The fear of looking ridiculous or incompetent prevents many people from putting their creative abilities on display. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)

The fear of looking ridiculous or incompetent prevents many people from putting their creative abilities on display. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)

I Went To The Woods: Fear of the single star

There are good leaps and there are dumb ones.

By Jeff Lund

I was reading through the posts in an author’s forum and an author asked how to delete negative comments on an Amazon review. The answer, of course, was that it was impossible. Another asked whether she should respond to a critic with an explanation as to why her protagonist did, in fact, make sense.

I laughed a bit to myself not only at the absurdity of both inquiries, but because as a writer with a book coming out this spring, I will most likely pay the most attention to the worst feedback or the fewest stars and wish I could do the same.

It’s stupid, I know. Since, what, elementary school we have been told to not pay attention to the people who are using “I just tell it like it is” as an excuse to be mean, or people who don’t know any better making negative comments. We know, I know, that the focus should go to the good, or the constructive feedback and we shouldn’t take it all personal.

There is always someone out there who likes to hide behind usernames and lob their anger or meanness, for no other reason, it seems, than to put others down. Maybe that person is jealous, or hurt, or really bored, but it shouldn’t matter. The one-star rating is not everything and it’s not everyone. Our fear of the negative is almost always greater than the presence of it.

This is one the biggest reasons things go unfinished and unshared.

[Is ‘my way’ overrated?]

Part of the editing process or any content has to entail journalistic or creative diligence, knowing the product won’t be perfect. “Do no harm” is a journalistic imperative, even if it is unintentional harm. But I’ve found worrying too much about the stupidest, out of context interpretation is a sure-fire way to become at best paranoid and at worst too afraid to ever call anything finished enough to put out there.

At some point, I have to trust I know what I am doing and that the amount of work I have put into this thing has culminated in a quality product.

At best, I feel that I can somewhat encapsulate what it means to do things outside, but fishing, hunting and outdoors writers have been attempting to put the perfect words to these experiences for as long as there has been reactional and writers to write about it.

Just about everyone who has succeeded has some story about imposter’s syndrome. The feelings that what they were doing wasn’t good enough. Maybe someone even told them that. But how can I tell a student to not be afraid, then cower in the face of one-star from a nameless reader?

There are good leaps and there are dumb ones. No doubt. But right now there is a photographer depriving their town of their abilities. There’s a writer hiding his or her words, an artist censoring creativity, a musician playing for no one. It’s the same stupid fear that kept us from trying out for the team. From applying to the dream school. From leaving the state for college. From taking that job. From starting a business.

But before this ends up sounding too much like a Van Halen song, I’ll wrap it up and get back to editing.

• Jeff Lund is a freelance writer in Ketchikan. His book, A Miserable Paradise: Life in Southeast Alaska, will be released this spring. “I Went To The Woods” appears twice each month in the Juneau Empire.

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