The Value of Blog Comments and Serendipity to Creativity

Haystack

Serendipity has often led me to wonderful discoveries of obscure wisdom buried by information overload. Ingrained into this excessive load, are blog posts, which are designed for instantaneous consumption of information, after which they are piled up in a corner of cyberspace, forgotten.

Until someone—the blogger or an inquisitive reader—decides to uncover them.

If a blog post were a needle in a giant, ever-expanding haystack, then a blog comment would be a grain of sand underneath that needle. Indeed, a comment is usually read only by the person it is directed to, even though it can equally contain insights too valuable to ignore. Fortunately, on a fortuitous day, random chance can lead us to the unexpected discovery of these insights.

I’ve already shared Melissa Janda‘s thoughtful comment on how blog awards can alleviate a writer’s loneliness. I’ve also shared how my discussion with Julie Israel inspired another post titled “On Education, the Arts, and Writing”. In this post, I’m going to share two more comments I’ve received from two other bloggers, which I hope will inspire you as they did me.

The first one was Melora Johnson’s reply to my own comment on her post about storytelling. She recommended Amy Tan’s TED Talk, in which Tan, conveniently, talks about the impact of random chance on creativity and storytelling.

Her TED Talk not only inspired me to write this post, but also gave me a new perspective on creative writing. Tan tells us how serendipity has led her to discoveries of valuable knowledge which, in turn, enriched her stories. She also says that asking questions about our existence and why things happen enables her to see the relevance in randomness—or what she refers to as “flotsam and jetsam”—and to create something out of it.

This is reminiscent of Brain Pickings editor Maria Popova’s enlightening talk about the architecture of human knowledge, in which she discusses the way we collect what seems to be useless bits of information and combine them to create something new that is of interest.

The second insightful comment was written by Daniela, keeper of The Lantern Post, in response to my congratulations for her blog’s one-year anniversary. In her celebratory post, she expressed the same sentiment that Kira Lyn Blue elaborated in her thought-provoking post, “Blogging and Writer’s Insecurity: You’re Not Your F%$^ing Blog Stats!”:

I am […] utterly astonished and above all truly grateful. For each and every one of you who stopped to read, comment, like, nominate, and write emails. Ask questions, offer support, make suggestions … and much more. I thank you all. While the stats page tells me that more than 1000 people have decided to follow the Lantern and over 25,000 visitors passed under its soft glow … numbers are not what is counted on the Lantern. Footprints are.

convomountain

While these “footprints” are not why we write, they can certainly give us that extra push in the right direction, even when we are unsure of ourselves and at our most emotionally volatile. As Kira said, “I get an adrenaline rush every time I see a new comment waiting in my inbox.”

A comment may also open up pathways to knowledge you didn’t know exist, like Melora’s did. But more importantly, the words of others can empower us, inspire us, and lead us to understand ourselves, as well as each other, better:

Blogging is all [about] interactions, connections and search for one’s own voice … whichever form that might take. Words matter. They can build, destroy, heal … as humans we shape our world by them. Even when we look into a beautiful painting, or listen to most extraordinary music … we express our feelings in words, or symbols that replace them if for some reason we cannot use words. We long to tell somebody – this is such a magnificent music and it makes me feel … we long to share. Because only by sharing we [fulfill] our own need to belong, to love and be loved. And that really is the essence of all ‘things’ human -:)!

I wish you all the best and many, many happy blogs!

— Daniela, The Lantern Post

Have you ever been inspired by another blogger’s comment? Please share below.


Top image credit: Flikkesteph. Some rights reserved.
“Conversation on a mountain” photo credit: Kevin Dooley. Some rights reserved.

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22 thoughts on “The Value of Blog Comments and Serendipity to Creativity

  1. I was prompted to look up a definition of “serendipity” and found this –

    “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for…” I

    I personally believe there is no such thing as a random occurrence. Some things only appear random because we are incapable (or unwilling) to detect the “pattern” behind them.

    The joy of discovering precious nuggets of wisdom in places like blog comments is what I would term a “God-incident”. Like the parable of a man who finds a precious jewel buried in a field and he goes and sells all he has to buy the field.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post.

    • As a Buddhist, I don’t believe in coincidences either, but I didn’t want to go there because it’s already a long post as it is. What you call a “God-incident” is, in Buddhist term, karma. Everything is connected to each other: our past lives, past actions, present actions, the future…

      And Amy Tan actually said in her TED Talk, more or less, that what appears to be a coincidence is probably not at all; that it’s always been there and we just notice it because we’re (suddenly) equipped to. Seeing opportunities is only possible because we have the correct mindset, which renders us more receptive to such opportunities. (This last sentence is my own.)

      It’s kind of like when you have kids, you suddenly notice pushchairs and babies everywhere, while if you’re single, the only thing you notice is probably women. 🙂

      When it concerns spirituality, much like politics and social issues—to me, anyway—we could engage in discussions that are no doubt lively and enlightening, but time-consuming; and probably not beneficial to either party’s spiritual advancement anyway.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Tony! Always appreciated.

