Dear Bloggers: Advice For Would-Be Reviewers

 

Having had and been involved with several successful online businesses, I’m very familiar with the blogosphere’s role in promoting and reviewing such things. We get a lot of requests around all these businesses for reviews, features, requests for donations to things, offers to sample our products, any which way you can think of phrasing the getting of something without paying for it, we get them. Thing is, whilst, as I say, we know and love a good reviewer, we very rarely end up responding to anyone, because the requests are just so unhelpfully written, or missing vital information. And when you’re trying to get something for free on the basis that you’re going to review it on your excellent blog, if you can’t ask for it properly, it doesn’t give great hope for your blog being, well, worth our getting involved with.

But we get SO many poorly-phrased/organised requests, that I’m thinking, perhaps people just don’t know how to ask. Maybe we’re overly fussy and no-one else is bothered by these things…but I have a hunch that’s not the case. It’s not wizardry, it’s just that there are a few things you can do to up your chances of successfully receiving either goods or content. It’s not a hidden test – many a business is open to communication with bloggers (indeed, if they aren’t, their likely very considerable loss!), and the better the request, the better the response, the better the content you get, the better your blog is, the better the promotion for the business…everyone’s a winner and the internet just levelled up! Yay!

On with the list!

0. Before you begin.

Is your blog any good? If I click on a link to it, am I going to see something I would like my brand to be featured on? If it’s brand new, here’s a tip: start by reviewing things you already own/have bought. If your blog is less than a month old, or has less than twenty posts on it, or (like mine!) is riddled with lengthy gaps and downtimes, it’s not necessarily a good proposition for anyone. Build up your content first, then approach. Find your writing style, your review style, all that, before you begin sending out requests to people you don’t know.

Then the technical stuff. Does it look good? Is the layout functioning? Are you tagging posts appropriately, is your language appropriate to your audience, is your spelling/grammar/presentation of a quality you’re happy to represent yourself with? When you send the emails, what’s the latest post on your blog? Is it relevant and appealing to the people you’re asking to contribute?

Assuming all’s well here, and you’re moving forward to contacting, one more thing – could you introduce yourself elsewhere first? If your preferred store/brand/service has a Twitter and you’re genuinely interested to feature them, add them there first. Interact with them a bit, to show you’re a human, that you’re interested, and to make your name perhaps that bit more memorable. Twitter networking is quite undervalued in the blogosphere, I fear.

But sometimes a formal email/message is best, and gives you the space to put everything in that you need. So, here you go!

1. Decent subject line.

If you’re emailing directly, rather than filling out a contact form, always use a sensible subject line. “Review request from xyz blog”, “Interview request from Canadian magazine”, “Prize donation request from Galaxy Cat Unit”, that sort of thing – simple and to the point. Yes, that’s object first, but that’s the point. Say what you want, and yes, it might mean that the recipient trashes it without reading it because they’ve not got time, not interested, etc, etc, but that’s what they’re going to do anyway if they get a random email with a header like “Introducing Sparkleblog! The latest in incredible reviewing!” or “Want to reach 500,000 people tomorrow?” because that suggests you’re either spamming, or about to ask for not only free things, but money on top of it.

2. Address it properly.

Find the name of the press contact. If there’s no press contact, or if it’s a small business, say an Etsy shop, find the owner’s name. Look on their ‘about me’ page. Never, ever, start with Dear Sir/Madam. You’re not looking for a job. (If you are, that’s a different post 😉 It’s a business. There’ll be a name somewhere. The reason for this is not only that it’s more polite, but also that it shows you’re not just randomly cutting and pasting your request into every single contact page you can find. And, further, it shows that you’re actually interested in this business, about which you’ve bothered to find something out.

3. Do bother to find something out.

Show that you know what you’re asking for. If you want something to review, check that there can be something to review. Seriously, you’re asking a vintage clothing shop for a product to review? Sure, you can receive something and write about…what? The experience of receiving it? The vintage clothing, which isn’t necessarily made by the owner? How does this help anyone? It’s like when people leave reviews on Amazon products that talk about the Amazon service. Super not useful. If you’re asking to try something, make sure it’s something that can actually be tried. If it’s a service, make sure it’s a service that can be tried. If you’re not in a country the shop ships to, don’t ask for something to be sent to you.

