are so many of them.

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  7. Totally enjoyed your post Paula
    We have some local stealth gardeners. I only remarked on the weekend how beautiful the flowers are near our local supermarket, thanks to these kind people.
    You have given me a lot to think about....the reason I love to read the posts on this blog xx

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    1. Hi Di, that is fantastic. Are they still anonymous or do people have some idea who they may be? Bless their generous hearts.

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  8. I think you've said it all, Paula. One thing to remember, God sees and records all these things, especially in the Christian sphere where we often fall into the trap of doing it for self-glory instead of bringing honour and glory to God.

    A ghost writer really has to write as if getting into the mind of the person who the story is about... a big challenge. I hope they earn a decent amount.

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    1. Hi Rita, yes, the amount of mental and physical work required of ghost writers must be enormous. It makes me wonder even more at their willingness to receive no credit.

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  9. Lovely post and as Rita said isn't it great that God knows even if other people don't what a person has done.

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  10. Hi Dale,
    That's a great thought to encourage us, and He even knows our hidden motivations (which may be a little more daunting, when you think about it :))

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