Unfortunately, I didn’t make it. A letter a day, even for a month as short as February, seems beyond my apparently limited means.
I don’t really have any good excuses, just my usual disorganization. I wrote a letter in one place and realized I didn’t have a permanent ink for addressing, so I left it in unaddressed in my bag for two weeks, getting increasingly crumpled. I wanted to include a photo in another letter, but didn’t have the photo with me, and there went another letter loose in the abyss of papers on my desk. I can’t even cite Caleb as an excuse, since I received a few letters from mamas or papas with babies younger than Caleb, or more babies than just the one.
I will say, however, that I ended up writing quite a few letters in total in the last month and a bit, and it’s been great. They’ve mostly been in response to letters I’ve received, although I’ve also gotten out a few long overdue letters as well.
I’m in an unusual position in that I sometimes receive letters from strangers or followers of the blog or customers that I’ve never had the chance to meet. Part of this is that I, in fact, write a blog, and part of it is that our shop address is very easy to find on the internet, which is not the case for people who aren’t running a public sort of business. If you’re on social media or have a blog, I strongly encourage you to consider getting a PO box that you can post publicly – you’d be surprised at how many people will take the time to write to you. Often people will think of writing to you, and be willing to put in the effort, but coming out and asking for your address can seem a bit forward.
I guess it’s something about having a stack of letters to respond to that gives you a bit of a push to get going. Most arrived through February, although some came along in the first days of March, and I still have a nice, heart-warming pile of letters, just waiting for me on my desk.
So this month has been great! In the evenings, I’ve been spending time with Caleb, him doodling and stamping his own piles of papers, and me looking rather similar in my own sprawl. One of his great joys is assisting in wax seals, and I can go to sleep at night knowing I’ve done at least one thing right, for a future pen clerk.
A not unimportant benefit of writing so many letters is being able to get through some stationery that’s been kicking around my cupboards for a while. I’ve been putting off organizing my stationery for years, and at the top of the list of reasons for putting it off is that it will be easier to organize once I use up some of it.
During this month, I managed to condense two baskets of random stationery papers into one, although admittedly in both were scraps of paper with meaningless notes, odds and ends like mismatched chopsticks and a crochet hook. Nonetheless, it was quite satisfying.
In any case, side benefits or not, I think InCoWriMo is not so much about the hard and fast rules of succeeding (or so I tell myself, as someone who did not succeed), but the intentional opportunities you give yourself by connecting with people. Committing to writing to 28 folks, whether it’s brightening a stranger’s day, or reconnecting with an old acquaintance, or introducing yourself to a new friend, really gives you the chance to not just leave someone a comment or a like on social media, but to say to them that you’re present.
I’ve been making good use of my correspondence ledger, which has actually proven to be quite helpful. You can read more details of it here, but it’s essentially a chart where I fill in what’s come in, and when I’ve written back, I fill in a few small details (important content, type of correspondence, like card or postcard). It’s an easy way to see what letters or correspondence is owed.
One or two letters came by from pen pals that I owed long over due letters to, asking me if I was still alive and pointing out that I was since they could see I was posting nonsense online. (Just kidding, both were significantly more gracious than I deserved considering how far back the letters go.)
I also received a few notes of thanks for everyone’s work here at the shop in setting up the pen pal match up, and how much they’re enjoying InCoWriMo and getting writing again. I particularly enjoyed having most of these addressed to me personally, despite most of the work falling to Jon and the team here – hah! In case you missed the pen pal match up, we’re planning our second one at the end of summer or early fall.
One of the best things about all of the letters I’ve received is that more than a few people mentioned that they’d started writing letters this month and that they hoped to keep going: they’ve been enjoying the writing and the posting, and hopefully as time passes, friendships will grow over correspondence.
So InCoWriMo has been wonderful.Even if you didn’t participate, or didn’t succeed, I hope you’ll consider finding some time, once a week, once a month, to write to someone. You’ll be delighted to find something in your mailbox, and you may be surprised by how much you enjoy the whole process.
It’s been a pretty great month, to hear from folks, new and old, and also to have a whole bunch of people to write to. I’ve been really enjoying reading through letters arriving, and taking my time writing back, and I’m looking forward to more and more going forward.
And – in case you’re in need of some good company while letter writing, remember that our monthly Letter Writing Club is taking place tomorrow evening, Thursday, March 9th at the shop, from 7-9 pm. It’s free! We’ve got supplies and stationery, treats and tea, and lots of friendly faces.