Why You Should Travel Back Through Time

I recently had to peruse the archives here at Men with Pens. The experience was… well, surprising, honestly. When you’ve been blogging for nearly four years and written quite a bit more than 1,000 posts, you tend to forget a great deal – like the fact that you actually wrote this stuff, and that hey, some of it is pretty darned good.

That’s part of the problem with blogging – you write, you post, people read your work for a couple of days, and then it gets buried in the archives. Sure, someone might stumble on the post in a year and leave a comment, reminding you that it exists, but for the most part, if that post isn’t on the Recent Posts list in your sidebar, it’s as good as gone.

All right, to be fair, some posts really should stay gone. As much as I was pleased to reread certain posts, like this one about my daughters, I was just as pleased to know that posts like this one would probably never see the light of day again.

And you thought your first blog posts were bad. Sheesh.

This post was one I wrote when I was feeling particularly tossed around by all the “must do” advice out there. Life was moving too fast and I needed to tell myself – and my readers – that it’s okay to slow down.

I liked reading this one about repeat clients again. And this one about carnies, and this one about a rotten roof. Oh, and this one about a camera. The posts I write that combine personal experience, a story, some expertise and action tips that you can take away are always my favourite.

One thing I noticed as I read back was that I seem to be pretty big on the optimistic view, ever the hopeful that this too shall pass. That inspirational pat on the back shows up from time to time in my work, and it’s posts like this one about losing everything and this one about finding faith in your dreams again that leave me feeling good just for reading them.

There are the posts I wrote that came from the heart, the ones where I tried to reach out and tell readers that it’s okay. It’s okay to take a break from blogging, it’s okay to write with your own voice, and it’s okay to be proud of a tiny readership.

In fact, a friend of mine wrote out that last post by hand in blue and gold pen as a gift to me. I have it hung on my wall. I look at it every day.

And that’s what I want to say today – that we should all look at the past, look back over what we’ve done, even if it’s only for five minutes each day. We should be proud of our successes, of the trials and tribulations we’ve been through and all the distance we’ve come.

Our blog archives are our history, in more ways than just which post went up on that day.

We should laugh over our goof-ups. We should revisit our knowledge, then and now, and see how much we’ve learned. We should explore some of the things that we wrote about in more detail, and bring those ideas back to life so we can talk them over some more. We should enjoy our own work, and we should linger on words we wrote that we felt strongly about at the time.

As I read through older posts, I relived a lot of memories, too. Good times, hard times, fun times, thoughtful times. I could see my business growing and revisit the phases of its journey. That was a pretty neat thing to do, and it left me feeling inspired and content with where I am today, because of all I’ve been through.

I also examined how I wrote then and tried to compare it to how I write now. I found it intriguing to notice what types of posts I used to write and which techniques I used to get messages across to readers. I read some comment sections and looked at what worked for people and what didn’t.

I’ve grown and I’ve changed – perhaps I’d forgotten that I would. That realization reminded me of a conversation I had one day, in which an artist I admire told me he believed fans grow and change right along with their favourite singers and authors.

So let’s do a little something today, shall we? Go back to your blog archives and find something you wrote from long ago. A post that meant something to you, one you really liked, one that you felt in your heart.

Then come tell us about it – leave the link in the comment section. Because words like that shouldn’t be forgotten forever.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. I think it’s really interesting to look back at copy that you have written. As I work on a travel website, I’m literally travelling back in time to revisit different countries and remember my different experiences. Blog articles can be forgotten easily and that’s why I like the favourite posts plugin that you often see on blogs.

  2. Working on a website, I literally travel back in time and revisit places that I’ve visited and remember experiences that I’ve had.

  3. Sorry, I meant working on a travel website! I also wanted to add that I love the ‘Favourite posts’ plugin on a website. I think that generally works really well.

  4. Archan Mehta says:

    Well, James, I can’t remember the last time I read a “bad” piece written by you.

    That’s because there ain’t any posts like that, and your a darned good writer.

    And you should keep up the great work you are doing and never give up and never give in. Some people can be mean and nasty, but you can ignore them. Don’t respond, period.

    Since you asked, I wrote some of my best poems as a child, but never took it seriously. And now those poems are lost forever. Over the years, I have moved on.

    Unfortunately, the memory of those poems is but a feeling now. It was a good experience, but did not last, and I ended up on the wrong side: more practical, less imaginative. I am not sure about digging into the archives–not possible in my case.

  5. Revisiting the past is a very enlightening exercise. This reminds me of what it feels like to look through an old photo album. 🙂
    .-= Heather Villa´s last blog ..Weekend Reading: My fav’s from this week: 2/19/10 =-.

