Don’t Wait to Send the Letter

I love Proper Letters. On stationery, whether it’s plain, stolen from an hotel, or Sanrio, leaking kitties and wabbits in its wake, trawling glitter irritatingly from the first pull-apart of the envelope.

I love them. I love to receive them. I love to write them. But…I suck at sending them. I’m in the middle of a letter to a dear friend. We text, Whatsapp, email aplenty, but she went to a festival about which I wanted to hear and so I said, hey, write me a letter. She did. It’s fantastic. Full of the details and observations and feelings that get left out of emails all too often; coherent, instead of in little blocks of text or tweet which give you a fraction of the story, but never a beginning, middle and end.

Ten days ago I started a reply to her. Actually, I started one before that, but I scrapped it because I suddenly realised it was utterly illegible. This is a slight problem with being me, and, whilst having to force myself to have cause to pick up a pen, lack of practice with a writing implement is not the problem: I have always had awful, awfully scrawly handwriting. I quite like it, but it’s not exactly useful to others. Anyway, this reply. I got so far in the letter-writing protocol, replying to her letter, discussing minutiae, and then I went to get to my news, my story, the thing I was writing a letter for…and then I thought, eh, but I’ve got that interview tomorrow, so I’ll wait and then I’ll write about that. And then I went to that interview, mentioned in an earlier blog post, and thought, hey, I’ll wait until I hear back, and then I can write again and then it’ll be much more interesting, and it’ll be a letter I need to write.

And that’s true.

But here’s the thing. The letter I would’ve written instead of putting it off assuming I’d be more newsworthy tomorrow would also have been a letter I needed to write. The secret to physical letters is that it’s impossible to write a boring one, or a bad one. You can try, even, but it’ll still have a quirk, a sense of you, some kind of intrinsic value inside it. Over the years and years of receiving letters from my grandmothers, both of whom were great believers in written communication, I learnt that even the smallest comment on, say, what biscuits were in the tin, or how the council flowers were going outside could be amusing, enjoyable, or just worth hearing. I was never sad to receive any of those letters, because of what they were in themselves.

I did Postcrossing for a while, and found it greatly enjoyable – it is a wonderful thing, truly, to get post from strangers thus – but postcards different from letters, and there was always something else I hoped for, but didn’t get. Postcards are usually about themselves. About the picture on the front, the place they were bought or sent from. I love and appreciate all postcards, but a letter…that has to make a different effort. That’s about the person writing it, that’s the starting point, not something or somewhere.

The hardest thing with letters is that they don’t just arrive immediately. They don’t drop onto the mat in the blink of an eye, and you can’t get a reply that night, either. But that cane be nice, too. Sometimes you want to talk, and then breathe, and go and do something else for the evening, think about other things. Letters can take things off your mind for a while – not necessarily bad ones, just the jumble of stuff you keep there in case you need to relate it, or all the things you’ve meaning to tell someone, hopefully the person you’ve written the letter to, at length.

I suppose the point in here is that we should write the letter. Finish the letter. Post the letter. Always send the letter. Don’t wait to finish the letter. Just write another one.

One of my grandmothers, the one that’s no longer with me, wrote letters for everything, to everyone. For almost no reason, for all the possible reasons, from birthdays to Tuesdays, to saw-this-and-thought-of-you, she’d write aplenty. She never waited to send the letter. For her, post was still magical: although she missed being able to post a letter to London in the morning and have it arrive with the evening post, she still found it quite something that she could write to Cardiff on Tuesday and I’d be reading it by Wednesday. I wished I’d written to her more than I did, now. But I always waited to send the letter, always hoped it’d be more interesting if I just wrote another page tomorrow. I have stacks of post from her, accrued over the years. I’d have a lot less if she hadn’t bothered, if she’d thought she should wait. I wouldn’t have the little things. Those little things, those records of the people she met, the thoughts she had, those survive her, and matter to me.

Don’t wait to send the letter. Just write another one.

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Geek Girls Unite to Write: 7 Questions for Stewie & Emily of the IGGPPC

I spend time aplenty hanging out on Twitter for various reasons, and, whilst I’m there, I like to keep Amanda Palmer’s @ feed running in a column alongside things, simply because there’s usually a ton of good stuff going on in there. As I was checking something this evening, an @ to Amanda from @frogmellaink and @darlingstewie about the International Geek Girls PenPal Club caught my eye, and nothing makes me click a link faster than geekdom coupled with letter-writing. I had to examine.

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Obviously, I signed up like lightning (I suggest you do the same if you haven’t and are interested – places in Round 2 are almost gone! – and Round 2 is full up! Follow links at the bottom of the page to get in for Round 3 ) and then I thought, what kind of glorious beings set up this magnificent endeavour, and why? So I asked them. And then I asked them a couple more things. And this is what they said:

1. How did this project start?

Em and I met as most people do these days, via the Interwebz. I think we discovered each other through Twitter and the rest is history. I’m a geek girl blogger, so I’m always posting about science fiction or cartoons or comic book inspired fashion, and I think Em has similar sensibilities in that she likes geek fashion too (I’ve seen her wearing Rebel earrings from Star Wars!!!) Em is the purveyor of a fantastic geek chic Etsy, House of the Fickle Queen.

