On Boxing Day in 2008 I started a blog, Daffy’s Garden. I intended to post pictures of my garden, and imagined nobody but my mum would read it.
I carried on that blog for nearly three years, picking up gorgeous readers and friends along the way, until I moved over here for a bit more room in September 2011 (really, that long ago?)
I often look back at my early posts to find pictures of things I’ve made, or places I’ve been, or to watch how the garden’s changed. I started thinking how lovely it would be to be able to flick through those posts on paper, like a book. I had vague memories of Soulemama doing something similar with her blog.
And that train of thought brought me to this.
To begin with I tried blog2print, which with a couple of clicks turns your entire blog into a pdf file, which you can then print. It was easy to use, but a lot of the formatting was lost, pictures were in the wrong place, and there was an awful lot of blank space. And I couldn’t find a way of easily converting the huge 750mb pdf file into a word document that I could edit.
I then tried blurb but after several hours and several tries (and several tantrums) the software still wouldn’t download onto my ancient mac laptop.
Eventually I came across this post, and the one following it, which give lovely detailed instructions on how to turn your blog into a book using Lulu, an organisation which lets you print one book all of your very own.
I followed Jocelyn‘s instructions, and copied and pasted each blog post individually into a word document, then went right back to the beginning and formatted each post. It took about an hour to copy a year’s worth of posts (86 I think), and probably a total of around thirty hours formatting and preparing for printing.
I tried to start each post on a new page. This wasn’t always possible, and involved a lot of fiddling with resizing photographs and moving things around. Do you want to have a look inside?
I’m really pleased with it (actually, I can’t quite explain just how excited I’ve been to hold it in my hands). The paper is nice and thick, and it feels like a book. It’s not photo paper, and the pictures don’t look like actual photographs, but they’re good enough, and the words are nice and clear.
Obviously I’ve found a few mistakes now – places where I’ve forgotten to resize the font, or put a photograph in the middle of a word (oops!), and something has gone slightly amiss with the spacing of the letters (I believe this is my fault for not ’embedding fonts’ appropriately…) but on the whole it looks good.
I just did the first year of the blog as an experiment, but I’ll be doing the other two years very soon. Here are some things I’ve learned…
* embed the fonts properly (or use the ones suggested by the template). I used calibri for the main text, and the spacing is slightly odd between the letters, which it wasn’t on the screen
* 10 point font is fine for my eyesight
* photos don’t need to take up half a page – even if they’re good pictures they won’t reproduce brilliantly so it’s better to have them small and make the book shorter
* it’s worth leaving a couple of days before the final edit – I got impatient and my eyes stopped seeing things after a while
* I included comments people had posted in this one. They’re lovely to have, but they take up quite a bit of room, and took quite a lot of the formatting time. I haven’t decided whether I’ll include comments next time (but I still do really appreciate reading them on screen!)
It felt strange to go back and read things I wrote five years ago. My writing style feels quite different now, and my photos are (usually) a lot better. I cringed quite a lot at what I wrote back then, but now I have the paper copy I’ve been reading it again and again and I love it.
I made a conscious decision at the start that I’d mostly write about cheerful things – things I’d done, things I’d made, places I’d been – not because I want to deny the grumpy parts of life, but because I want to look back and appreciate the good parts. It’s all too easy sometimes to forget the days lying in the park in the sunshine, or the tea and cake you shared with a friend, or the bag you made. It’s easy to long for the life of someone in Country Living magazine (and sometimes yes, I do long for that), and very easy to forget that you made jam and soap and socks, and grew fruit and herbs, and went for long walks in the countryside.
So now I have this little book on my shelf I can look back and remember those things. And I can see how different my life is now (no PhD for a start), and yet how similar (Saturday mornings at the women’s institute cafe, Sunday lunch at the city farm, photographs of tea, and cake, and knitting, and more tea…). I love it that the same things crop up year after year, it reassures me that where I am is where I want to be.
I’ve already forgotten the moaning I did when trying to edit this book, and I’m planning to start the 2010 volume this very evening.