The Letter Project: The proposal

Before the Internet and the instant gratification of e-mail came along, I used to write letters. Long ones.

I’d spend a full week or two working on a single letter for a friend, treating it more like finite journals. They were snapshots of what was happening at that moment when I was writing. They were, for all intensive purposes, very much like this journal.

Last December it was pointed out to me that a certain friend of mine and I had communicated more by e-mail than in person. That made a small part inside of me ache. I sat down that day and started writing a letter.

Letter writing has always felt like an inherently nostalgic act to me, made more so now because of the instantaneous nature of e-mail. No one writes letters anymore. I can say this with conviction because I know it to be true. I haven’t received a bonafide letter in years.

Unlike these posts, and unlike e-mail, letters are permanent. They’re intimate in a way that the Web possibly never will be; penmanship itself is a personal thing. I think we should write letters more often.

This is what I propose:

  1. You send me your name and address.
  2. I randomly pull names out of some receptacle (a hat, if no other is conveniently at hand)
  3. I send each participant a name and address.
  4. You then write that person a letter, and receive one from another participant.

I think there should be a particular subject for this first attempt, just so that everyone knows what’s expected of them. The subject will be: “Something that happened today.” Of course, the letter must be handwritten.</p.

It can be as long or as short as you want. It can be a personal letter, or it can be factual and indirect - the choice is up to you. If you like, you can post your letter on your site and send me the link so I can link to it… but that’s also up to you. I think there should be a time limit of some kind, just so it doesn’t drag forever. I’ll set one once I see how many people are actually interested.

I have no idea if this will work, or if anyone will even be interested in this. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about. Please spread the word; I’d love this to be a very large group endeavor. And send that info if you want to participate.

Update (June 26): I have set the cutoff date for round one (yes, there will be more, I think) to be July 7th. Why that date? I just got my cat to pick a date on the calender. And for those who worry about their privacy: I can’t guarantee anything, as your address will be given to another person - that’s the whole idea, anyway…. but think of it this way: if you registered a domain, your address is hanging out bare-assed for the whole Web to see with a WHOIS, anyway… so you might as well make some new friends with it (and get a letter in the mail, to boot).

I’ll make sure not to match people who live within driving distance of each other, if that makes you feel better… does it?

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