"The information I got from thousands of letters sent and received enabled me to document the early history of the home-business movement in a way no other author was doing then or has done since."
"Without question, our own words can come back to us years later to become a tremendous source of help and encouragement to us—which is exactly why I have always urged people to keep a journal.
"When we write our thoughts and feelings from the heart at the time they occur to us, we are able to tap into something elusive that will be lost forever if we donít grab it right then and put it in writing."
Copyright © 2000-2013
Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
Barbara waxes nostalgically about what many people are now losing because of the convenience and speed of electronic and digital communication, which has made letters seem impractical. "But don't let your personal, family, and home-business history get lost in the process," she urges.
I RECENTLY STUMBLED ACROSS this nostalgic note from fellow author and business friend Leila Peltosaari, written while she was packing for a move to new quarters one year:
Many of my readers have no idea that my husband and I published a quarterly magazine called Artisan Crafts from 1971 through mid-1976 when a recession finally did us in. I ceased publication gracefully by going out with a special three-issue award-winning Bicentennial Series I called CraftSpirit 76. After publishing my first book, I launched a print subscription newsletter that thrived from 1981 to mid-1995. Of course all this started long before I had a computer—back in the "dark ages" where everything had to be done on a typewriter and glued to boards for the printer with typesetting purchased for headlines and red film cut to indicate the placement of photographs. My newsletter had three different names and formats through the years (Sharing Barbaraís Mail, The National Home Business Report, and the Self-Employment Survival Letter), and it was such a boon to me when I finally got my first computer and could begin to produce and lay out issues with considerably greater ease, although nothing compared to what can be done on the computer now.
Snail Mail and Emails
I love the Internet and email, too, but I very much miss the warmth of the snail mail I used to receive from publicity mentions and from readers of my newsletter and various magazine columns—usually 25,000 letters or more a year. Some letters were typed, of course, but most of my mail in those days came from home business beginners who sent charming hand-written notes, cards, or very long letters filled with a unique combination of hope, joy, frustration, excitement, worry, and fear of the unknown. Often, there were enclosures of a newly printed brochure, flyer, or business card. This mail was always extremely personal and infinitely satisfying to me.
Many of the folks who wrote to me in the seventies, eighties, and early nineties ended up being featured in one or more of my books. In the early days, I couldn't afford unlimited long-distance telephone calls, so much of my interviewing had to be done tediously by letter until telephone rates became more affordable. The information I got from thousands of letters sent and received enabled me to document the early history of the home-business movement in a way no other author was doing then or has done since. Wanting to be truly helpful to others, my book contributors gave me cautionary tips and sage words of advice and encouragement that added a unique personal quality to the sound business information in each of my books.
Of course I love being able now to do research on the Internet and communicate with my readers by telephone and email, but an email message printed on paper for reference can't begin to compare to the warmth of a personal letter on stationery that comes through the mail. Something that does give me special pleasure today, however, is that many of the readers on my Brabec Bulletin mailing list are folks who have been with me through thick and thin over many years. We have a shared history of "the good old days" that no amount of technology can replace, and I value these friendships very much. Whereas in years past I saved special letters from my readers, today I save copies of their email messages in annual folders along with my own messages that document my thoughts and activities. As I've learned from experience, these file folders will be invaluable reference files and memory joggers for me as I work on new books in the future.
The History Being Lost Today
Most people today—even older people who used to prefer writing letters—seem to love the ease with which they can communicate electronically by email, telephone, or text messaging. But what I see happening here is a complete loss of personal, family, and home-business history. That's why for years Iíve been encouraging people to print or at least save for printing later all the most interesting email messages received from family and friends, as well as copies of their own interesting and informative messages. (Forget about saving trees; what you need to focus on here is saving history.)
Any thinking person can see how the details of our personal. family, and business lives are falling through the cracks here, along with the kind of family history that generations before us carefully documented in letters, journals, and scrapbooks. But itís not just history that we can capture by saving our email messages. Gwen Lord, one of my long-time readers and business friends explains:
Without question, our own words can come back to us years later to become a tremendous source of help and encouragement to us—which is exactly why I have always urged people to keep a journal. When we write our thoughts and feelings from the heart at the time they occur to us, we are able to tap into something elusive that will be lost forever if we donít grab it right then and put it in writing. As proof, I offer my memoir, The Drummer Drives! Everybody Else Rides, a book that was based entirely on years of journal writing, plus a lifetime of letters Harry and I wrote to friends and family and kept copies of. I never could have written this book or the ones Iím working on now for publication as eBooks if I hadnít begun to document my life in writing at the age of eighteen by writing letters to my mother. She saved all of them and gave them back to me when I was in my mid-forties, and I felt as though I'd struck gold. I had no idea of the thousands of little details of my life that I had completely forgotten in the "rush of living," and it was such fun to live those years over again through my own writing.
If there is any real point to this article, beyond the fact that I just need to get these thoughts "out there" for others to read, itís that I want you to realize it's not too late for you to start capturing your own personal and family history for posterity (or, as Harry used to say, "for ma's territy, too." So start journaling now if youíre not already doing this, and also start printing copies of all your most interesting and informative personal and family email messages. Then one day you will be able to leave your children and grandchildren a written legacy of not only your life, but theirs as well. And they will love you for it.