When I was a kid growing up, and my parents’ friends would ask me the inevitable question, “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I would look them square in the eye and say definitively, “I want to be a blogger.”
Well, that’s not entirely true. I did go through a period, when I was about 8 or 9, of wanting to be a vet, until my mother pointed out the inherent limitations of a veterinarian who accepted appointments only with cute, healthy dogs under a year old.
That, and I was rather shy—so I never actually looked an adult square in the eye.
Truth be told, I never spoke to them, either.
But other than that brief diversion—I always wanted to be a blogger. In fact, I invented blogging. It’s just that it took 25 years for the technology to catch up.
So while I waited, I spent hours every day writing. But unlike my friends who kept diaries stashed under their beds, I needed an audience. I needed interaction, feedback, community.
One day, my third-grade teacher sent home forms that encouraged our parents to let us sign up for a program called Dear Pen Pal, so kids could write to kids in other countries. This was an international pen pal organization that launched a big push in the US elementary schools.
Apparently, the path to popular diplomacy was paved with letters scrawled in illegible handwriting by American schoolchildren, complaining that their parents made them sign up for this dumb program all in the name of international relations, whatever that meant.
My letters, of course, contained not a single complaint. In fact, I happily prattled on for pages! A blogger was born! I wrote in fascinating detail about the minutiae of my life: my teacher, my friends, my dog… and then… umm, well now what? The thing was, after the first one or two letters were written to the first one or two pen pals, I felt limited by the suburban middle-class landscape of my own life.
More content, dammit!
I needed more. More stories. More excitement. More content, dammit.
So I made it up. I created new personalities, new voices, new details, and I got more pen pals because I needed new personas to target.
By the end of third grade, I had not just one but nine pen pals — based in, among other places, England, Australia, Malaysia, Greece, and (inexplicably) New Jersey. Some of the international kids had a limited grasp of English—not that it mattered to me.
Alone in my room after school, I would lie on my twin bed and enthusiastically recount life on our horse farm, with my two sets of twin siblings.
I regaled my pen pals with stories of our family trip to the Grand Canyon, how I skipped second grade, the antics of my two new puppies, or my nurturing older brother named Reed (or sometimes Grant) who played in a rock band.
Sometimes, I was the oldest in a family of nine.
Once, I was a triplet.
I had various names: Jade, Jewel, Judy, Sarah, Rochelle….
A Life I Didn’t Have
I researched places I’d never been and things I’d never seen. I wrote about the life I didn’t have. It was entertaining. It was content. Even if none of it was true. I kept track of it all in a spiral bound notebook.
Does this sound weird? I suppose it was. (It amazed me even at the time that my mother never questioned why “Jade Handley” was getting airmail to our house.)
Time passed. I grew up. My pen pals grew up. Eventually each of us — one by one — stopped writing back.
I left for college, graduated, got a job as a journalist, wrote a lot of magazine articles and newspaper stories, edited a few books, got married, had kids of my own. And co-founded ClickZ and learned about the Internet.
Then—this would be 25 years later—a few of my very smart colleagues at MarketingProfs started making noises about starting a blog.
And I said, “A what?”
So they explained it all to me—the frequent posting, the feedback, the trackbacks, the benefits of community.
And then it hit me: I already knew all about that. Because, well… I invented it.
And, at one time, when coming home after school and checking the mailbox at the end of our driveway was a much-anticipated ritual, I lived for it.
Back to now.
Which is kind of like now. Having launched my group marketing blog almost two years ago, and now this one a few weeks ago, I am a renewed believer in the power of talking to an audience in an intimate and immediate environment, and in hearing their voices talk back.
I’ve embraced it as a business tool, certainly, as a way to educate, elucidate, and be educated. But, at the same time, I am reliving the joy of communicating, the creativity of writing, and the thrill of the conversation.
Moliere once wrote that “Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money.” So true. Well, maybe not entirely… Now, as a Born Again writer and convert to the power of blogs, I write for love, for newfound friends, and for money—all at the same time.