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A Month of Letters Challenge

On September 2011, Mary Robinette Kowal decided it was time for a break. She spent the entire month offline, and asked her friends to communicate with her through letters. The results of this personal challenge were a revelation:

When I write back, I find that I slow down and write differently than I do with an email. Email is all about the now. Letters are different, because whatever I write needs to be something that will be relevant a week later to the person to whom I am writing. In some ways it forces me to think about time more because postal mail is slower. “By the time you get this…” It is relaxing. It is intimate. It is both lasting and ephemeral.

How so? I find that I will often read the letters that I receive twice. Once when I get them and again as I write back. So, that makes it more lasting. It is more ephemeral because I don’t have copies of the letters that I write and I am the only one who has copies of the letters that my correspondents write. So, more ephemeral.

I know a lot of postcrossers share these feelings – this is part of the reason why Postcrossing exists!

Mary’s decided to turn February into a Month of Letters, in which she challenges herself and everyone who decides do join to write and send at least a piece of postal mail every day. Here are the rules:

Mail at least one item through the post every day it runs. Write a postcard, a letter, send a picture, or a cutting from a newspaper, or a fabric swatch.
Write back to everyone who writes to you. This can count as one of your mailed items.

We can’t help but feeling postcrossers have their work cut out for them in this challenge… :) Nevertheless, we wanted to dare you all to do it! Write postcards, letters or aerogrammes or surprise a friend with an unexpected package. Maybe even pick a Facebook/Twitter friend and send them with an offline “hello!”.

Are you up to Mary’s challenge? Grab your stationery and stamps and start writing! :)

PS – Scrutiny set up a forum post for members who are doing this challenge to keep track of their progress!


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38 comments so far

lostforwords101, Singapore
I wish I have my own letter box so I can participate in this :( It's a shame I can't go to the post office everyday to drop letters and the likes.

BOOGIE_PIPPIN, United Kingdom
Fantastic! I have been writing letters since I was eight years old when my mother told me it was time I wrote my own 'thank you' letters after Christmas. I've been hooked ever since. I must admit I now use my computer for letters due to painful swollen finger joints but I'm up for the challenge, if whoever receives my letter can read my writing of course!

rebecca019, Belgium
I love writing! But I'm afraid no-one will write back. Everyone says they are too busy, the mail goes to slow, they don't like writing (they prefer typing).. Pff!

sapic12, Portugal
It sounds great!

MaryRobinette, United States of America
@lostforwords101: There's a provision in the FAQ for people who don't have mail pickup at home. Write a letter every day and pick a regular "mail day" which is the day you go to the post office. Try to pick the same day.

hulottati, Germany
"… real letters, written by real people who preferred the sensual act of writing, the delicious languor of waiting to the reptilian coldness of the keyboard and to the immediacy of the Internet …" (from Denis Thériault: The Postman's round) - great expérience! rebecca019, write me a letter; I'll write back!

nboliveira, Brazil
Very interesting article!

teaball, United States of America
I've taken the Challenge. Any one who want to receive a letter from and/or write to me, send your address through my Postcrossing profile and I promise to write.

petrini1, United States of America
Great idea, Mary! And it was fun to see your name show up on this site. I'm taking the challenge. I used to write letters all the time, but in recent years I've found that few people take the time to write back.

See you at the Nebs again this spring!

marica_t, United States of America
Oh wow, what an interesting challenge! I'd be up for it... but perhaps when I have more money to be able to afford the bigger wave of mail going out in that month. At the moment, all I can really afford is Postcrossing and select few private swaps. :-\

krishnaraosridhar, India
Wonderful idea... I love writing.. I used to go for PostCrossing, Swap and RR...

Nordbaer, Germany
nothing for me.
I mail at least five items a day every month since I joined postcrossing...

Vitor_Luiz, Brazil
I love if anyone would like to change letter, just contact us..

martymarty, Czech Republic
My lovely husband is 8000 km from us now, and eventhough online communication makes it much easier to stay in touch in "now" time, the real letters or cards we send each other are such a joy to prepare and send/recieve! Today my kids got two teddies in their envelope! The fun part of it is, that they were sent through FedEx, so they were here in 3 days, but the value.... well, I opt for "standard" postoffice to send my stuff, it´s slower but the price is reasonable and it sill can reach the adressee :-)

moonlessnite, Canada
If i took up the challenge, it would mean I would be sending much less...i still write over a dozen a day.
i mail a parcel out at least once a week to a relative (usually a kid)...acutally most dont bother writing back...or they write only at XMAS. I a alone in the letter writing realm of my life.

Joy63, Australia
Fantastic!! Also keeps my 'postman' husband in a job!!

