52 letters in 2018: Welcome to week 1

Week 1 (January 1-7): Send a Happy New Year’s note.

I didn’t blog much in 2017. I didn’t write many articles in 2017. I did, however, write hundreds of letters and postcards, and I received a box full of replies from around the world.

A box full of 2017 snail mail
A box full of 2017 snail mail

Recently a friend asked, “Why are you enamored by snail mail?” I replied, “So many reasons! Letter-writing takes a bit more time, effort, thought, and care, it’s more personal, it’s tactile, it’s more sound and less noise, and it’s aesthetically pleasing (both the paper and seeing individual handwriting). Arriving home to a piece of mail can really turn a day around and/or end it on a high happy note (see what I did there?!).”

As I’ve increased my letter-writing the past few years, I’ve noticed that a few of my friends have done the same, and I’ve benefited by receiving regular correspondence from several of them. Our paper chats are more frequent and meaningful than most other conversations I have with modern forms of messaging.

When I’m online, either via phone or laptop, I’m inundated with messaging and distracted by multiple windows. But when I open a letter or flip over a postcard, for that moment in time, that message has 100% of my attention. I’m not looking at Helvetica on a glass screen; instead, I’m holding paper that my friend in another part of the world held in her hand after she drew ink across the page, magically turning materials into a message and meaning. It’s like we’ve touched fingers or lingered over a quick cuppa during an otherwise hectic day.

So I guess you could say that I’m really into this letter-writing thing.

I invite you, my online friend, to join me in this journey offline. To help you get started, I’ll commit to a year of guidance, and here’s how it will work. Take as little or as much as you want, and leave the rest.

Each week, starting today, I will outline a letter-writing assignment for the week. Feel free to modify the challenge (or ignore it) however you see fit. The idea is to help you get the creative juices flowing so that you can drop at least one note in the mail each week of 2018.

Week 1 (January 1-7): Send a Happy New Year’s note. This can be a postcard, a letter, or a greeting card, and can be as long or as short as you like. You just need to wish somebody a Happy New Year.

Getting organized

I’ll use the term “organized” real loosely here. The goal is to make writing letters or postcards as easy and efficient as possible so that you keep doing it, and that you find it relaxing and enjoyable instead of a chore. I find it to be a bit meditative now, and whereas I used to find myself composing Tweets in my head, I now catch myself drafting notes to friends.

A drawer full of postage and postcards
My letter-writing station

I keep postcards and stamps in a drawer at work, postage in my purse (in a business-card holder), and a large drawer in my coffee table holds the bulk of my stationery and an envelope full of domestic and international stamps. Then any time I’m in the mood to write, I have the card and postage for the occasion.

Week 1 organization checklist

  • Gather postage and stationery: I use a large drawer in my coffee table (which is the only reason I have this particular coffee table), but in the past I’ve used a vintage suitcase, desk, or dresser drawer for my letter-writing stash.
  • Collect a few favorite letter-writing pens: I have a favorite fountain pen, but I don’t tend to use it for letters because I’m a lefty and often smudge the ink. Instead, I’m fond of a good ballpoint pen, Sharpie pen, or a microline pen.
  • Update your address book: I use a Google address book, which I desperately need to clean up. I’ve got too many old contacts and duplicates in there, and this year I’ll pull out a penpal list so I’m better organized. To get the addresses, I’ve asked people online or in person, and I’ve even put multiple calls out on Facebook to gather interest from friends, who’ve then emailed me their addresses.
  • Buy stamps: You can order them online, but I like dropping into the post office a couple of times a year and picking up a roll of postcard stamps, sheets of domestic forever stamps, and sheets of international forever stamps.

And there you have it. Week one is easy, peasy. You’ll drop one New Year’s greeting in the mail, start getting organized, and look forward to quality snail mail time with your friends and relatives in 2018.

Next week: a new challenge, and I’ll tell you the story about the time I wanted to cry, stepped in dog shit, and then checked my mailbox.