  6. Mary E. Ulrich says:

    I agree with Heather, this felt like friends reminiscing and sharing photos of their life journey.

    Don’t have any blue and gold markers, but I liked the post “this one about losing everything” the best.

    Great stuff James, be proud.
    ps. So, did your youngest daughter learn to type with 10 fingers?

  7. I strongly agree! Many of my great ideas and revelations came from retrospection.
    .-= poch´s last blog ..The Hell with Customer Service or Support =-.

  8. Funny, I just did the same recently with my own blog.

    I only have about ~180 posts, but I discovered a similar thing. A bunch of REALLY GOOD posts I’ve completely forgotten about!
    .-= Vlad Dolezal´s last blog ..How to Cut Your Losses and Move On – Sunk Costs =-.

  9. I know what mean about reading over long-forgotten posts. My blog focuses on London restaurants, which means in some cases you really are travelling back in time because restaurants come and go so regularly. Mainly, though, I like going back and reading the mad reviews… they’re much more fun:

    .-= Ben Bush´s last blog ..Dean Street Townhouse: old school dinners =-.

  10. Exactly two years ago today I wrote a post which told the story of how I had my first magazine article published. It was a kind of vindication after almost, but not quite, getting an article published 13 years before that. Here’s the link:

    .-= Mark Dykeman´s last blog ..Thoughts from Seth Godin =-.

  11. Thursday Bram says:

    I tend to wonder how far back new readers actually read. There have been some blogs that I’ve just dived into the archives when read, but they’re in the minority. Every time I read a bunch of the archives of another blog, I’m tempted to go in and clean up what’s in my archives and get ride of some of those first, particularly bad posts. But I always wind up deciding that if someone really wants to read them, there’s no reason not to let them.
    .-= Thursday Bram´s last blog ..Ask Me Anything: Networking for Clients and Setting Rates =-.

  12. James,

    Your words are art.

    And when you’re hot, they’re really, really fine art. You paint a picture, you move a reader to action, you get ’em up in arms. That’s what we all hope to do once in a while if we’re putting our work out there thrice weekly for a public flogging. I travel back in time through your archives frequently, and you’re one of the very few blog-authors whose archives are truly a wonderful trip (even for someone who’s been reading you almost all along).

    At my own blog? Old ones I still think back on fondly:

    Lyndon’s Window, written back when colleagues were telling me I talked so much about my subject, I should write about it, and I took a few months to see if I could keep up the pace before launching a blog;

    What If That’s All You Have to Say, which may have gotten me more email than any other post in my first year of blogging;

    and though it’s a bit more recent, I really loved Why You Should Work for Free because I learned some enormous lessons from it, and I’m not done trying to digest what I learned from it even now.

    My readers? They just love the sexy posts. Give ’em what they want…


    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..My Favorite Spam! =-.

  13. Oh, man. The blog’s been going for just six months–I’ve barely found my voice. Looking back, there are more winces than head nods. Hopefully the scales will continue to tip the right way.

    One I like best is a short one, about commitment. It has a brilliant quote (sadly, not one of mine) that I return to on occasion: http://www.thestudiosource.com/the-power-of-commitment
    .-= Stacey Cornelius´s last blog ..How intention makes a brand – a quick case study =-.

  14. Alright. Someone needs to tell me why links aren’t showing up as links. As soon as I know the reason, I’ll fix all this for you guys and get some link love going.

    @Kelly – That experience of reading back through my own work made me decide to actively do it more often, at least once a week. And thank you, thank you for the compliments. So much.

    @Thursday – Ha, I hear you! I’ve agonized more than once about whether I should remove those crappy posts or polish them up or rerelease them or what. It’s a tough decision – show readers how far you’ve come, be unashamed of where you were back then? Or maintain the top-notch quality all the time? I still don’t know.

    @Mary – No, but I can honestly say that she uses more than two fingers now and types like a speed demon, so I can’t much complain. She stopped looking at her fingers when she typed, too.

    Still… 10 fingers!

    @Heather – Ahh, good analogy. It was *exactly* like that.

    @Archan – You flatter me, and thank you so much for your kind words. I know the feeling about having written something years ago – one that comes to mind is a short story of the theft of a spoon – and wishing we had that copy today. I started religiously keeping my own work sometime in CEGEP, and I have all my essay papers. (Oddly, one is Top Ten Reasons Rats Are Better Than String… A+, god knows why.)

    To the rest – thank you for the links! I’m going to try to read them all… as soon as I get them working. Oy!