4. Think about what you actually want.

Do you just want a free thing? Really like jewellery from Sophia’s Secret Store of Surprises but can’t afford it right now and so you’re asking in the hope of getting something free? That’s okay. That is genuinely okay. I fully believe it’s okay to exchange goods for promotion or services and if you’ve constructed an environment where you can make it worth Sophia’s while to send you a necklace, because you’re going to give her plenty of value in promotion/review, then go for it. But please, please, read #5. And don’t dress requests like this up; don’t be aggressively self-promoting to try and pretend that they’re not such things. It’s always obvious.

Are you looking for content for your blog? If your thing is that you review jewellery, and you’re lining up more jewellery to review, then this is fine and makes good sense. But there are other options, too. In terms of interesting content, an interview can be just as appealing to readers as a review. Whether it’s a few questions or an in-depth chat, asking to host an interview with a business owner can be just as productive for your blog, and if the shop/business isn’t suited to or able to go giving out freebies, then an interview may be the best thing for everyone. If you’d like to feature a brand that you love, or are curious about, approaching them with a request for content, rather than a free trial or a free product can be the best way to get a healthy response.

Don’t write any of this stuff yet. Just think about it. First:

5. State your case.

This is simple, but virtually never in people’s requests. You need to say who you are, where you’re based, who your audience is, and, most importantly, what your statistics are. The last bit is most important because you can’t just link to it. And, incidentally, DO link to things. Don’t worry about introducing everything about yourself – your blog has an “About” page somewhere, right? Link to that. And make sure it’s actually informative. So, having correctly address your email, you’re now writing something like, “My name’s Lucy. I’m in the UK, and I write a blog called Shiny She-Ra Saturdays linktomainblogpagehere. I post reviews of old She-Ra episodes every Saturday morning at 10am*, but I write about all kinds of other stuff in between. Here’s my ‘About’ page if you’d like to know more: linktoAboutShinySheRaSaturdayshere.”

Then it’s onto the numbers. These are important. You want, how long your blog has been active, how many followers it has, how many hits you get on an average post, that sort of thing. If you’ve got a big Twitter or Facebook following, mention that too. “Shiny She-Ra Saturdays has been going since 2011. I post on average three times a week – my review posts get around 1,500 hits, and my other entries average around 1000 hits. I have 213 followers on WordPress, and over a thousand followers on my personal Twitter.”

Note: it doesn’t matter if the numbers aren’t big. If the content is good, if your blog is good, if your photos or videos or podcasts are good, and the blog isn’t that old, then it’s fine if you’ve only got five subscribers so far, or if your audience don’t comment much. Just be honest about the extent of your reach, and leave it up to the business to decide if it wants to engage further.

Then leave it at that! You don’t want this to be too long. A paragraph at most.

6. Ask.

If you can be flexible here, as suggested in #4, then do. “I’d love to feature your brand/shop/product in some way. I’m best known for my unboxing videos on my YouTube channel (have you mentioned how many views your average video gets? Do it now!), and would be happy to do one of those for your subscription box. If that’s not possible at this time, then I’d love to include your views in a post I’m writing on the upcoming subscription box market in the UK.” Or suggest interviewing them about their business, their craft or industry.  Be flexible, be pleasant, be plausible. If they’re a very new or small business they may not be able to afford to randomly send things out to you, even if your prospects might look very good, so anything you can offer that they don’t have to pay for, that can be mutually beneficial, is a good thing.

So there we have it! Just a few tips for not being immediately deleted. It’s not much – to recap, say who you are, why you’re contacting, why you’re worth contacting back, and sign off nicely, whether it’s a DFTBA or Kind Regards, or Thanks in advance, or whatever.

