The other day I was responding to a comment on my blog. It was to a woman I’ve “known” for a long while online and after replying directly to the comment, I continued with what would seem more like a letter. Remember letters? Those lovely missives on creamy paper or a carefully chosen card, written by hand, carefully addressed and sent in the post with a stamp?
I knew that in due course I would receive a reply that I would answer and the circle would continue. And even before those words were typed, I was excited and eager for that reply.
When I began blogging on The Marmelade Gypsy eight and a half years ago, the last thing I expected was a network of friends who would enrich my life in so many ways. It isn’t that I was a recluse, not by any means. At that time I was working in a fairly high profile job. By day I enjoyed the company of creative and clever colleagues and in the off-hours the company of a variety of good friends. I had a group of wonderful woman friends, all of whom were creative and communications oriented, caring and compassionate. Our conversations were passionate and enthusiastic. My book club consisted of intelligent, spirited women who would be perfectly willing to throw over the literary conversation should one of our “Savory Sisters” require a feedback zone. There were two or three very close friends with whom there were hours of conversation covering every topic and in Rick, a wonderful partner whose presence was always welcome.
I didn’t need more friends. (Well, we all need more friends!) And yet, it was through this group of strangers that I found a unique support system, one that remains non-judgmental, encouraging and unquestionably motivating. I realized that those we don’t know face-to-face can still help provide the nourishment we need to do our best work, to be our best selves, to reach out beyond what we thought we might settle for.
I’ve tried to look more deeply into these relationships — most of which have never been face-to-face — to discover just what it is that I find so energizing about them. Perhaps it is the give and take. When I visit a blog and discover something beautiful or a new technique or a photo, story or outstanding writing that moves me, I come away from the experience enriched. I become motivated to not just “put up a post” but to try to put up one that truly pleases me. It might not be prize-worthy; it may be silly or share a bit of creativity or a family moment, but I want it to be one that pleases me — and that I hope will, in turn, please my readers.
It may well be the encouragement. Not long ago a longtime reader commented on how she had seen my art and drawing improve over the years. I was floating on air for days because I didn’t see that. I saw only that it wasn’t quite what I wanted it to be. It wasn’t as good as … well, as many others. She saw that it was better and I felt as though I could live on those words for a month.
I think most all of us are fed by praise. Genuine praise — not just kind and friendly words but those we know are from the heart. When I see that kind of feedback, I smile. Call it feeding the fragile ego, call it stoking the creative furnace. It fills me up.
And I don’t mean all praise and good words. I am equally motivated by someone’s shared experience or a constructive difference of opinion. “Have you tried this?” Or “That reminds me of …” That kind of dialogue fosters understanding and relationships. It helps us to grow.
I can take a long walk on a beautiful day and let my mind run, perhaps tumbling over a new idea or two that will manifest in words or pictures. I might watch the waves lap on the beach and feel the warmth of the sun and piece together bits of a future composition. And I may smile.
But I can tell you that as I answer a comment and especially one from a stranger who has become a friend over years of shared online interests and ideas, family stories and who knows what, that I am smiling. I am “seeing” a face I may have seen before only in a photo on my computer screen. I am smiling at them and I’m pretty sure they are smiling back at me.
And I am nourished.
About the Author: Jeanie Croope
After a long career in public broadcasting, Jeanie Croope is now doing all the things she loves — art, photography, writing, cooking, reading wonderful books and discovering a multitude of new creative passions. You can find her blogging about life and all the things she loves at The Marmelade Gypsy.