Re: The IGGPPC origins… Em made a blog post about it (it is long and rambling, that’s how I roll~Em):
On Creating Something Out Of Nothing and the Phenomenal Response to the International Geek Girl Pen Pals Club.

And I made a similar but more basic post:
How A Tweet About Curly Wurlies Turned Into An Explosive Internet Phenomenon Overnight.

But the long and short of it is, we had been reminiscing about the days of getting surprises and thoughtful letters in the mail from Pen Pals, which is something we had both done in our younger days, and missed that fun mailbox bond. Also, as an Air Force brat, I’ve got a taste for travel (and love learning about other culutres,) but flights are expensive! Pen Pals are like mini vacations cross-country. And Em and I both hoard stationery (as many geek girls I know do) and wanted a purpose for our Sanrio and Lisa Frank stuff. And I wanted a Curly Wurly. Seriously. Those things are good.

(AES – Those things ARE good. All I can think of are Curly Wurlies right now, and the corner shop is closed. ARGH. Also, wow do I hoard stationery. I am super excited to have a reason to share some of that now 🙂 )

2. What’s the best letter you’ve ever received? Or, the best letter you’ve ever read?

My best friend & I exchange letters fairly regularly (as she lives at the other end of the country from me) but one that stands out isn’t so much the letter as the fact that she sent a cushion with a picture of a stag on it! (It’s hideous and beautiful all at once!) Unexpected presents are the best! ~Em

3. Any good stories to share from Round 1?

When we started, I do not think either of us really saw this blowing up like it did. Once Veronica Belmont tweeted about us and we were featured on GeekSugar.com, we knew it was something big. At one point I was refreshing the submissions for Round 1 and we’d gotten 10 in 1 minute. I pretty much peed myself then. We hit our 1,000 person cap in 3 days, 9 days prematurely, and that’s a pretty sweet thought.

The response from the geek girl community has been overwhelmingly positive. Lots of girls have posted or blogged about the project and everyone is very excited to connect! They practically smashed down the door of our Facebook, chanting “We want our pals!” It’s such a great positive thing to be a part of.

I would like to add that one girl put “animals who look like old men” as a geek love, which was a highlight for me because that is just a legendary thing to say. ~Em

4. Where do you start?

When your email conversation begins with your match, try to have a mini bio prepped. “Hi, I’m Suzy, I’m this old and I live in this state and country. How about you?” The basics are always the best place to start. Then you might try asking your new pal what they listed as their Geek Loves, because chances are we’ve paired you with someone who matched one of your Geek Loves…the conversation should absolutely take off from there.

It’s an intimidating thing, sometimes, writing to someone you don’t know (or even writing to someone you do!). Any tips for first time participants on getting the most out of the experience and not feeling a tidal wave of embarrassment the moment you drop your first letter in the postbox?

I’d say just be yourself and write the letter you’d love to receive. We have paired everyone so they have at least one love in common so you know you have at least one thing in common with your new pen pal ~Em

5. Gandalf IS my homeboy*. Let’s just take a moment to imagine he’s an international geek girl. What would you send him in an envelope? (cannot resist a stupid question, but I think a couple of dinosaur stickers would really set off that cloak)

I feel like I’d send him tea, flavored tobacco, and incense… I mean maybe I’m stereotyping him as like a wizard hippie, but I’m a thoughtful letter sender and I know he’d love all those things!

Dumbledore is my homeboy, I would make him sweets as I have mad confectionery skills ~Em

6. I happened upon your project via a glance at Amanda Palmer’s mentions column: she brings like-minded people and projects together like no-one else, sometimes without even trying! What made you @ her in particular?

We haven’t really tweeted at many ‘big’ name people. I have been a fan of AFP for more years than you can count on one hand, and as she is big on community, asking, art and creativity I thought, what the hell, if there is one person out there who’ll RT us it’s her! Pretty much all the rest is just word of mouth (or word of tweet, I guess would be a better approximation) ~Em

7. Which woman in history would you most like to write to, and what would you like to say to her?

Anyone from the American women’s suffrage or African American civil rights movement is bound to have a spectacular story… so if we’re going for history I’d have to say anyone of these women. I’d be desperate not to say too much so I could listen to their story. Honestly I have no clue what I’d say…I’d be all derpy and scared, but excited…like “Hi…HI HELLO HI UR COOL CAN WE BE FRENZ?”

For me it would be Mae West…she is my idol and she knew how to turn a phrase. I would ask her what it was like to be such a pioneering actress, playwright & screenwriter. She was risque, bold and years ahead of her time. I’d also ask her if I could have the spiderweb dress she wears in ‘I’m No Angel’ (opposite Cary Grant <3) as it is one of the most incredible outfits ever worn on screen! ~Em

And if you’d like to keep up with the International Geek Girls Pen Pal Club (WHY WOULDN’T YOU?!), find them at geekgirlpenpals.com and on Facebook.

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