And remember – there are also a lot of very good blogs out there that do this kind of thing whilst actually buying the product and acting as an absolutely regular customer. If you’re asking for something for nothing, you’ve strong competition. But if you think about it, present yourself well, and have a decent blog (or video page, or podcast series, whatever), then that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to work with and perhaps receive things, or wisdoms, from brands or shops or people you love in return for doing something that you also hopefully love. Businesses need promotion, and a small, strong community of fifty people is sometimes a much, much better place to present your brand than a faceless, jumbly-written, spambot-filled page that regularly gets thousands of hits. This is a good time to blog, it’s a great time to have a small business – let’s work together here!

 

* I might need to start this blog if no-one else has

Greetings, from the morning…

Following on from last night’s post…I went back to sleep in the end, and had some strange dreams, about things I can’t really remember. But! Then I got up, and within an hour, I’d done my run, showered, made coffee, and collected together some of the many things I’d meant to. I’m quite pleased with that, even if I missed parts of the mornings I love. There’ll be other opportunities to see mornings.

Now we’re three days into January, I feel it’s time to admit one of my more hopeful resolutions. Or, not really resolutions. Curious attempts. I’m hoping to accomplish a yearlong running streak. A mile a day, and more if I feel like it. One of the best things about right now is that I’ve finally found somewhere…

…as you can see, this is from a while ago. This post was interrupted by a telephone call to say that my partner’s mum had smashed up her hip in a fall, and was on her way to hospital. A timely reminder of how the best laid plans, etc etc. For the concerned (and I’m very grateful to you, concerned, you’ve been very kind), she’s now had a full hip replacement op and seems to be doing well. That one can have an entire joint and socket replaced with plastic and titanium and, just HOURS later, be taking steps upon it all, leaves me in awe of medicine, and grateful as ever for the straggling remnants of the NHS, which, as every time in my extremely fortunate experience, acted above and beyond expectation.

Back to me, though, because, well, I haven’t thought about myself a great deal in the last week, and this is definitely the place for me to do it.

I am now nine days into this one mile running streak – or, as it goes, at least 2k every day so far. I’ve been enjoying it immensely, and, by being able to roll out of bed, into vaguely runningish clothes, and choosing a distance that is doable in under fifteen minutes (I’m not the fastest runner), it’s something I find myself quite happy about, rather than dreading, which is a good change from every other workout I’ve done, even those I’ve enjoyed. It’s not even really exercise, just…warming myself up inside, getting moving, giving the brain a chance to take in the general wonder of where I’m fortunate enough to be living, that sort of thing. We’ll see how it goes as time passes, but at the moment, it seems to be just what I needed.

My ‘blog every day’ concept has, alas, been lost.

In other news, further new year ventures have been slightly stalled by a mass moment of clumsiness in which I dropped a tray of tiny, tiny pieces, and mixed them up to the point of uselessness. I have a lot of sorting out to do.

 

If you were wondering, after the post from last week in which I ripped into Sherlock, what I thought of Sunday’s episode, know this: not much. If I wanted Sherlock: The Sitcom years, I’d have hoped for that. I don’t appreciate characters doing a 180 without grounds, or the gravity and depth of a show disappearing into nothingness without repercussion. I still don’t understand, genuinely, why people who loved what it was still love the show, but there it is. At least some people are enjoying it. Curiously, I have noticed that everyone who’s agreed with me has, with very little exception, done it offline, by email, text, Whatsapp and the rest. It’s like publicly admitting the show sucks is either too upsetting or inflammatory, and perhaps that’s true. I’m just not used to being the angry one, still, and it’s an increasingly unpleasant experience. Anyway. When Moffat and co. say they’ve already planned out Series 4 and 5, that’s great, but why didn’t they bother plotting out Series 3 whilst they were at it?

Let’s leave this on a brighter note, though. In terms of something marvellously plotted (but guilty of a bit of tailing off in later series too, heh), are you familiar with Journey Into Space: Operation Luna? This 1950s BBC sci-fi radio series was super close to my heart when I was a kid, and hugely coloured and inspired all my space-based listening, reading and viewing ever after. It’s a classic, and free to listen to: do, if you haven’t, or if you’ve forgotten it.

