Started by YA Litwit, and not updated by the author since 2011, it is a meme designed for writers inviting them to review and recommend books from their past, “books you’ve read and loved BEFORE you started blogging about books,” defining why you chose, read, and recommended the book.
I loved the idea of “Before the Blog” as a concept, which leads to today’s blog exercise.
Before the blog, we expressed and shared our thoughts in person or via email or letters. We had diaries, photo albums, scrapbooks, notebooks, and boxes of letters to and from our friends and family, creating semi-permanent records of our journey through life. Parents, grandparents, even great grandparents passed these down over the generations, preserving our history and our family’s stories.
You don’t even have to look back that far. Many of us have saved essays and poems we wrote in school and songs we wrote as teenagers, dreaming of being the next Mozart or Neil Young. Before there were memes, shares, likes, and reshares, there were the traditional methods we had to share our stories, jokes, expertise, and images.
In this blog exercise I want you to reach back into your past, the past before your blog, and publish on your site a diary entry, letter, digital image of your scrapbooks, photo albums, notebooks, whatever you’ve written or artistically created in the past.
As always, it must tie in with your site purpose and mission, serving your audience.
Before My Blog
In 1996, my husband and I hit the road full-time in a 30 foot (10m) recreational vehicle, retiring, so to speak, in the middle of our lives rather than at the end. The Internet was only a few years old and the web was still in the womb. There were no web pages, only “home pages.” There was no wifi and satellite phones were for millionaires. We connected to the Internet to download email and check in on Usenet and forums through borrowed phone lines, directly or with an acoustic coupler strapped to the handset.
I’d email weekly updates about our adventures to hundreds of friends and family. The majority of our friends and family had no clue what the Internet or email was, so I’d mail out monthly “newsletters” with our stories. These eventually became stories for Taking Your Camera on the Road. Compiling all the stories together for our autobiography, I realized that the stories of those first few days on the road were missing. I couldn’t find them anywhere. Due to problems over the years with bad hard drives, email accounts, and web servers, who knows where those digital bytes have gone.
A few years later I was going through financial papers after my dad’s funeral and I found those first emails in his files. While we had been gently estranged after I hit the road, he had kept the faith. He’d printed out many of the emails we’d sent out for the first five years on the road. I asked one of his best friends about this and he told me that my father brought these into the breakfast cafe regularly to read to his buddies chain-smoking over bacon, eggs, hash browns, and pancakes. “If one tickled one of the guys, he’d give him the email.”
I could so see my father doing that. Anything for a laugh, especially one that could be perpetuated by sharing. That explained the missing emails.
Still, there were enough of the first drafts of the early days of our life on the road that I was able to publish the first journal entry in “December 18, 1996 – Friday the 13th The Journey Begins,” adding an intro that added my father firmly into my story.
Finding these old emails printed out on the backs of recycled paper not only filled in the gaps but gave me a thread to help me stitch my story together. I’m still working on the memoir, sifting through almost two decades of transient living on the road and searching for the missing pieces of our journals, this discovery was a gold mine.
Your blog exercise today is to share your before the blog story.
Mine changed the story I was writing. Your “before the blog” story can be anything. A poem from childhood shared with family, a letter sent or received, a photograph of you with that hairstyle you wish you could forget kept on your parent’s love-my-family wall for all to see as they passed by, something you shared or shared with you before blogging and social media ruled our life. It could even from a time before computers dictated our every waking moment.
If you publish that something special before blogging replaced traditional publishing, include a hat tip link back to this post to create a trackback, or leave a properly formed link in the comments so participants can check out your blog exercise task.