Discovering and archiving decades worth of writing: How 89-year-old Marvin uses Dropbox

89-year-old Dropbox user Marvin Green

My grandfather, Marvin, is a lawyer by trade but a creative writer at heart. Based in Chicago, Marvin spends much of his free time (and not-so-free time) working on poems, essays, short stories, and novels. At 89 years old, he’s written over 50 pieces.

For the past few decades, Marvin’s writing has been piling up around his office and his house, in filing cabinets or on old computers. He always wanted a way to aggregate and publish these works to get them out into the world, but the task seemed insurmountable.

Marvin would cycle through discovering a piece, getting excited about it, working on it, and sending a copy to one or more children and grandchildren to read — but after that, it would ultimately get lost in another pile or filing cabinet. Aging computers and hard drives didn’t help. Aging Marvin didn’t either. It was getting harder and harder for him to remember where that essay he wrote about the poet Lord Byron might be hiding.

A couple years ago, at the urging of my mother, Marvin paid a friend by the hour to track down and categorize as much of his writing as possible. There were dozens of documents found, papers scanned, works deduplicated and labeled — and everything was uploaded to Marvin’s newly created Dropbox account.

To Marvin, Dropbox was far more than a way to keep the documents safe, organized, and available. It finally gave him a single repository for all of his life’s work, one that was no longer susceptible to the cobwebs and tech rot that used to put his writing at risk of being lost forever.

Marvin Green and grandson

There were still missing works that couldn’t be tracked down; but when looking at a categorized and labeled repository of the bulk of his writing, the gaps seemed far less significant. Plus, when we’re able to locate anything new — and we have, a couple times since then — we can easily add it to the growing corpus, further completing the picture for Marvin.

With that once-daunting task completed, we were able to turn our attentions to self-publishing his writing. We found a great freelance designer and website builder who was thrilled to work with our family on the project.

Even though the designer lived over 1,000 miles away, getting the documents and other materials to her was easy, because everything was already in Dropbox. We made a new folder that contained only the documents Marvin wanted to publish, and then shared a link to that folder with the designer. Three months ago, www.readmarvin.com finally went live. Thank you, Dropbox!

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