Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mrs. Vanderbilt Didn't Prepare Us for This

When I began recording passing thoughts on a blog it was a solitary, anonymous act.  I didn't think anyone but internet weirdos would find me and was very surprised when anyone responded to anything I did.  It was big fun.

But after joining a few Flickr communties and following several blogs I found the comments, inclusions into projects,  and web correspondence a daily thing.  It's still surprising, big fun and I'm grateful for it.  But, as some days just uploading a 365 is almost more than I have time for, I fear my responses are slow and inadequate. 

 Of course the only space in my life for this is the wee hours after homework, housework, etc when I hole up in my room and become the Flickr zombie.  The exhaustion is worth nurturing the unleashing of creativity I've had recently and watching other people unleash their's too.   

Walking dead or not, I want to respond to this in other people, to comment and encourage honestly like others have for me (and really, how else can you be held accountable with 365?)  
So somewhere, within my late night Flickr sessions, I try to carve out room for reflecting on their work- openly. 
Which brings me to the real problem.  Flickr comments are like answering machine messages.  I sound stupid on all of them.

(365 Day 288)

 Here I am bombarded by wonderful images of all types by hundreds of strangers who share the same love of photography that I do.  Then, there's the recent uploads of my fantastic contacts that I've been following through their photographic journey, seeing their skills and interests change over the last year so much that I feel as if I know them 
and all I can think of to say is, "Too cool."

I try to express my thoughts about what I'm seeing or the feelings it produces in me succinctly, but then I find myself saying something with "intangible quality" or "indefinable" in it and do some serious backspacing.  Often I just leave the comment space blank and think of it as a good deed.  Well, it's not that bad - I haven't used words like "perhaps" and "nevertheless" yet.

All of my life, I was never good about thank you notes, but always intensely thankful for kindness.  It's true, even if it sounds flakey.  And since my generation is where thank you notes seem to have died off, it is an easily forgiven oversight.   But I want to remedy that.

So I looked to a book from my great grandmother's generation about manners and social graces for a little advice today:  Amy Vanderbilt's New Complete Book of Etiquette where along with in-depth instructions on eating lobster in public and making non fitted sheets fit, one can find directions for writing every single type of note there is to write.  

(example: Bread and Butter letters, thank-yous for gifts, thank- yous for entertainment, letters to public officials, and letters of introduction ) 

But there really isn't anything to compare with the need for quick, to- the- point discourse with millions of people all typing away about the same thing at the same time.  

However, I did find a bit where her son wanted to write to the author af a new children's book to tell him how much he enjoyed it, and she encouraged him to do so.  Within two days he recieved "a charming reply" from the author thanking him for writing.  The book was Stuart Little by E.B. White.

(365 Day 290)

Mrs. Vanderbilt continues to say that "No writer, author, public office holder, artist, musician, or other person singled out because of his accomplishment is ever offended by your words of praise, oral, or written.  He may even be stimulated by or interested in your criticisms decently given..."

But how would he feel about, "Wowie, wow, wow!"?

"He may actually not have time to take care of such correspondence, especially if he has no secretary. "

Tell me about it.

"But don't hesitate through  diffidence to express yourself, if you feel you have something you'd like to say to such people... Everyone, i am sure, enjoys appreciation of what he is trying to do if the words he hears or reads are sincere and given without thought of possible benefit to the giver of them.  You need never feel constrained to keep your reactions to yourself."


(365 Day 291)

There you go, straight from the authority of grace and manners.  Now,  I am making a conscious effort to remark on the things I see and love on Flickr as much as I can, though I'll never be able to completely.

  So if I leave you a comment that sounds like the millionth "Wow" of the day,  or psuedo-intellectual ramblings about subtleties, or a bad 80's surf movie: "Dude!",  just know that it comes from my heart.   

2 comments:

  1. Oh, my. You so adequately expressed the difficulties I've been having with the commenting thing on Flickr lately.

    I feel like a broken record half the time, and the other half I'm getting a headache trying to find another word for gorgeous or beautiful. There are only so many adjectives one can use to describe a pleasing photo! But I do want to show praise and encourage all of my contacts, even if I can't physically comment on every single photo they post. It's really like a part time job, but I love this hobby so much that I'm willing to put the effort into it.

    Btw, that first photo on this post is so striking. I really love what you did with it. Hope I haven't used that phraseology too much. :)

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  2. Thanks Gail. No, you can't worry about over using comments when each of us posts 50-100 pics a month! You do an excellent job of encouraging through comment : )

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