Friday 22 February 2019

February, letters, offline, thoughts

A slogan I used on a soapbox a few years ago was- Think Global, Act Local. I would love to act local in the purchasing of the nice postage stamps, but with post offices in villages being a side-venture to convenience stores / corner shops, to get the nice stamps I may have to travel miles, or buy online. The high street is declining, mine mainly has charity shops, cheapo discount stores, cafes, bookmakers. There is a post office but as one who wants to buy more than just a few stamps from the special issues, they sometimes won’t let me buy as much as I want or they’ve already sold out.
For stationery purposes, the stores on my high street don’t have much choice of jolly nice papers and paraphernalia. No chance of wax seals, nor a wide range of washi tape, nor colourful sparkly fountain pen inks available, so I do buy some things online. I want to support the local area, but should I go without if not available locally?
For friendships, I turned to snail mail. Where I live, I am still considered an outsider, even with the in-laws, and I have been here for nearly 20 years. People ignore me more often than not, in person. This place can get very isolated, lonely. I am quite shy too, so hurrah for the internet and discussion boards.
This February, I haven’t been online as much as I usually would. I have taken the time offline to write many letters, having picked strangers to write to from the website. March,  I hope will be a month of replies. Letter writing is for life, not just for February, but letter writing may not suit everybody.
I can’t really compare this year with previous years. I have a different outlook on the project from when I first started in 2013 or so. When I restarted penpalling in 2007, I was looking for commonality, same/similar interests and perhaps women with families. It didn’t really get me anywhere, and none of those initial correspondents stood the test of time. I started to expand my horizon, having joined other snail mail websites, Postcrossing, among others. I celebrated over 10 years of correspondence with a couple of penfriends. Lettermo and InCoWriMo opened my eyes wider, and I reached successfully to new penpals. Perhaps what I look for in a penpal has changed.
I don’t see snail mail as an obligation. I would like to reply to letters within a fortnight to a month of receipt, but if life/circumstance delays that, then I try not to stress. Snail mail is supposed to be fun and a relaxing hobby. Friendships should not feel like a chore. While I would like replies to the February surprise letters I have written, and yes, I may still feel disappointed if there are no surprises or replies waiting for me through the letterbox, I know there is life to be led. I do intend to reply to all letters I receive although there are some circumstances, obvious perhaps, when I would not reply.
This has taken a few hours to create, and it is eating into my letter writing time.

Monday 4 February 2019

InCoWriMo-2019 - 3rd February thoughts

It is international correspondence writing month. A month full of me handwriting letters to send around the world, some to penpals, and some to strangers. This year, I have been selecting people from a number randomly generated and looked up in the nearest book / magazine. When one magazine failed to yield anything of note to search the address book for, I chose another book. I picked up More Letters of Note, compiled by Shaun Usher, to use for one letter. Will my letters be letters of note in years to come? I don't know, but don't mind if they aren't, that is, if they bring joy or a moment of happiness to the people I send them to.

Some people see the main goal of InCoWriMo-2019 as writing one-off notes/letters for 28 days. Maybe some participants would write a very short missive less than the Twitter character allowance, with writing the postal address taking more time. Size of letter shouldn't really matter, if the quality of what is written is excellent. Sometimes, it only takes a few words to make someone's day. Just "Happy InCoWriMo" doesn't cut it for me, it doesn't show much thought whether handwritten or not.

I do not see this month as a month of one-off correspondence. I see it as a month of reaching out to people, connecting with the world. Good letters can bring compassion, happiness, joy, contentment, peace, love, friendship, hope, knowledge, laughter, companionship.... They tell stories, anecdotes, jokes, and reveal genuineness, sincerity, merit, thoughtfulness, and emotion of the letter writers. There is something magical about it all. I may sit here in solitude, but with your letters in on my table, I am however in the company of friends.

Edited to add: 

The blog over on Goulet Pens has 28 suggestions, one a day, to write to. They include family, friends whether current or even from a long time ago, people in your life... If you are new to letter writing, then I think the suggestions there is a good way to get started. You already personally know most of the people you will write to.

The February letter writing projects are not about the receiving of mail. Many letters written through this month, and also first letters to prospective penpals via snail mail profile sites and penpal groups will be unrequited. For some, a letter is seen as a gift, a true gift that does not expect reciprocation. While I see the month as a way to connect with people, I do hope for replies but I know I cannot be a penfriend to everybody. "A letter should be regarded not merely as a medium for the communication of intelligence but also as a work of art." - H. Walpole.