I was speaking with a literary agent for the Christian writing industry about some of my favorite authors, and at some point she says, “Yes, her writing style is really easy to imitate, it’s easier for her publisher.”
I ask, “How do you mean?”
She says, “Oh, she hires someone who copies her style and writes her books. She doesn’t have time to write her own. You didn’t know? Tons of authors do this, those big celebrity preachers just pay someone to ghost-write.”
I was seriously crushed. Before I could ask her to stop, she began dropping names. Each one hurt me a little more than the last. I won’t share them here. Maybe it would’ve been better if the names weren’t of Christians that I looked up to, but some of my heroes were slapped down from their pedestals.
I feel this might be just as bad as plagiarism. I’m trying to imagine Tolstoy or Picasso or Mozart or Augustine becoming too busy to create their own work because of publicity tours and mega-conferences.
I also think about the amazing bloggers and artists and dancers and painters, whom no one has ever heard of, pouring hours of their soul into perfecting their craft and marketing their art and shaping each movement, and the years they would spend in anonymity but continuing to share their hearts in their corner of the world.
I think of unsung heroes who don’t have big platforms but persevere in writing and speaking about justice and faith and politics and life, from their very own pen, with no one telling them to make it easier or palatable or more mainstream.
I don’t mean to demonize the “celebrity Christians.” It’s a whole different level of responsibility. To have influence is humbling. Yet it’s so easy to get trapped into speaking impactful things without first being impacted; it’s easy to talk about justice without living justly; it’s easy to ask others what we’re first not doing ourselves. And if there’s ever a time I’m about to sell out or go cheap or think I’m too big for myself, I would hope someone would confront me painfully and lovingly with the force of a ten ton freight train, because we each have blind spots of our own that need grace and surgical rebuke.
I have to gut-check myself, because maybe we’re all just as capable of selling out. I’m not any better than “them.”
To those who speak from the heart, in their own words, with no fear: you’re doing a good thing. Here’s to humility, integrity, honesty.