My Month of Writing Letters

Geek Culture Internet

Image: Mary Robinette Kowal

Some think letter writing is a lost art. One woman is trying to change that.

Mary Robinette Kowal, author of such books asImage: Mary Robinette Kowalie=UTF8&tag=gd0bc-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0765325608″>Shades of Milk and Honey and puppeteer of note, challenged the internet to write letters for the month of February, and called it, fittingly, the Month of Letters. For every day that the mail runs, she asked us to write a letter, a postcard, or a quick note, and post it to someone, complete with address and stamp. Having done (and won) NaNoWriMo for the past two years, I knew an almost-daily letter would be a much easier challenge than writing a short novel, and I could take care of some letters I’d been meaning to write in the process.

Mary created a website and planning calendar, and other people put together a participant stamp sheet and poster. I printed everything out, and got to planning. I went through my Rolodex and my stack of 2011 holiday letters and started filling in the calendar. I made sure to write Mary herself on the first day, added family and friends, but also left plenty of blank days to fill in with people who wanted to write to me, or to reply to my letters. We’re nearing the end of the month and my calendar is finally full. One friend of mine told me that he truly appreciated receiving my letters, and so he’s gotten more than one (and more than anyone else) in thanks.

Image: Mary Robinette Kowal

It’s been a very fun and interesting experience, writing all these letters. Of course, I’ve actually typed them, due to my slow, messy handwriting. But I’ve found new friends on Twitter (other people who wanted to participate in the Month of Letters but needed more people to write to), I’ve opened my heart to dear friends, and others have written to me about interesting parts of their lives that I didn’t know.

At first I found it to be a challenge to write letters to strangers, but I learned that the best thing to do is to write something about myself to start and then ask open ended questions about them. It was also quite a challenge, but only at first, to write letters to people who I know very well or see all the time. I have written to a few local friends whom I talk to on a weekly or daily basis. I started off rambling about random things, but then found that it was a great opportunity to pick a topic and dive in, sharing bits of myself that never come up in our regular conversations. I don’t expect everyone to write me back, but I’ve already gotten a few letters and notes that are very dear to me. Mary herself even wrote me back, and her letter is probably one of the most quirky and amazing I have ever received.

I know I won’t continue the daily letter writing come March, but I do think I will continue writing them occasionally. Thank you, Mary, for encouraging us all to slow down and enjoy the delayed gratification of writing and receiving letters. And to everyone out there, even if you don’t take on a month-long letter writing challenge, try to write a few letters from time to time, especially to family members and friends who may not have email, or to dear friends who would love to hear from you regardless of medium.

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