“You seem to be spending a lot of time on this [blogging]. Are you making any money from it?” My father paused from watching football on TV to ask this question. I replied, “Looks like you spend a lot of time watching sports on TV. Are you making any money doing this?” He was stunned and just looked at me blankly. It hasn’t been easy growing up as an engineer’s daughter. Whenever I would enthusiastically show him something I’m working on, he would see how it could be improved on and focus just on that. When I was young if he asked me that question, I would have clammed up and shut down. Now that I’m an adult, I’m able to respond confidently. I went on to explain to my Dad that while he loves watching sports, I don’t. I like to spend my time experimenting with different creative mediums, exploring my feelings in my art journals, and taking photos of my outings. I explained how rewarding it is to share these things that I love to do with people from all over the world. It is hard for people who don’t participate in an online community to understand the incredible and meaningful connections that are made. All they see is the cold technology that we use to connect and forget that there is a warm, living person on the other end.
I can easily remember the date of my first blog post, 04/06/08. The month, day, and year are all even numbers in increments of two. I started my blog after seeing a friend’s blog. At that time I had been a web professional for many years, taught courses in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator as an adjunct professor at a community college, and loved being creative. Blogging looked like a great creative outlet. My debut post featured my first artist trading card. I really didn’t know what to say about it. My writing was stiff and sparse. I hadn’t enabled comments and a woman from Germany e-mailed me and suggested that I change that setting. I’m so glad that I did! She was the first person to leave a comment and it was thrilling to think that someone from a distant country not only saw what I did but liked it. The first online challenge that I discovered and participated in was the Gothic Arches Challenge where a theme was given and any medium was okay as long as the artwork was in the shape of a gothic arch. Participating not only sparked my creativity but connected me to others who love collage as much as I do.
I watched the statistics on my blog grow from a few countries to more than 75. I didn’t even know there were that many countries! It reminded me of how I would always seek out the foreign exchange students when I was in high school. I found them to be so interesting. Now years later I would connect with even more “foreign exchange creatives.”
Within a year of starting my blog, I hosted my own art journal prompts, swaps, and blog parties. Over the years I played with different technologies to create videos, record and edit interviews, and moderate forums. I took classes and I created classes.
I think one of the hardest parts of connecting with people online is the desire to hang out in person. I felt this way with a friend I met online who lives clear across the globe from me in Australia. We often commented on how cool it would be to be in the same room drinking coffee and playing in our journals. Although it isn’t the same, we meet up on Skype for virtual play dates. I clear away my desk and make room to journal or paint. I’ll move in extra folding tables to expand my work space. Another friend from New Zealand asked if I would host a virtual wedding. For years, my online friends followed my journey as a single mother and now they were interested in celebrating and welcoming my new husband. I said, “Sure. Great idea!” not knowing what a virtual wedding would be. I immediately went online searching and found nothing. I sat with the idea for 24 hours and then the idea came to use web conferencing to share photos from the event. Friends I met all over the world through blogging along with family who lived far away who couldn’t be at our wedding logged on for our virtual wedding event. I wore my wedding dress and decorated a table behind me with flowers and a cool faux wedding cake made of white towels and silk flowers that a friend had made for my bridal shower. During the event people could see and interact with me and my husband as we shared the photos and talked about our day. When we came to the toast in the photos, we paused and everyone picked up a glass and toasted and ate sweet treats from where they were logged in. It was such a fun event and a clear example of where blogging can take you.
One of my favorite things about blogging is that I can share my interests from collage, mixed media, creative journal keeping and Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging), to healthy living and travel. My blog serves as a travel journal, wellness journal, and art journal. If I experiment with a new medium, I feel free to share it. It is after all my blog. I’m only limited by my creativity. With so many different interests what is constant is my voice and how I document each topic with photography.
Through blogging, I discovered a writer’s zone where the words would spill out. The most vulnerable posts, the ones sharing the challenges and struggles in my life, would prove to be the most popular. Readers commented again and again on how they were inspired by my creativity and positive outlook, and how sharing my story helped them with a similar situation. One person wrote, “Courageous, authentic, insightful, and inspiring are the words that come to mind as a student in your class. I love your work and love how you honor your life’s journey through sharing it so openly.” Another person wrote, “Your posts have inspired me to journal more regularly on the positive things in my life. When I first discovered you I was recovering from a personal crisis that seemed to consume me. Focusing on the more positive aspects of my life helped speed my recovery. Your art is a true treasure.” It’s comments like these that keep me creating and connecting through blogging. I keep this comment posted inside my journal and I turn to it whenever I second guess myself and worry about sharing too much.
Before my father passed away, he came around to the idea of me “spending so much time on blogging.” He could see how happy it made me. He is right, it brings me so much joy to create and connect.
Kathryn Costa, Collage Diva + Creative Dabbler