 

 

 

 

Getting Over The Hump

And so we slide fully into Week 2 of NaNoWriMo, and perhaps your journey is going considerably better than mine (if you have written your daily words, or even if you just don’t regret picking the thing you chose for NaNo, then yes, your journey is vastly improved upon mine). But perhaps, even if this is the case, you’re still wondering how the hell you’re going to get another 30-odd k out of your tale, or you’re still not at all certain how you’re going to finish this, even if you’re full of ideas and everything. Or perhaps you’re not worried at all, and just joining in the blog-reading of NaNo and the procrastination and seeing the suffering of your fellow participants. Either way, all are welcome here 😉

I think Week 2 is the scariest part of NaNoWriMo, because it’s about Week 2 that it becomes clear that 50k is a LOT of words. Unless you’ve been hit by that wonderful literary lightning, or are really, really good at this, and have hit the word count already. It happens. Not for quite as high a percentage as following the NaNo hashtag on Twitter might have you believe, but it does happen.

The nice thing is that I still have no doubt that I can hit my 50k. I know I can abandon all pretension at writing quality and write quantity if I must. Last night, I was certain that I ought never to touch this book again, for fear of ruining it perpetually, but I made myself do another hundred words, and then that inevitably turned into 500, and even if my count is still now only just over 11k, I’m not worried, that’s fine.

What worries me more. curiously, is getting to 35k. 35k seems to be the number that plenty of people fail at, also, have you noticed? It’s so near, yet still quite far. For me, that’s the hump of NaNo. The halfway point is simply horrifying – you realise just exactly how bloody long 50k can be, and the idea of having as far to go again is brain-numbing, unless, of course, you really do have that surfeit of ideas. But at 35k, you are over the hump. You’ve the bulk of your book and you can quite easily finish it simply by extending every scene you’ve already written by a few words (this is quite a fun tactic which I do recommend if you get heartily stuck once you’re over the hump – it can make for some quite entertaining twists and revelations…).

At 35k, you can see what you’re doing, see your destination. That’s scary, sometimes it’s almost as horrifying as being ‘only’ halfway, but it is a reality, rather than a panic, and as with all horror, it’s easier to get through when you know what you’re dealing with, rather than dealing with the ghost that is fear itself.

And 35k doesn’t even come until Week 3. So, much as above, knowing it’s so much easier to get through a panic about something you can see, rather than something you can’t, I am steadfastly refusing to acknowledge any feelings or panics I have at all until I’m over the hump, and can really, truly see what it is that I’ve done. And then if, as last year, I still hate it, it doesn’t matter for it is only the work of a few more days to achieve the goal. The best part of NaNo is when you are on the downhill slope, flying towards your goal, knowing you’re going to meet it. At that point, you can disregard any emotions or fears altogether.

But that part doesn’t come until you get over the hump. And for me, as I say, that’s at 35k. So I’m aiming right squarely for 35k and I’m not going to be scared and I’m not going to stop doing the million other things that have suddenly started to seem so attractive during this November because that too is part of NaNo and its joy – you learn that it is possible to accomplish infinitely more than you thought you could. And, even if you knew you could do NaNo, sometimes you get to also be surprised at all the other things you can accomplish simply by spending time at the keyboard not only riffling through Tumblr, but also writing all the other things, or chatting with other writers, or making friends (or enemies) in communities you only just happened upon.

It’s a great month, is NaNoWriMo. Fear not. We’ll all be over the hump soon enough.

 

Planning vs. Pantsing

It’s the infinite NaNoWriMo question. I’ve tried both, and would say I’ve had considerably more success pantsing, but that planning is easier. Make sense? About as much sense as the process of making things up and writing things down can, I suppose. Here’s my pro-con list, in which each method’s pro has its con in the opposing method’s pro. Eh.

