Home Science Communication Look at my cat – a future blogger’s early writing projects

Look at my cat – a future blogger’s early writing projects

by Eva Amsen

I previously spotted a blogger in an early twentieth century neurophysiologist, based on his love of writing and his consistent weekly letters to his mother. In thinking it all through, I thought there might be certain tell-tale signs that someone is bound to be attracted by the concept of blogging. Diaries and letters are one thing, but there might be other clues.

When I was a kid (age 9-14) I took tremendous pleasure in writing for an invisible unknown audience. At age eleven I wrote two parody essays at school. I forgot one topic, but the other – the funniest one – was about invisibility. It contained a section written in invisible ink (just skipped a few lines) and a newspaper picture of the (at the time) Minister of Internal Affairs with an invisible man (just a picture of the Minister). It was written in the style of a general informational piece for a wide audience, but only my teacher and my friends read it, of course.

At home, I sometimes made little booklets. I made my own comic books, puzzle books, and information booklets about my pets. I had my parents look for the latter, because I remembered that one in particular to be so extremely blog like. It was a small booklet about my guinea pig and our cat that I made it when I was ten or eleven.

This is the cover:

Neel and Snoopy

The entire booklet was full of anecdotes and facts about the pets. Here is something I thought was a very interesting fact about my guinea pig:

“Snoopy is often outside in the yard. Snoopy has a roll to run in. Snoopy also has hay to lie in, but he always eats it all”. It’s the cardboard inside of a toilet paper roll. I just called it a “roll” for short.

If you thought that was fascinating, wait ’til you hear about the cat!

We have a glass stand for the TV. Neel always sits under it and looks up at the underside of the TV.

See, it’s such a blog. Nobody read this but my parents, who were already familiar with our pets and their quirks, but it was written as if it was for strangers, with vital stats on both animals (bit of a lab book there) and talking about them as if you did not know them.

It was inevitable that once I heard about a thing called internet that I’d immediately put stuff up there myself. I went online for the very first time when I started university in the fall of 1996, and by the time the 1997 calendar went up, I already had a website, hand-coded in html that had to be e-mailed to the server. My first “blog”-like thing was a manually updated page to describe four months I spent working in Quebec in 2000. My first blog software was installed in 2001, and I went through a couple of “look at my cat”-style personal blogs before settling into science blogging in 2005.

But my first (b)logs were those little stapled-together booklets, written in pencil-crayon, and elaborately illustrated. My mom kept them on the living room book shelf for an embarrassingly long time, in between the other non-fiction books. I also have a collection of personal diaries that I kept from age 7 to 18 or 19. The first one contains an entry (age 8) in which I was really excited about two things: one was that my friend came over and I got some gift or other, and the other was that my sister was born. Next to that entry I stuck in a sticker of a horse and the birth announcement card. It’s pretty cute. (The age 16-17 diaries, on the other hand, are an existential, Adrian Mole-like train wreck, and we should _all_ be thankful that I hadn’t discovered the internet yet at that time.)

Now, like the teenage version of me, I’m once again wondering whether I’m in any way special and crazy, or if there are many others like me. If you’re a blogger now, did you ever make little info booklets as a kid? Or keep diaries? (Or still keep a diary? Or even still make little info booklets that only your parents read?)

Let me know, and look at my cat doing a handstand in a trash can:

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Bob O'Hara February 10, 2009 - 6:44 AM

You need a slightly deeper bin, for the full “try to get in and fall over” effect.

steffi suhr February 10, 2009 - 8:40 AM

Our cat used to stick her head into tall glasses to lick at the last drops of the contents. Then she’d get stuck.
_If you blog now, did you ever make little info booklets as a kid?_
_Or keep diaries?_
_Or still keep a diary?_
_Or even still make little info booklets that only your parents read?_
Ehh.. no.

Kristi Vogel February 10, 2009 - 12:33 PM

_If you blog now, did you ever make little info booklets as a kid? Or keep diaries_
I might have started such things, made a few entries or pages, and then promptly abandoned them for weeks or months at a stretch (or forever). Rather like my adult experiences with blogging, I’m afraid.
On the other hand, I did produce a lot of drawings, many of which are still around someplace or another. A few are actually framed.

Jennifer Rohn February 10, 2009 - 2:09 PM

I’ve kept a written journal, mostly every day, since I was eight. I also made little booklets, but these were all fiction. I wrote a science fiction ‘novel’ when I was eleven (200 handwritten pages of tortuously purple prose!).
I am particularly ashamed of one of my story booklets. In the story, the heroine assumes that a man is a criminal because he has a scar on his face. This honestly made logical sense to me when I was six!

