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Today is the last day of #InCoWriMo, International Correspondence Writing Month. I just achieved one of my goals, which was to use all the 37 cent stamps I inherited form my mother in 2008. I had 18 left, and used them on an international package. Now I will be able to use forever stamps forever. I found out about this month by associating with some bullet journal people on social media. They write down and draw in their journals to be more creative and archive ideas for writing. I started the BuJu-ing, but am not very prolific with the journalling. I might get into it, because it is a very valid way to stimulate creativity.
I do make some iPad art, digital style, but have thought for a while the manual side of my skill set has been left to atrophy. Indeed, my cursive writing has become a thing of the past. I will never be able to compete with the pen pals with beautiful handwriting, but pen pals don’t compete. I have found that waiting to see what is in the mailbox as well as composing an artful response has become a real joy. I have just barely made a dent in the card collection with which I started the month. Inspired by my BuJu and calligraphy pals, I have bought some finger color ink and some sealing wax to make my mail more exciting and individual. Some new designer stamps will arrive in the mail soon, and today I purchased some international stamps to keep in touch with my new friends in Canada and England. The handwritten mail reveals more about the sender than digital communication. I have instantly become fond of my letter writing friends. I plan to write to them until all the cards are gone.
I have met artists of various kinds, gardeners, crochet and knitting crafters, a book binder, and many who are into botany and botanical gardens. I mentioned my botanical interests when I publicly listed my mailing address, so I attracted many like minded plant lovers. Now a group has been formed on Facebook for a combination of correspondence and poetry for the month of April. I think I can get behind that challenge also, since I already write 30 poems in 30 days for #NaPoWriMo in April. I might be really cool to write them out and decorate them ..and send them away in the mail. It is really kind of mysterious. I like many retro trends, but am surprised by how much I delight in this one. Do you write snail mail, gentle reader? I am still collecting addresses, so if you want a card..or possibly a poem, in the snail mail, give me your mailing address here. I would never share it with anyone else.
The journey into my stationary drawer and the the mailbox this month is a very healthy investigation into my skills. #InCoWriMo is a challenge in correspondence by hand, by snail mail during the month of February. I have received the most beautifully written letters from around the country. I am so impressed with some of the cursive that I tried it myself. Good grief, was I ever bad at it. It is not like riding a bicycle, it does not come back naturally. I was never great at penmanship, but I could do it 50 years ago. I am not sure when I switched to printing, but it probably was in architecture school. When I attempted to write longhand it was incredibly challenging, and I only lasted a short paragraph before I abandoned hope. I also notice how very addicted I am to spellcheck. I halt in the middle of writing a word by hand, and no magic feature steps in to spell for me..I am almost disabled by this. I have personally lost my own skills by not practicing them. It is not too late for me to recover lost skills of youth.
My new pen pals have shown me that I lean to hard on digital skills. If the internet goes down what will become of me? I must balance my creative life by spending some of it by hand on paper..I can still take a picture of it and post it on instagram. I used to sew, draw, write songs and poetry, all without computer assistance of any kind. I even had a treadle sewing machine at one point. I made my living as a production potter, throwing pots on a kick wheel. I was such a home grown/ hand made/ alternative economy hippie that I did now own a television. Now I hear people talking about going back to the old Nokia un-smart phone to regain balance in life. I don’t really have a phone addiction so much as a general digital device issue. Balance for me will involve spending more time writing by hand. I need the tactile therapeutic value of putting the pen on the paper. The muse responds differently than when it is coming through a keyboard. My manual muse needs encouragement. What about you, gentle reader? Do you still write by hand?
On my first day of International Correspondence Writing Month I was completely surprised by my friend in New Jersey. He started early and mailed a letter to me so that it arrived on the very first day—way to go, Marc. You completely shocked me. I started to unpack my desk drawer full of cards, writing paper, and postcards and found that the situation is much more serious that I thought it was. I knew I had hoarded some paper goods, but I drastically underestimated the volume of my stash. I have removed less than half of the contents of the drawer and have a selection on the table of at least 200 different ways to send mail in February. I found 7 plain vintage postcards of unknown age, that my mom left me with 2 cents postage printed on the front. I am going to send one of those to the Postmaster General in case it has some value.
I have cards from all over the world, and I still think they are as artful as the day I bought them. I found 2 copies of my high school graduation invitation, so for the first day I gave my neighbor an invitation to my graduation. We joke about having too much stuff stored in our houses all the time, so she was the perfect recipient of this 49 year old card for which nobody has any earthly use. I found another copy and wish I could find somebody who went to that high school to be the surprise recipient of the other. I might work on that because it would be funny.
Maybe I will just get into mailing things and keep sending them until they are all gone, but that would take years of daily diligence. This is a crossroads, for sure. I need to use these paper goods or release them to another more loving home where they will be used and appreciated. I am now even more pleased to have decided to join the correspondence challenge in February now that i review my vast collection. I realize the people to whom I mail these cards will get a charge out of them, and I have the possibility of freeing up a large drawer in my desk to use for other purposes. Win/win. If you want to help me win the battle of the paper drawer send me your mailing address, gentle reader. Thanks.
The month of February, known for Valentine cards, is also the month for #InCoWriMo, international correspondence writing month. I have started a bullet journal to switch at least some of my writing to my own hand, but I am slow getting started on that project. I heavily rely on digital media to both send and receive everything. When I discovered this challenge to send or hand deliver one hand written note, postcard, or card each day for the month of February I was nostalgic for my old pen pal of childhood. My pen pal lived in England and was also a Brownie Scout. Many of my fellow scouts burned out fast on writing letters, but I stayed in touch with mine for several years. I started sending letters to Ann of England around second grade and carried on until about sixth, I think. I remember the gifts she sent me at Christmas, but I don’t remember what I sent her. I know there was an effort to make the gift represent America somehow. I also was forced to write to my grandparents and send thank you notes to anyone who gave me anything or invited me to go anywhere. I had to write a legal pad page of cursive every day at my father’s orders because I got a C in handwriting in school, which was not acceptable. I hated doing that intensely, but I adored buying fancy stationery and writing to my pen pal. I think I can revive the excitement by writing by and to people all over the world next month.
I know some dedicated print and mail specialists who make sure they stay active by sending letters and snail mail. My friend Marc Zazeela, @MZazeela, has been a logistics and shipping expert for his entire professional career. He knows all there is to know about sending anything anywhere at the best rate. He serves commercial and international clients, but is a strong proponent of sending handwritten notes. Hellen Rittersporn, @HELENSstudio, writes a wonderful blog all about letterwritting called Anchored Scraps in which she stays current with stamps, pens, history of correspondence and more. She is naturally on board for the February challenge, and has written this very informative piece on the subject.
There are many famous folks who want to receive letters, such as the Postmaster General of the United States. Many more of us not so famous people have set the intention of finishing this challenge by publishing our mailing addresses on the site for sharing. The website and e mail reminders you will receive when you sign up are very helpful and inspirational. They have designed a planning calendar to help you design a strategy, or just fill your dance card:
Now there is a crustacean on instagram running a contest associated with the program. countcrustaceo is running a contest to make things more interesting. Now you can’t say this is not fun:
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