PANTSING:

  • No prep work. Perfect for the lazy/disorganised.
  • No restrictions. Want to flip from technobabble to dinosaurs? No problem! Gritty inner-city modern-slice-of-life to Tudor period drama? Go for it! (Already I am constructing both of these stories in my mind.)
  • The imagination is completely free! It’s so much easier to be creative when you have no walls and boundaries.
  • Writers’ block? Write something, anything at all! You can always work out how it makes sense with your story later, and who knows where that’ll take it?

PLANNING:

  • Lots of prep work. Great for when you want to get going early, or if you have so many ideas you’re scared of forgetting something.
  • Enough restrictions for the brain to function properly. You’ve got a great, linear story idea? It probably needs, shock horror, a storyline. Yes, you might not know whodunnit yet, but you’ll want a vague idea of how you – and the reader – is going to find out.
  • The imagination gets to do the cream of its work – the colouring in, if you like, of creativity. It’s so much easier to be specific when you have a nice neat outline.
  • Writers’ block? No problem! You can just pick up the next neat bit of outline and get going on that, with no worries that it won’t work, because you already have a map for where you’re going and what you’re doing!

So, even with this tiny, four-point list you can see that it’s all much of a muchness, and that the main thing is, still, just putting one word after another. My best advice, if you’re not sure which you are, or if you’re one and are rapidly, at this end of Week 1 phase of NaNoWriMo wishing you were the other, why not try a tiny switch? If you’ve been pantsing up until now, take precisely two minutes to construct yourself an outline. Then confine yourself to that for exactly one day’s writing and see how it goes. If you’ve had a fine plan and you’ve run out out at 10,001 words, or you’re bored of everything about it and wish your characters would jump off a cliff/form a knitting circle/time travel already, hide your outlines and character assumptions from yourself for the day and write a sidebar, a prequel, a parallel universe, hey, why not stick them in space for a minute and see what happens?

It’s not original advice, but then, there really is no original advice when it comes to writing, and if you’re not one of the wonderfully inspiring/soul-crushing types who are powering into the 20ks and beyond already and tweeting gleefully about it, you might well be procrastinating exactly as much as I am and trawling the blogs of fellow NaNoers looking to be told once more things you already know in order to simply keep going. So, I’m just doing my bit for the community here, k?

Happy NaNo; here’s to Week 2!

(P.S. full disclosure: I’m well behind at only 7,676 words. But I’ve got plenty of time to catch up today, and no fear for it.)

Write the Next Word, then the One After That.

 

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This is my old writing office. You don’t need one of these.

I have a great many things to discuss, but this is not the post for those because the most important thing about November, which today I must considerably address, is that it is, at last, NaNoWriMo! One of my very favourite times of the year, although there are many moments in the depths of forcing one word out to the tune of another where I wonder how and why I ever thought it a good idea.

But, it’s always a good idea. I like to think of last year, where, even now, I can’t really remember what I did for fifty thousand words, I can only remember how much I loathed it. I was so upset with myself that I’d taken a good idea and ruined it. I was so angry that my amazing concept for a novel had been beaten into a bloody and miserable pulp and left crying on the frosty grounds of December that I thought I might just never NaNo again.

See, it only took about a day after that, where I didn’t fight with it, for me to think…hey, that was a great idea I had there. Hey, that was interesting. Hey, maybe some day, one day, I’ll come back to that.

And now, as I begin to push forwards on another, different project, I’m finding it quite a comfort that I’ve already won NaNo four times, which means I have four fifty thousand word lumps of material to tweak and play with…or three, really, because one I already moulded and chopped and lopped and so on and turned that into The Pulse.

This couldn’t be a better time for me to NaNo, though. I’m in a new home, back home, with space and time and opportunity and to have the structure of NaNo to get writing into my every day is precisely what I need right now. And if there’s one thing that you can get from NaNo, it’s material, and if there’s one more thing you can get, it’s the gift of fitting writing into your day.

I think a thousand words a day is pretty easy. I can, if I go to WriteOrDie, bang out a thousand words in fifteen minutes (and sometimes they’ve been my best ones XD). But it’s that damn 667 that get me. They mount up so quickly. It’s easy to feel behind in NaNoWriMo, and that’s why sprints and marathons are a great thing. I’m going to do a couple of them today. And I’m not going to use up any more of my easily-coming words blogging about it.