  15. Hey James,

    Fantastic idea. And good for blog recycling since most of us write about our life theme over and over, approaching it from different angles.

    My old blog posts blew me away. Short but sweet. What always amazing me is how coherent they are.

    Found the following mini-post I wrote almost a year ago.

    “I got in trouble once at one of my corporate jobs for “dressing too flamboyantly.” Translation? I wore a lot of bright colors, big earrings and flipped around my long, wild hair. What’s wrong with that? Did I make the place too alive?

    Why do jobs and the humans in them have to be sanitized & sterilized? Why do men all wear those silly suits? And lots of women too? How can wearing the same costume make people more creative or smart?

    Who makes up these rules?”

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    Giulietta the Muse
    .-= Giulietta the Muse´s last blog ..What’s Really Working In Your Life? =-.

  16. What a lovely idea. I had a look back at the one you said you weren’t that proud of, the one about punctuation, it made me think maybe we should start refering to all our back posts in the style of Friends episodes i.e The one about fear of blogging, the one where I totally lost it and started talking about rock music. Actually I’m really fond of “The one about rock music”. Here it is:-
    Don’t Stop Believin’ The Back Story http://wp.me/pHqcg-2m
    .-= Lucy Thorpe´s last blog ..Tiger Woods and the Lifecycle of a Sports Star =-.

  17. Boy, just started my third year of blogging and do I have some doozies out there, way back. And I mean doozy in not a good way. I am embarrassed by some of them, but in another way, it showes how much I have grown.

    I wrote a post a year ago, before the Third Tribe came out that got an okay number of page views but not very many comments. readers, It was called, “How to Be a Sensitive, Ponytailed Marketing Guy.”:


    It’s a subject I’m passionate about as a writer and marketer.

    Thanks for reminding us that our body of blog posts is a work-in-progress.
    .-= Judy Dunn´s last blog ..Unintentional Marketing: Are We Making Our Customers Feel Stupid? =-.

  18. Wow, looking back at my archives – there are some that I love, and some that make me cringe. It’s amazing how much we change and grow and how much our writing changes and grows – plus, it’s seriously awesome to have this amazing record of all of it!

    One of my favorite posts is this one: http://www.insearchofsquid.com/2009/07/square-pegs/

    Every once in a while, I go back and read this. I wrote it when I was just starting out with my blog. Whenever I’m in need of some inspiration, it reminds me why I’m doing all this in the first place.

    Thanks for this article!

  19. Just realised I wrote ‘mad’ when I meant ‘bad’ in my comment up-thread…

    Here’s another one from the so-bad-it-was-good series:

    .-= Ben Bush´s last blog ..Dean Street Townhouse: old school dinners =-.

  20. I had fun checking out some of your older posts. You’re right, once they are off the main page or not listed in the popular posts, then the likelihood of them being read decreases substantially.

    I like to link to older posts so that they don’t really die out.

    My site isn’t that old, but I had a lot of fun writing this post:
    http://www.ameaningfulexistence.com/2009/12/13/your-past-does-not-determine-your-future/ and strongly believe in the topic. It could have been written better, but I’m still proud that I hit the ‘publish’ button and it’s out there for the world to read.

  21. Cool story James, and thanks for linking to the one you weren’t proud of, that’s a great read 🙂

    It’s been my experience that people prefer heartfelt speeches more than practical “how-to” advice. I’m still working on the why, but that’s for another day.
    .-= Nathan Hangen´s last blog ..Podcast: 5 Year Plan (Part 3) =-.

  22. What a fun exercise!

    I can definitely tell that my writing style has changed over the years (hopefully for the better).

    Here is one of my better early posts: http://www.writingthoughts.com/?p=36

    Back in those days I can also see that I felt the need to apologize if I missed posting or if my Internet host went down and for a myriad of other reasons…
    .-= Laura Spencer´s last blog ..Are You Trapped in the Writing Web? =-.

  23. I love time travel. The first post I wrote that got some attention was this one back in November 2005 – http://bimblogger.wordpress.com/2005/11/30/the-color-question/ – when I’d been blogging for just a couple of weeks. Nothing to do with what I later started writing about. I’ve definitely learned a lot about writing and blogging since those first few posts; some posts really make me cringe as they were unformed compared with what I write now. Still, they got attention and got me into blogging, so they can’t be all bad.
    .-= Sharon Hurley Hall´s last blog ..What To Do When Your Writing Client Can’t Pay You =-.

  24. Jodi Kaplan says:

    I like what you said about “There is no failure, there’s only an attempt that didn’t turn out as you expected.” Or, great you failed! Give yourself a “D” and move on. Very liberating.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. It IS like looking through old photos (that semester in London sure was fun).

