I spent February writing letters and cards, 31 letters and cards to be exact, so that I could complete InCoWrimo (International Correspondence Writing Month).
But let me backtrack just a little before I go on. We usually think of penpalling as a childish hobby but lately it has become popular again. I keep seeing people on social media practicing calligraphy, using fountain pens and fancy or handmade stationery, sending letters and packages to each other and making new friends in an analogue way. As a child I never penpalled, though when people hear I’ve taken it up now, as an adult, they are surprised that I never tried it before. Now when I think back to my younger self and the activities I liked, it’s like I eagerly anticipated the advent of Instagram. So it seems fitting that it was through Instagram that I found my first penpals last year, and I started dabbling in correspondence. <cliche> A brand new, wondrous world opened before my eyes </cliche> because I could use fancy paper, washi tape, stickers, colorful pens to create a letter and send it, to receive in turn pretty decorated letters and make friends in other countries.
So when a post on Instagram caught my eye that said that InCoWriMo was being organized again this year, I was more than ready to plan ahead in order to not only participate, but to complete the challenge. 28 letters in one month? Along with my job, classes, other activities? How could it be done?
Planning and preparation
Preparation was very important. I had heard of the challenge before but I knew that if there was any slim chance of my being able to complete it, I would have to plan ahead and get my stuff together early on. I started planning it in January, as soon as I found out about it.
- First off, I made a list (of course). Google spreadsheets was my friend here, I listed all the people to whom I wanted to send letters, added their names and addresses. I contacted them to confirm the addresses I already had and asked for the ones I didn’t have. I also thought about the order in which I would be sending the letters, giving priority to the ones I would be sending to people abroad. (Pro tip: the list remains, I can use it again to send Christmas cards).
- I found this penpal match-up organized by a stationery shop located in Canada, through their blog. I participated in order to find new people to correspond with. (needless to say how I envy this shop, it’s so pretty, they have a lovely blog and I can’t resist ogling their Instagram feed)
- I gathered my papers and cards so that they would be easy to reach and I decorated my own stationery. I did this mainly because I don’t particularly like traditional stationery papers that are often blank. I can’t write in a straight line for the life of me. Also, I wanted to use some of the materials I’ve been hoarding and this was the best opportunity. I used plain lined paper and jazzed it up with washi tape, stickers, sticky notes, etc. I didn’t manage to create my own papers for all 28 letters, but this was a lovely creative activity which motivated me to go on with the challenge. It was great to have a piece of paper all ready to go, I just needed to write the letter and send it (I also decorated envelopes to go with these).
Experience and results
- This project was demanding, but I was motivated and stuck with it and tried to complete it. In the beginning I was ok, writing my letters and my cards and catching up when I missed days, but towards the end there was a lot of pressure and I was impatient for it to be over.
- Writing a letter a day was not very realistic, many of them were written together evenings and weekends. I also sent them out in batches, as it was not practical to go to the post office every day. On the last day of the month, after a weekend spent writing almost frantically, I sent 6 cards and letters to complete my list of recipients and the challenge. I must say I felt very proud of myself for completing it.
- I got a lot of practice writing to people I knew and to people I didn’t know. I always feel awkward writing cards and notes, I never know what to write and everything sounds like a cliche the recipient will have read a thousand times. The challenge helped me get over that awkwardness and find new ways of expressing myself when communicating with people in writing.
- I wrote many cards, the smaller format helped, plus it was a great opportunity to use some of the cards that I’ve been gathering for years now.
- I adjusted my list as the month went on. I didn’t manage to send letters to some of the people that were on my list, and I added others. As a result, in the end I wrote and sent 31 letters and cards instead of the 28 originally planned.
The challenge in numbers
- I wrote and sent/hand-delivered 31 letters and cards in 28 days (16 letters – 15 cards)
- Out of those 8 were hand-delivered to the recipients
- Destinations: 15 in Greece (Athens, Thessaloniki, Crete, Chalkidiki, Kalamata), Sweden (3), Canada (3), UK/Scotland (3), Malta, Germany, France, Belgium
- Languages in which I wrote my letters: Greek, english, swedish
- Letters received through InCoWriMo: 3, from Canada, Scotland, and Sweden
Would I do it again? I honestly don’t know. It’s still pretty recent and I think that I’ve had enough and don’t want to do it again, I want to enjoy penpalling and correspondence at a more relaxed pace. But until February comes by again, I might have changed my mind.
I have a photo album here with the stationery and envelopes I created for the challenge, as well as some other photos from the process.
Also, the video below is in Greek, but in it you can see some of the papers and envelopes I decorated for InCoWriMo 2017.