It’s just a hey NaNo, yay Nano, missed you NaNo sort of post. Anyone else doing it? How’s it going?

My Coffee Judges You

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Let’s see, what was this post for? Housekeeping and attempting to stocktake my brain, I think. Lots of loose ends around, and some writerly tribulations.

First up, wtf is with the so-many-views from Mumsnet?! I can’t even see how or what or…strange, super strange. But hi!

Second up, I see now why people who don’t work from home and have the luxury of structuring their day however they would like to fall behind on their TV-watching. I am particularly doing so as I have literally no time or space to myself, and won’t have until I can move into somewhere, which won’t happen until my new (delightful, joyous, cakecentric) job actually yields an income, a time I’m very much looking forward to. I realise now what a luxury a spontaneous 45-minute bath with The Good Wife actually was. Sigh. But in order to move forwards, one must, y’know, move, and that is happening. Hopefully on Thursday I can mainline everything I’ve been missing. And have that bath…

Third…it’s nearly November. And that, obviously, means NANOTIME (my username there is ‘antelope’ – come add me, if you haven’t XD). As ever, I will be doing this, and I will be winning it. I’m tempted to go for two projects again – one memoirish thing, one novel – but I haven’t quite decided. I do definitely want to get cracking on the sequel to because, actually, if I’m honest, because I miss Aiden. I really do. So it’d be pleasurably indulgent to crack on with that in November…

…but at the same time, I have to, really have to, wrap up this other, potentially saleable novel I’ve been wrestling for the last couple of years. It’s missing some really essential bits, as well as the removal of an entire timetravel segment (my silly brain wants to keep it in, but my logical, would-like-to-be-a-real-printed-author self has other opinions) to get to the truthful ‘first draft complete!’ phase, even. I mean, I’ve done a beginning, middle and an end, but there’s certainly a few letters of the alphabet missing, here and there.

Fourth, I suppose, is the lament that I’ve not written anything like as much as I’ve wanted to. I’ve slipped back into that “can’t start until I’m in just the right place” thing a bit, and I’ve been so frustrated and displaced with the living situation that I’ve not got at all comfortable enough to simply write. Obviously NaNo is the perfect remedy for this, and I’ve no qualms at all about completing that, but the stuff that can’t be NaNo-ed and must actually be paid attention to, that’s nagging at me rather a lot just at the moment. After all, one of the greatest lessons I learnt over the last year was that books can be decent, written, edited, finished and published even without having your own mahogany desk and a cat.

Fifth, working out. My body is really not dealing well with work, and being on my feet all day. I’ve not had back pain in years but I spent half of last night flat on my back on the floor coaxing muscles into various stretches and wincing every time I needed to get up. I know it’s because I haven’t grounded myself in weights enough of late, and I know I need to go back and get on with that before I have to start all over again, but, again, I actually have somewhere to be and things to do these days, so I can’t go and run myself into the ground knowing that I’ve got a whole day to recover in precisely the way I want to. Makes me realise how I’ve been training, and how there’s a new sort of balance I have to find. Shorter sets, fewer reps, gently, gently…it’s never really been my style…but then, much of all this upheaval and starting again is precisely because I sorely needed a new style. It only makes sense that something as crucial to me as my workouts changes too.

Sixth…I miss the internet. I’ve only just kept myself up to scratch with the latest on Miley Cyrus (which, I’ve realised, is my internet priority, shortly after the football scores and whether or not my friends have cut their hair). Everything past that, including, as above, all the latest in the world of TV, is all out the window. I’ve barely communicated with anyone, which is rather distressing. I hope you’re all well, etc, and you should probably email me if I’ve missed anything interesting about you because I care, I just, kinda suck. But you knew that, and have put up with it thus far, so, yeah. Email XD

Crikey, this is like an LJ entry or something, isn’t it? Anyway! Onwards…

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.