Once upon a time, there was a species of creatures called trolls. They no longer limited themselves to bridges, but they now roamed a highway that was much larger: the Information Highway (more commonly known as the Internet). While they no longer made ridiculous demands to pass, they still maintained their destructive habit of mocking people, but in a more cowardly way. Instead of at least screaming insults through the slates of wooden bridges, where their faces were hidden but the voice was recognizable, they did it anonymously through the computer, where nothing was traceable. These trolls also did not target wandering travelers, but authors who shared their books to the world.
Once upon another time (a similar time, but not the same moment), there was a girl wandering the streets of New Orleans with her husband. The day was scorching hot. It was the kind of day that the girl heard described as “soup” from a man who frequented her bus route.
They were not in the best area of town. It was the kind of place that made the girl shrink from the shadows, even though she yearned for them because she burned faster than the cookies she always attempted (and failed) to make. Yet again, the girl shrank from the shadows on her bedroom wall at night. They were usually made from an abandoned stuffed animal from her childhood.
Yet she continued, because they were going to see his house. She was his biggest fan, and she would risk discomfort to stand before it. They stopped in front of the decaying house–not the mansion she imagined it–and she stood in awe. She did not care that it clearly needed a lot of paint and work. It was his.
A man saw they were staring at the house and said, ” Are you looking at Tennessee Williams’ place?” Yes, yes she was. She quickly nodded her head. “I am the maintenance guy. I would be happy to show you the courtyard.”
The girl hesitated. He looked kind of scruffy and he was a stranger. She glanced at his car. It had an honor roll bumper sticker on the fender. He seemed like a safe bet. She nodded.
She and her husband followed the man into the courtyard. It wasn’t anything special. The trees were pretty and the pool was inviting, but the bike in the courtyard looked a little bent and the stones would generously be described as dusty.
“Just think. You can tell all your friends that you walked where Tennessee Williams walked.” The girl smiled. She no longer noticed his straggly hair or his ragged jeans. “Just think. You can tell all your friends that you walked where Tennessee Williams walked.” The girl smiled. She no longer noticed his straggly hair or his ragged jeans. He was a stranger whose kindness she depended on. He invited her into what she considered hallowed literary ground. He gave her a peek into the life of her favorite author. He was beautiful.
So you probably wonder how these two tales link. What do trolls have to do with New Orleans? You can let the fear of trolls stop you from writing. Your fear of a one-star review can prevent your hands from ever landing on your keyboard or picking up your pen.
But that would be a shame.
Because that means, decades after your death, you will not have a young woman take a pilgrimage to your house because your words have changed her life. You will not create a connection between two strangers from completely different worlds because they both love your work. You will not give someone a chance to perform a random act of kindness.
I don’t know about you, but I think it is worth risking a bit of anonymous nonsense for that.