Eva Amsen February 10, 2009 - 2:44 PM

_”200 handwritten pages of tortuously purple prose!”_
This is still somewhere, I hope? After your fifth or sixth published novel you must publish _that_!
My fiction was all very short, and most of it was in first person. (It’s much easier to pretend to write as the main character than to avoid the whole “she did this, he said that” narrative) I had to write a story once as punishment for talking in class (this was in high school) and it ended up twice as long as was required, and entertained the whole class for two hours the next day while they had teachers read it out loud. It was a fantastic (in the sense of “from a fantasy world”) tale set on a hot summer day at school, and it’s so full of puns (in Dutch) that it’s untranslatable. The principal was in a rubber bath in his office, the Latin teacher only spoke Latin (and all he said were lists of conjugations of Latin verbs, because that’s what we mostly heard him say) but the most miraculous part was that people actually _liked_ it and wanted to hear how it ended when the class was over before the story.
I never get that kind of feedback on my blog!

Kjerstin Gjengedal February 10, 2009 - 2:47 PM

I would read everything on our bookshelves when I was a kid, but I had a soft spot for works of history. As reading was a bit too passive in the long run, I would also synthesize the information in short “Ancient Greece/Egypt/Rome for dummies” kind of booklets, illustrated with my own drawings. I also produced several comics from the age of seven until I was about 13, not to mention a few rather long fictional stories, usually involving time travel or at least a historical setting.
I tried to keep a diary at least twice, but I never got familiar with writing something that wasn’t ultimately meant to be read by someone else, so the attempts didn’t last long. It’s interesting to note that even as a child, I wouldn’t write much personal stuff. Now, as a blogger, it’s the personal part of blogging that I (still) struggle with. Even though I love reading blogs that mix the personal and professional, I’ve never felt that I mastered that mix myself.

Eva Amsen February 10, 2009 - 2:50 PM

Kristi, some of mine aren’t finished either. I also found a notebook that I kept with friends in high school. It was part of a series of notebooks – we had already finished six – full of silliness and cartoons. The last one started with a four page prologue, and then four pages of text. The rest is blank, except for the last three pages, which are marked “room for epilogue” and the middle pages, which are marked “room for middle-logue”. (The prologue was a stream of consciousness rambling about the place of margarine in society, among other things.)

Cath Ennis February 10, 2009 - 3:05 PM

Eva, this is great stuff!
I always kept travel journals, on every trip from the age of ~6 to ~20. I made several abortive starts at keeping a regular journal (usually when I was given a brand new notebook), but it never really took. I wrote lots of stories and poems in my spare time though. I wonder if any of them survived the Great Loft Clear Out of 2003.
Did you see the First Ever Lolcat? It’s a postcard from 1905, and she no can has cheezburger!

Richard Wintle February 10, 2009 - 3:06 PM

_If you blog now_
_did you ever make little info booklets as a kid_
certainly yup
_Or keep diaries?_
No. Writing journals, yes.
_Or still keep a diary?_
Does my “blog”:http://ricardipus.blogspot.com count?
_Or even still make little info booklets that only your parents read?_
Um, er, no.
Oh gods. I wrote a short story in Grade 13 in lieu of doing some other creative writing project. It was _awful_. I also kept various writing journals from English courses, including a hopelessly arty creative writing+art one, some small bits of which have, in the accepted 21st-century way, been recycled “here”:http://poemsaboutthings.blogspot.com/.
Your cat booklet is wonderful, and reminded me of “this”:http://ricardipus.blogspot.com/2006/12/planet-bluetop.html short piece from when I was in Grade two. I also have high hopes for my son, who came up with this “tremendously dramatic story”:http://ricardipus.blogspot.com/2008/02/ye-olde-snowman-tayle.html.
So I guess the answer is “yes, kind of”. I waffle back and forth with my personal blog as to whether it should be a diary so that I remember various amusing or interesting (to me) events, or whether it ought to be more _creative_. Right now it’s doing both with small degrees of success at each, I think.

Bob O'Hara February 11, 2009 - 9:51 AM

bq. “200 handwritten pages of tortuously purple prose!”
bq. This is still somewhere, I hope? After your fifth or sixth published novel you must publish that!
Use the pseudonym “Henry Gee”. Nobody will notice the difference.

Henry Gee February 11, 2009 - 10:02 AM

But only because you got there first.

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