Finister, Nepal
It's great to see that there are still people who 'bother' to write letters, despite the fact that not that many people ever write back. I also still write letters on a weekly basis and share Mary's view that there is somehow more time and space to contemplate on what is really relevant when writing letters, and thus the messages become very different than when writign emails. A great challenge. Post offices should adopt something like this as a promotional event!

scrutiny, Hong Kong
I'm late! But I'm totally in. Thanks for sharing - as usual, this blog is a great way to hear about mail-related things... I would never have heard of this otherwise! :)

hulottati, Germany
"Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company" (Lord Byron)

raluk68, Romania
Great challenge!! February is dull... :P This will make it a whole lot more of an interesting month!

I'm in for it!! Who wants to exchange letters can contact me ;)

scrutiny, Hong Kong
Hey - I would love to hear more about what you other participants are sending! Please post on the forum here, if you're interested too :)

SandeeB, South Africa
I am in!

coyvo, Germany
It sounds interesting, so I´ll join it even I´m a little bit late.

Who wants to swap letters or postcards can contact me.

kaatjevliet, Netherlands
February is easy because of Valentine. This year I decided to surprise my husband by sending him a valentine card at work every day until the 14th. I sent them anonymous. Of course he recognized my handwriting ...... but he liked the puzzled look of the colleages that distribute the mail. So he keeps them in the dark.

cyrinne, Germany
Last March I spontaneously decided to write one piece of personal mail (letter/postcard) per day for one year, meaning if I miss out on one day, I'll write two the next day and if I feel like writing more, I'll count the following days as "done" in order to not spend too much money on postage. To make sure that I don't miss a day, I cross out each day for which I've sent something. I started this, because I wanted to get more mail. Soon the year is over, I'm still doing it and the only thing that's going to change next month is that I won't be crossing out the days anymore. I definitely made it a new habit I don't want to miss. There are several wonderful new penpals and cardpals I found because of this project and most of my friends have turned into penfriends after I moved to a new city. There's only one person left I write emails to. I love it.

estromberg, United States of America
I started this challenge years ago :) I write a letter a day every day (one to my granddaughter every Thursday:). It is my gift to all my friends and family (Postcrossing and civilian :) and I don't mind if no one answers. I'm just a sucker for writing and giving all the postal carriers of the world some job security!!

turtlemanx16, China
The last time I wrote a letter to someone is when I'm 10 years old...No doubt I love this idea.Contact me friends:-)

sweetsaltfish, United States of America
I have been writing letters since ive been in high school and to this day, even though my friends (penpals) are on Facebook, we communicate via's great!!!

Lunamarlen, Germany
It´s such a fantastic idea! I´m into letter writing since I was 10 years old! So I´m in although I´m a little late...

kasiaw, Poland
I love writing and receiving letters but my friends don't have time for this. Maybe someone has the same problem and want to write to me :)

Blauwvinger, Netherlands
The only problem for me by this great idea is that my english is not so good to write whole letters.

Greetings Hans

shui, Taiwan
What a fantastic idea!
I think I should start project like this ,too! :D

Robin67, Austria
This is very nice.

I've had pen pals since primary school.

Nowadays a lot of letters/cards/parcels get lost (sadly), so I copy my letters before sending them off, so I don't have to re-write my letters, but just copy the copy. But that way my folder becomes a kind of diary for me. :-)

I, too, read every letter twice: when getting it and when replying. Sadly not all people do that though, instead of it being a dialogue it becomes a monologue and someone trying to have a dialogue. :-/

Still, hand-written snail mail is the best. :-)

Chantal_87, Netherlands
I'm so in! It's been years since I last wrote a letter.. I've been thinking of who to send something, but there's always room for more. So if you'd like to swap letters or postcards: feel free to contact me =)

florencen, Australia
I write actual letters and also post stuff after all I work for aust post so I feel it is my sworn duty to provide job security for ,ail colleagues world wide.

indah79ers, Indonesia
I used to do that when I was in school, hahaha.. even though I met my friends everyday but almost everyday I wrote them letters and handed the letters the next day.. not all of them wrote back but I still did that.. until I reached a point where this one way "communication" didn't work, haha.. as much as I liked writing to them, there was a part of me who wanted to have any responses from them as well, so it didn't feel like I was writing to a wall who couldn't "talk back", wakakakakak :))

But I'm glad I find Postcrossing and find some regular postcards swappers and with them, it's more than just exchanging cards cause we also share our everyday life through the cards we send to each other ^o^

YiliLoh, Malaysia
It's a good idea, count me in! I used to write letters when i was in schooldays, but after i started work, emails exchagnged eventually! But i would like to catch my old feelings again as exchanging letters. So, if you are free to swap postcards or letters, pls contact me! :)

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