I recently had the distinct pleasure of connecting with On Paper patron and all round excellent human being, Michael, to discuss a practice near and dear to our hearts: letter writing. We love it. We do it. We love talking about doing it. And while you’ll find a devoted group of letter writers aboard the good ship On Paper, none of us are doing what Michael is—sending 365 pieces of handwritten notes, cards, and letters in one year.
When he first mentioned his project several weeks ago, I played it decidedly uncool. Partly because of my role as store manager-blogger-Instagrammer, but also out of genuine personal interest I wanted to sit down and talk shop, as it were, with Michael. How was it he had come to commit to such a project?
Concepts like intentionality, positivity, and connectivity (not in the technological sense, but human-to-human) were central in his response. Compare those ideas to the hours we spend passively scrolling through others’ lives or getting into heated debates with strangers, and it’s clear that this project responds, in part, to the rabbit hole that is social media. (This isn’t an anti-Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., soapbox; these platforms do allow us easy access to our friends, including requesting their street addresses!)
This project is an alternative to passivity in our relationships because writing a note or sending a card inherently takes a little planning and time. How much planning is entirely up to you. At the minimum, you need something to write with and something to write on, the recipients address, and some postage. (We know you know that.) At the other end of the spectrum, you can be like Michael with two spreadsheets dedicated to his project (#lifegoals).
The first spreadsheet functions as an address book and is color coded, each color representing a different group from Michael’s life: family, high school friends, college friends, colleagues from Austin, and so on. The second spreadsheet keeps a chronological record of the letters Michael sends and the responses, if any, he receives. Together, these organizational tools let the careful correspondent spread the love in a timely fashion. They also offer Michael all the data he might want if he sits down to reflect on the project in, say, book or blog form. We hope he does and we can say, “we knew him when.”
With meaningful connection being a primary goal, we give Michael’s project an On Paper Seal of Success. By simply mentioning his project, our conversation evolved beyond friendly chat at the register and now we know what Michael does for work, where he was before Columbus, and that his dad is an avid card sender himself.
The On Paper Seal of Success, issued this fourth day of October
If hearing about this project inspires you to action, great! I am committing to sending one letter a week (that’s 52 [!] opportunities to check in, follow up, shout out, and send a little love). I may not color code a spreadsheet, but I can manage a list of those notes I’ve written and those I want to write. If hearing about this project inspires you to send just one letter, great! If hearing about this project inspires you to call a friend you haven’t talked to in a while, great! If hearing about this project just makes you feel good, great! Us, too.
Here are a few very practical nuggets of wisdom from our conversation. Set yourself up for success: it’s helpful to have a good stock of cards ready to go so you aren’t scrambling to the store at the last minute. You may find it more cost-effective to purchase a stationery set or two instead of relying entirely on greeting cards. Social media isn’t all bad; Facebook is a great way to get friends’ addresses and stay in the loop about major life events you might like to acknowledge with a card or letter. Your handwriting isn’t bad; it’s familiar to your friends and family and they’ll love seeing it in their mailbox.
Mix and match stationery sets, like this Crown Mill pastel assortment are an easy way to stay stocked and ready to write