    Here are two posts that caught my eye as I browsed:



  25. I like what you said about “There is no failure, there’s only an attempt that didn’t turn out as you expected.” Or, great you failed! Give yourself a “D” and move on. Very liberating.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. It IS like looking through old photos (that semester in London sure was fun).

    Here are two posts that caught my eye as I browsed:


    .-= Jodi Kaplan´s last blog ..Are You Using the B-Word With Your Clients? =-.

  26. Funny that you bring this up, because I was just looking at some old posts last week (and wondering if I should edit them to improve them a bit, or leave as-is for posterity sake. And yes, I admit to deleting a few that were just pointless, and of the “Happy [Insert Holiday Here]” variety – not like I could post the same post every year, LOL.

    Anyway, one of my favorites is from a little over a year and a half ago when I took the freelance plunge: “Taking the Freelance Plunge… I am FREE!” http://www.idesignstudios.com/blog/work-life-balance/taking-the-plunge-i-am-free/

    I’ll always remember both the day that I wrote the post (the night before giving my two week’s notice), as well as the day I was able to publish it (just after 5pm on a Friday, after the two weeks was up). Hard to believe that was almost two years ago! 🙂
    .-= Selene M. Bowlby´s last blog ..How to Increase Productivity by Simply Disconnecting =-.

  27. Although I don’t think it is good to dig up old post, I think it is fine to remind someone that it is there. Like put on your sidebar a list of your most amazing posts to that it won’t be forgotten.

  28. James, thanks for the opportunity to talk about something that’s near and dear to me: reading my own archives. (Is that narcissistic? LOL) My blog is a journal of my motorcycle adventures. And right now, just for example, we’re about a month away from MAYBE being able to ride again after a very, VERY long winter. So one of the uses of my archives is to live vicariously, through myself, when I can’t ride. It literally makes me feel better to read about rides I’ve taken – it reminds me that there will be “blue sky days” again soon, and to hang in there! Here’s one of my favorite examples:


    Another reason I like my archives is that they actually serve as a useful record. We planned a trip and traveled to the Sturgis Rally in 2006, and when it came time to repeat the trip in 2009 I couldn’t remember where all the gas stops were that we made along the way. By re-reading my entire trip log from the 2006 journey, I was not only reminded of where we stopped, it got me really enthusiastic about repeating the trip. I hope you’ll allow me a second link. Here’s the 2006 Sturgis archive:


    Like you, I also find it amusing and/or useful to read stuff I’ve written that I no longer agree with, or find naive, or wish I’d written better. I also occasionally read something in the archive that I realize needs an update. That’s an opportunity for a new post, with a link back to the original.

    Lots of great reasons to travel back in time! Thanks again for the opportunity to share!

    – Corn Dog (Janet)

  29. Mine was one of my earliest blogs. I’d originally written it for a parenting magazine. I love it because I gave the subject bucketloads of thought and it really came from the heart.

    It’s called How Do You Know When to Let Go and it’s a reflection on the many changes that take effect after becoming to a parent and thinking long and hard about what is gone; whether it should stay gone or whether you owe it to yourself to hang on to some particular relationships, values and personal standards.

    .-= NatalieGreen´s last blog ..No point winking in the dark =-.

  30. So beautiful post! and you are right! I’m fighting every day of my life to achive my goals. I moved to a new city and start from zero, but I needed it! It was a really change of everything n my life. Risky? Yes, a lot but…I don’t understand life without risking.

    This is my post, is in spanish so…I’m sorry if you don’t understand it!


    Is the reflect of my moment and my strength.


  31. Wow. I took some time this morning, and I had a blast looking through these old posts everybody pointed to!

    Ben—Rants are the best. You did some doozies.

    Judy—LOL. I wrote a post about that ponytailed dude, and so did James. Though neither of us threw him a dime either, he’s certainly… influential. I printed your post out. Good conclusions there.

    Sharon—Silver! I love it. There’s a lot of hope for the future in a conversation like that.

    Manu—So heartfelt. And the last couple of sentences, about people who may try to bring you down—that really nailed it for me.

    I keep an area in my sidebar for the “Best of,” a small list so folks will feel like I picked only the ones they just have to check out. Besides the usual posts that are a great place for new readers to start, I do try to switch out now and then and keep a few oldies-but-goodies for readers who want to dig a little deeper without combing years of archives. If you MWP readers don’t have a section like that, judging from all the goodies I just read, you should seriously consider it!

