View Full Version : What I learned from InCoWriMo 2013

January 5th, 2014, 03:15 PM
I found fountain pens just weeks before this all got started. I was about as new as you could be, but I have learned a great deal since then (still learning actually) and wanted to share with those who are looking forward to their first InCoWriMo this year.

When this all started in 2013, a site was setup InCoWriMo.org (http://incowrimo.org/). I don't know if those who have control of it are still hanging around and can bring it back to life but it does still have a lot of useful information, FAQ (http://incowrimo.org/faqs/) as well the history of what happened last year (http://incowrimo.org/2013/01/hello-world/).

Writing a letter or note (what I call something that wasn't mailed) to a friend, family member, or coworker normally results is a comment from them in a conversation, email, text, im, or phone call. Most don't pick up a pen and write something out. What you don't get in return mail, you get in surprise and appreciation that you took the time to actually write something out. Sometime you also get to have a conversation about pens.

Writing a letter to a fellow FPGeek you will most likely get some form of reply by post. Not all letters will be replied too... life happens to us all. If I had gotten a reply for every letter I wrote last February, I would still be trying to dig myself out.

If you are wanting to find letters written to you in your mail box, instead of just bills and junk mail, post your address in the InCo-Pen-Pals (http://fpgeeks.com/forum/showthread.php/1824-InCo-Pen-Pals). Also add some information to your forum accounts profile. It helps a great deal when writing an introduction letter to have some idea what the other person is interested in. We are all interested in Fountain Pens but there is so much more to each of us.

It takes time to write a letter, for me at least. Introductions are quick, easy, and normally rather similar. If you are running sort of time you can do one of these. At its shortest you can just use it as a form of tag without much content or if you want to start a conversation that will last much longer then a single back and forth. Opened with a little bit of your history with fountain pens, then a little about you and things you are interested in, trying to list things that seem similar to what they have posted in their profile, ending with some questions about them, where they live, and anything else that seems interesting.

I did a lot of looking around on the web for proper/better letter writing rules and did find some but unfortunately haven't been able to rediscover them since, so I am going to wing it and add a few observations I have made.

When replying to a letter, start your reply with something that was in the letter you received, instead of all the reasons why you haven't written to them. It a natural enough start to your thoughts but with the added delay and separation of a letter, reading a paragraph of why they didn't get around to you, doesn't come off quite right. If a lot has happened that you are excited to share, phrasing it as something like 'I wanted to wait so that I could tell you about...'.

Remember that a letter is a slow conversation. This will affect what sort of things can and will be discussing. It will also change what feels acceptable for how long before you get a reply.

If you send a text to someone, you expect a reply in anywhere from a minute to a couple of hours. The next day seems like a very long time.

If you send an email and get a reply anywhere in the first 24 hours, feels like an active connection. Two or three day feels ok but more than that, you wonder if they got it or not.

When you send a letter, unless they live in the same area with a local USPS Distribution Center nearby, they won't get your letter for three to four day domestically and longer for overseas. If you get a reply in a week, chances are they replied and mailed their letter the same day they got yours (very rare, but fun). Within a month is very good and a two to four or even six months is reasonable. After that it becomes something you weren't expecting and are surprised and happy to hear from them again. Being that they are replying to a letter full of information about you and questions about them, the time difference doesn't hurt it but instead brings you back to when you sent it and you get to bring it up to day in your reply.

Like the opening, how we tend to want to end isn't as effective as it could be. The tendency is to end with something like, 'I guess I will stop here...' or 'I have nothing else to say...' or 'That's all the time I have...'. There isn't anything wrong with these but they leave the receiver with the feeling that they aren’t very important. If instead it was put like 'Now I am off to ..." or something similar you convey either that you would rather continue writing to them instead or you are headed to something interesting that they can ask you about in there reply.

You can fill a full sheet of paper without really saying much. Start with why you couldn't get back to them and finish with why you can't write any more and without realizing it there may only be a few lines of actual conversation for the receiver to try to turn in to a reply. I have send and received letters like this.

A better letter:

Starts off with replying to the letter you received. Answer or address all the questions in their letter. If you don't want to answer something try to acknowledge that your read it and redirect it to something you are comfortable in talking about. If someone takes the time to write out a letter and is interested in what you think or are doing and they don’t receive any answers, they are less inclined to put much effort in the next letter.

Share things that are going on in your part of the world, life, work, or whatever. Anything that you think they would be interested in and/or things you would like to have a conversation about. This is where they can find things to ask you about or add comments on.

End with questions about them or things they put in their letter that seem interesting to you. This is how you can help to motivate them to write a reply. If you aren't interested in what they might think or are doing, why would they need to write you a letter?

Most people don't have a copy of every letter they have sent, so if you are replying to something make sure that you include enough information to remind them what it is you are replying to.

Not all letters will make it to their destination. I got one bounce back, a couple I forgot to put stamps on (in the beginning I was a bit over excited), and one that is lost to the oceans between the US and Australia.

You can also end up with letters crossing in the mail. There are two ways I have found to deal with this one. Wait for the reply to your letter to arrive so you can reply to both at once, hoping they aren't doing the same. Keep the two threads of conversation separate until they both are in one place at the same time naturally. Its kinda fun to see how long it will last and having two separate conversations with the same person at the same time.

As we are all FPGeeks here, unless you mention what pen (+nib), paper, and ink you are using in your letter, most people add these at the bottom of the last sheet as notes.

Remember the main point of InCoWriMo is to have a reason to pick up the pens we enjoy and use them each day. What you do with it once it is in your hand is up to you. I have written and received letters that do everything I list above that you shouldn't. Whether you agree with anything I have said or not, I just wanted to pass on my observations and thoughts. If anyone would like to send me a letter, they will get a reply, My Address (http://fpgeeks.com/forum/showthread.php/1824-InCo-Pen-Pals?p=17349&viewfull=1#post17349) . I am now headed to update my Profile.

I would also be interested to see other people’s suggestions and observations.

January 8th, 2014, 05:10 AM
Thank you for this. For someone who is totally new to writing letters and corresponding regularly, this really puts things into a nice perspective.

January 8th, 2014, 07:12 AM
Great post. I'm sure it will be of much help to all.

January 16th, 2014, 04:19 PM
I am a letter writer and one thing I've found useful is to keep a log of the letters I've sent. I have their name, when I sent them a letter, a summary of what I said in the letter, and when I received their response. And then the cycle begins again. I started this because I had some brand new pen pals and didn't want to bore them in a second or even third letter with the same info (my name is, i live in, i do this for a living.....) :)

January 19th, 2014, 07:32 PM
that’s real organised…! yeah the first letter always seem a little boring with the introductions but the going gets better…