      • I’m sorry if my faith language offends you. I mean to dialogue, not debate. For me, writing without sharing my faith is like smiling without sharing my teeth. I can do it, but it’s not nearly as joyful. 🙂

      • Not offended at all, Tony, sorry if my reply implied that. I know, interfaith dialogues can be positive, I’m just too used to people trying to force their faith upon me, I guess—which I’m not implying that you were. (If you lived in Indonesia you’d know; twitter is full of them.) So maybe that emotion went subconsciously into my reply. 😉

        I think it’s wonderful that you’re sharing your faith through your writing. I know a fellow writer who works Buddhist ideas into his short stories, and it’s great. I don’t think my own faith is “mature” enough to do the same, though. Actually, in Murakami’s novels you can recognize principles of Zen Buddhism which, I think, adds to their complexity.

        So, keep sharing your faith! I for one enjoy reading your posts. Maybe one of these days I’ll do the same. 🙂

  2. I hadn’t consciously thought about it that way, but you nailed it. The comments and discourse mean much more than any clicking of a like button. It means a lot more when someone stops to think about what you wrote and took the time to respond to it. And not just because of the ego boost, I truly want to hear what others have to say.

    As much as I love to spew my own ideas, it’s so much more fun and interesting to actually get to discuss them with others. To see the same idea from another’s perspective gives it new life, new meaning, it spurs new ideas and branches out into a whole forest of possibilities. It’s a beautiful thing.

    Thanks for the post that gave me a new forest to adventure through!

    • Exactly! For someone to write a thoughtful response to something I’ve written is kind of flattering. I like “a whole forest of possibilities”, it’s a great way to explain how ideas spread. Thank you for reading and for your thoughtful comment, Kira. 🙂

  3. I am truly honored you cited the Lantern Post … thank you very much. Moreover, you have written such a thoughtful post and in doing so inspired a dialogue -;)!

    All the Best,
    Daniela

  4. Thoughts are so invaluable. We as a society like to undermine the value of a person, but I believe people are so invaluable. Every person who stops by my blog and comments has invaluable insight, and I am always in awe of what people say. It’s so inspiring.

    • Hi Amber, thanks for reading. I agree, what you said is exactly why I regularly cite my readers and other bloggers’ comments; sometimes their insights are just so invaluable it would be a shame not to share them.

  5. Great post. I also loved this part of the quote: “Blogging is all [about] interactions, connections and search for one’s own voice … whichever form that might take. Words matter.” I love giving and receiving comments. Sometimes, I don’t quite know what to say other than, “Great post.” But many people I know do not like to comment on blogs, especially mine. When I ask, “Did you read the post?” they’ll say, “Sure. I enjoyed it. But I don’t have time to comment.” And then I heave a grat sigh. Blogging IS all [about] interactions, even if those interactions aren’t reflected at the actual post.

    • Hi Marie, thank you for reading. There are people who don’t view blogs as a social medium like twitter or Facebook. They think blogs are a one-way communication channel, like a newspaper or magazine—and even these usually have a “readers’ section” where they show letters from readers and comment on them.

      They think blogs only serve the purpose of showcasing their writing. But they’re wrong. This is exactly the mentality of egocentric bloggers who mass-“Like” posts without reading them, to generate traffic to their own blogs. They want you to read their stuff but they’re not in the slightest bit interested in yours. (There are actually a couple of these spam-“Likers” liking this very blog post.) And they ruin the experience for others.

      I do understand that people don’t have time to comment and therefore just “Like” a post, before bouncing off to the next post on their feed. And now some are afraid to “Like” a post because they don’t want to be put in the same category as the above. So what’s a blogger to do?

      I personally believe that no matter what, we should give feedback anyways. A “Thank you, great post” takes just a few seconds to write, and to the positive-minded it’s a great encouragement. To skeptics who think it’s spam, well, let them think that way.

      Because without interaction, a post is static, there’s no mutual exchange of ideas; it doesn’t grow to a forest of whole new possibilities (see Kira’s comment above). And that’s a shame.

      P. S. Sorry for the long rant! I couldn’t stop. 🙂

      • I know what you mean. While I don’t mind the “likes,” sometimes they are an avoidance mechanism as you say. I confess I sometimes “like” a post if I don’t quite know what to say, especially if a blogger posts more than once a day and I’m facing the third post of the day. Then I hit the “like” button hard! 🙂 But we blog because we want to connect with others.

  6. Such a lovely post! It is so important to keep involved in the creative world around us as writers….so many opportunities to be inspired and catch the shadows of ideas. And I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who loves TED Talks. That Amy Tan one is one of my favourites. Have you seen Andrew Stanton’s? That one was monumental for me.

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  8. It is interesting that you used the word lonely twice in reference to blogs and blogging. I was pretty alone BEFORE blogging. Now I have hundreds of colleagues who stop in and say hello, impart wisdom and provide courage.

    Great post and thanks for stopping into my blog as well.
    Pete (LearnActShare.com)

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  10. Pingback: Conversations, Entry #1: Has Regret Helped You Grow as a Writer? | sairyou.me

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