For many of us creative folks, especially the artists and makers amongst us, the summer months are a time to rejuvenate and regroup before the busy fall and winter season hits. One area that many of us would like to improve in is our ability to connect and collaborate with others. Whether you are looking for a fellow maker to help you develop a new product, or are on the search for blogs and bloggers (Well, hello there!) who are willing to promote and celebrate your work, connecting with other creatives is something that many of us strive for.
Really, collaborating is a worthy endeavor and can be the lifeblood of a vibrant, creative life. I know for myself, some of my best ideas are born from collaborating with the other incredibly creative people I’ve met. However, in order to really connect with others, there is a skill that we must have: we must have the ability and the desire to communicate. That leads me to this weeks #IAMTHELABchat. Let’s talk about, well, talking.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that online conversation has changed considerably over the past few years. It’s really happened quite rapidly, this change in the way we communicate through conversation. Remember when the coffee house started to really take off? When Starbucks started popping up like weeds all over the place, many of us saw them as a place to gather. Were you one of those people who’d meet a group of friends at your coffee house of choice and just spend hours chatting, like you haven’t seen each other in years? I know I was guilty of that. I’d start feeling guilty after my volcano-hot cup of herbal tea (me and coffee DO NOT get along) finally turned into a tepid cup of undrinkable blah, forcing me to head back to the counter to pick up something else so I didn’t feel like the space-hogging freeloader that I was becoming.
The point is, we used to sit and talk. Flash forward just a few years and, with the advent of easily accessible WIFI and smartphones, what’s happened to that habit of communal conversation? For many of us, it just plain disappeared. Doesn’t it seem that we are so much more busy than we used to be? Offline discourse has now turned into an endless smartphone feedback loop. We’ve tweeted and texted our way to a kind of snack-sized conversation mode. Certainly, if it’s changed the way we speak offline, it most definitely has changed the way we communicate online. I think this can be clearly seen is blog commenting. I’m amazed at just how little commenting takes place in the creative blogosphere. Perhaps you’ve noticed that as well.
I want to be very specific with this one, because not all commenting on the web has dried up. In fact, some of the sites I frequent (a few tech and news blogs/sites come to mind) have a lot of commenters and it’s not necessarily a good thing. The amount of vitriol and foulness that can be found on some sites is so beyond civil that it boggles my mind. There are also some great hashtag chats on Twitter that get great participation, like the #OMHG chat on Thursdays, of which I highly recommend. On the other hand, there also doesn’t seem to be a shortage in conversation on some of the major shelter blogs. Many of them have been in existence since the dawn of the blog universe, and I applaud these hard working folk for their perseverance and their ability to foster conversation. However, there are a lot of blogs that have the same level of amazing and consistent content that get little, if any, commenters. This has been an ongoing conversation amongst some of us for awhile now and I’ve been really puzzled as to why.
One reason may be the rise of Pinterest and other image driven social media platforms. Is it possible that we’re becoming so used to looking at all the pretty pictures that we forget that there is usually a story behind them? Granted, some bloggers have chosen to not have a commenting feature. One example that comes to mind is Amy Beth Cupp Dragoo. Her ABCD Design blog is a joy to behold and Amy Beth made a decision some time ago to defer her commenting and conversation to her social media accounts. I love that this has worked for her. I think though, that for most of us who blog, we definitely want to have comments on our blog posts.
For many creatives, the ideas we present are often open invitations for our readers to express themselves. For me personally, I know for a fact that the artists I feature are looking to see how my audience responds to what they’ve created. The thing is, I know that most of my readers love what they see on the LAB. I know this from the social media chatter, the clicks out to the featured artists’ shops and the page views. But, oh how I wished that you folks would leave a comment on the posts! It’s such a great way to let a fellow artist know that you appreciate what they’ve presented to the world. I’ve spoken to so many bloggers in the creative/shelter/craft universe who say the same thing. What really seems to be the problem? Why is it that most blogs have very little in the way of comments?
Another reason could be that we’ve slowly become accustomed to thinking and speaking in sound bites, hashtags and 140 character texts and tweets. However, some of the best thoughts take longer than a text and tweet to express and blogs create a wonderful forum for us to express them. Perhaps we are also afraid that what we’ll say won’t sound intelligent, or that it’s not worthwhile. Well, I’m here to tell you: commenting matters and your words, when heartfelt and honest, make a ripple in the creative waters that does indeed count. Now, let me just put this out there: the irony isn’t lost on me that my #IAMTHELABchat is Twitter-based. But my real goal, and the reason why I wrote this diatribe, is to have creative people come here to express themselves about this topic so that I and everyone else who visits this post can see the dialog, express an opinion and maybe even have their own opinion on the subject confirmed, reinforced or, lo and behold, changed. Tweets and Facebook posts last about as long as a breath mint, but post comments linger. With all this said, here are some tips for leaving great comments whereever you go on the web:
- Keep it positive. Remember, your comment is a reflection of you and it has never hurt to aim for the positive.
- Keep criticism constructive. If you have an opposing view, always try to be kind. I’ve found that the best way to offer constructive criticism is to do it in the form of a question. For instance, some might say, “I think the whole ‘We should comment’ thing is crazy. If you’re confident about what you’re doing, you don’t really need validation.” OK, that might be true and sound non-judgy in our heads, but wouldn’t it be better to not assume? Perhaps saying something like, “Is it possible that some of us use commenting to get validation for what we’ve created? Shouldn’t that come from within?” See the difference? Those are two great questions that can open dialogue and perhaps give others a chance to express their thoughts, keeping the conversation rolling along. Who knows, we might even discover that, GASP!, we may have our own mind expanded and walk away with a new viewpoint.
- Keep it short and sweet if you feel like that’s all you can do. It’s OK to just say, “Thanks for sharing!” or “I love that ring!” Exclamation marks are like hugs to a blogger, so add two if you really mean it….just kidding.
No he’s not.
- Keep commenting. Building the habit of commenting can help us to sharpen our communication skills and give us the chance to leave something positive and thoughtful behind. Even if you don’t do it on a blog post and like to focus your commenting on social media, we can still elevate the art of conversation by making it a habit to converse.
Well, what do you think? (Like you didn’t see that question coming!) Any tips, ideas or suggestions? Leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to converse and I welcome anyone else to do so as well. And of course, you can share your thoughts, as I will be doing, on Twitter with #IAMTHELABchat. Let’s talk.