First rule of InCoWriMo Write Club: you do not talk about InCoWriMo Write Club. Second rule of InCoWriMo Write Club: you DO NOT TALK about InCoWriMo Write Club (seriously don’t, I was ribbed by my non-pen nerd family and friends for all of February). Third rule of InCoWriMo Write Club: USE ALL THE PENS! Brad Pitt would tell you the same.
February 2017 was my first ‘real’ attempt at participating in the month long letter writing bonanza that is International Correspondence Writing Month, and I grew rather fond of it. Sitting down to scribe a heartfelt or swear word laden letter at the end of my day became a meditative ritual. Connecting with people across the world has been a pleasure, and I have made genuine friendships with pen addicts that I didn’t think possible via snail mail before. (Big shout out to Ant from U.K. Fountain Pens for being my favourite pen pal/enabler.)
So, what have I learned from this experience?
1. Get organised, and realise postage is EXTORTIONATE
Firstly, get clear on who you are writing to. There’s nothing worse than having all the fountain pen and letter bling, and no clue who to send your letters to. Also, be careful about sharing your address via social media if you want to write to new pen pals; you never know who you are sharing it with. I was a bit free and easy with who I gave my address to (my other half went bat-shit crazy about this, actually), but I haven’t had any random kissograms or Harry Potter style howlers yet so I think I’m alright. Wonderpens in Canada did a great job of safely matching up wanna be InCoWriMoers via their blog form; I connected with a lovely lady called Alison who sent me stickers! Thanks, love!
Secondly, pre-write your addresses and envelopes before the month starts. It saves a lot of heartache and daily scrolling through emails and social media messages to dig out details. I often spent longer searching for this info than I did writing the letter. And they were usually two or three A4 pages long. Go figure.
Be judicious about postage too. Whilst I adored pen palling with my pen brethren all over God’s green earth, it did get expensive and difficult to maintain a flowing conversation due to mailing times. I don’t regret it, but I’ll be more conservative on my US and Australia letter lovelies next year.
2. All handwriting is beautiful handwriting
Fat or thin. Neat or scrawly. Hunormous or minuscule. I have learned to appreciate all types of handwriting, and become an enigma code cracker with illegible words. It’s wonderful to think that someone has sat down to dedicate half an hour of their life to you, and handwriting is an expression of that person’s intent on a page.
3. Choose your tools wisely
I was far too hasty when choosing my pen and ink combinations for #InCoWriMo. I had about seven blue inks and three other colours, which is more boring than a company AGM. Yes, I could have swapped them out half way through, but life gets busy when you add incessant letter writing to the mix. In hindsight, I wish I’d been more strategic (and adventurous!) when choosing the write weapons.
I also COMPLETELY FORGOT that I had a wax seal kit in the bottom of my drawer. Epic fail.
Paper and envelope choice is paramount too. Not all card stocks are made equal, so I stuck to Rhodia and Crown Mill after my first ink feathering meltdown on sub par paper.
4. Swearing is totally f**king fine if you handwrite the words
I discovered that you FPgeeks are a dirty bunch, who enjoy a swear-fest now and then. Hurrah! It seems to be the rule that it’s ok to use profanity if it looks pretty (just don’t tell your Mom). Exhibit A below.
Finally, #InCoWriMo taught me that I will continue letter writing beyond February. The intimate act of penning a letter to someone is so romantic, rejuvenating and rewarding; it helped me to reach out to others when I’m having a challenging time in my life, learn about far flung places and support others too. I’ve chatted to people all over the world, received gifts and been humbled by the time and effort that InCoWriMoers have put in to my letters. Who’d have thought some pen and paper could bring so much joy :).
I will miss the mockery from my non-stationery inclined friends. I will miss grevious bodily harm inflicted by paper cuts. And I will miss feeling like an eighteenth century bonnet-wearing wench whilst penning each correspondence. (The last point is the main one to be honest, Mr Darcy.)