    Until later,

    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..My Favorite Spam! =-.

  32. Hi James.

    Interesting idea. Coincidentally, I’ve been rereading my posts to try and improve their SEO impact. This is important in general, but specifically it’s important because I’m now making my living as an independent consultant.

    Many people, including here at Men with Pens, write about how freelancers should conduct business, what they should charge, etc.. I came across a post I wrote that provides business leaders, the people who hire freelancers, with some guidance on how to build effective relationships with freelance talent. The delicious irony, now that I’m a consultant, is that I’m experiences many of the evils I recommend businesses not practice. 6 Ways to get the Best from Freelance Talent
    .-= The Other James´s last blog ..Hub and Spoke: A Customer Marketing Strategy for the Rest of Us =-.

  33. Revisiting the past is awesome, but years? Hell I’m surprised by what I came out with last week. But past archives are a good place for content ideas. I mean people always wonder where to get inspiration from… well if your blog has been running for more than a year, then what you seek already exists right under your nose.
    .-= FitJerks Fitness Blog´s last blog ..Product Review: FitDeck Playing Cards (Bodyweight) =-.

  34. the fat nutritionist says:

    Well, I suppose I rather liked this one from two years ago:

    If I eat more than you, it’s for one simple reason.

    It’s a lot shorter than my recent stuff, and gets to the point nicely.

    Archives, in general, are a source of underappreciated gems. I love finding a blog I like, and then going through all the archives like they’re stacks in a library.

  35. This post is interesting. You see when you take a look at that first blog post you wrote and the latest that you wrote you will see how different you are back then or you didn’t change at all. Things maybe a little different but this will help us improve more.

  36. Thank you for this opportunity to review ourselves and our writing, James.

    Here is a post that I wrote from my heart:


    It turned out this post was somewhat prophetic, as my mom passed away in May 2009. Reading it again now did my heart good.
    .-= Linda Abbit´s last blog ..What to Do After You’ve Lost Your Cool with your Aging Parents =-.

  37. It was worth the trip … It was like going back to the future to remind myself why I do what I do:

    Why Do You Do What You Do?
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..Lessons Learned from Dr. Seuss =-.

  38. Looking back at your past is a lot like looking through a photo album. It is a good exercise to perform..very seldom!
    .-= Ginny´s last blog ..Industrial Dust Control Curtains =-.

  39. I’m actually looking forward to reading my posts in a few years time. I’m hoping it will chronicle how I went from corporate desk jockey to full-time freelancer. (Or, if I don’t get there, where everything went pear-shaped.)

    Even now I find myself going back over what I’ve written, but that’s mainly so I don’t repeat myself. (I have a great memory, but it’s very selective in what it remembers. Which is why I have trouble remembering people’s names, but can recite the chemical equation for sucrose that I learned in high school.)

    .-= Bill Harper´s last blog ..Writing by instinct =-.

  40. @ Linda – Here’s a hug for you. I read your post, and sympathize with both your loss and the roller coaster ride that Alzheimer’s brings to our lives.

    But 99! Good on your mum!

  41. Thanks, James! I can feel your virtual hug. 🙂
    .-= Linda Abbit´s last blog ..What to Do After You’ve Lost Your Cool with your Aging Parents =-.

  42. I’d like to travel back in time. That would be more than great, it would be awesome. I can change what I hate about me and all that jazz.

  43. Thanks for including “Are you Struggling over a Small Readership?” in your look back. I started blogging a few months ago and while I’m not struggling per say (like you, I’m a happy optimist) it is nice to be reminded why I’m doing it. After one of my first few blogs I remember telling my mom “the really cool thing is the people who have reached out to me since I’ve written these…people who I haven’t connected with in years; people who are touched by my words.”

    I’m too old for concerts, anyway. They start too late, cost too much money and if I want produced music I can download the album. Give me a small, acoustic set any day! 😉
    .-= Beth Coetzee´s last blog ..Frugal Fever =-.

  44. Great exercise. As soon as I read this article I knew what I wanted to share.
    I wrote three posts about what I called ‘mature relationships’ several years ago, and they are just mouldering on a cob-web site of mine now. I don’t know if they are well written or not, but they were straight from the heart and contained some wisdom that I thought, still think actually, is valuable. I’ve never forgotten them. Here they are in order:
    Mature relationships
    Here be Dragons
    What’s It All Worth?


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  2. […] Why You Should Travel Back Through Time – A must read.  James is such a great writer you can’t help but feeling like you’re flipping through a ‘blog’ album (like a photo album) as ‘he’ goes through ‘his’ blog archives. […]

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