A blog for anyone who understands the joy of writing and receiving handwritten letters.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Letter-writing milestones V

It's been three months since I started keeping my stats now on incoming and outgoing letters. I'm not big on posting those stats on my blog, but suffice to say that production has increased hugely over this time and I am getting good mail pretty regularly these days.

My current aim is to write enough letters that I receive good mail every single day of the week. Won't that be something? :-)

As I was looking through my lists, I realised there was a significant number of people I have written to that I haven't heard back from. Some are people who are just taking their time, and this is absolutely fine by me. Letters arrive when they're meant to and I would never give anyone a hard time for taking time to write back.

But some of those, I have to accept, are people who are just not interested in having a correspondence relationship with me. That's ok, too. I totally get it, but what I find interesting is the ratio between the number of letters written and the number written back. There seems to be a significant drop-off rate.

Ok, out of curiosity I just made up a spreadsheet to help me look at this. I have written letters to about 53 individuals over the past three months (this doesn't include postcrossing or letters in the last week). Some of these 53 people have received two or three letters as we regular correspond.

But out of the 53 there are 23 who haven't yet replied. It doesn't mean they won't - I've had a few messages from friends apologising for not writing back yet (it's fine!). But it is still an interesting figure. It gives me an idea of how many letters I have to write to 'fish', if you, like for pen pals.

I've said it before but I'll say it again - I don't write letters to get letters back. I write letters cause I write letters (always have, always will) but it is a nice thing to get good mail, and it's a fabulous thing to get into a rhythm of back-and-forth correspondence with others who enjoy letter-writing just as much as I do. I love that.

This ratio of 53:23 is much higher than I would have guessed but I think it will improve over time, as my regular correspondents increase and my 'first' letters drop off. But, nevertheless, it really shows me that if you want to receive letters you've not only gotta write them - you've gotta write LOTS of them!

Love from Kaz
PS Elle, I got your fab postcard yesterday - thank-you! I asked a guy at work to guess where he thought it was from, by the pic, and he said tropical Queensland. I probably would have said NZ - the water is so gorgeous.


  1. Yep, put me down as guilty, I owe you a letter!

  2. A letter is on it's way from me......

  3. Thank-you lovelies... looks like the ratio is improving already... but you know that this wasn't what that was about, right?

  4. When I first started writing letters (back in the 1980s!), it was a teeny bit discouraging to send so many, and get so few in return. But, that changes as you write more and more. I think it is rare that I don't get a response now. More and more people are writing, and I think that helps, but I also think I've learned how to spot people who will be regular correspondents. And, I also know that one month turnaround is typical, and, in fact, quite good. I don't write a letter off as never getting answered until the third month, and then I'll sometimes send a postcard just to say hi (not mentioning the previous mail!), because mail does go missing.

    I also tend to write more postcards and notecards, rather than long letters, I think that also contributes to the huge incoming I have every week. People are more likely to respond when they can dash off a note. And I love those notes! It is just a moment in time, but it is a moment that I can share with a stranger. I like to receive long letters, but I am atrocious with responding in a timely fashion. It is very embarrassing.

    Like you, I write because I want to write. I don't write to get the response. The whole process of picking out stationery, pen, ink color, postage ... and then the writing itself, just thrills me. Putting a stack of mail in my mailbox and knowing that in a few days (sometimes more than a few days) it will be in someone else's mailbox ... that amazes me. It is magic.

  5. Usually when I comment on your blog, Kaz, the date of my comment is a day later than where I'm actually sitting because I'm in the US. It always makes me feel like a time traveler! I've been to the future! Look! I have a timestamp to prove it! :-)

  6. Keep it up, Kaz! Have you ever checked out The Things Unsaid Project (www.thingsunsaidproject.wordpress.com). It's a US project that's trying to keep letter writing alive.

    Best Wishes,

  7. Hi Kaz - it may also be because some people write to everyone who writes to them (you?) and others just pick a few to write to - I guess it's a bit like the google followers, some of my followers I don't follow, only because their site is not about creative writing and others I follow, don't follow me back. I think it all evens out once people discover their 'flow'.
    And.. of course you'll receive something from me because I'll have an excuse when I'm actually out of our home town! (although I'll be back before the letter) :-)

  8. Hi Kaz,

    I have always subscribed to this quote by GW.

    "To acknowledge the receipt of letters is always proper, to remove doubts of their miscarriage."

    ~George Washington

    I answer EVERY letter. My own stats are much worse than yours. Even with the people I know well - about 1 in 10 respond. I have learned to accept that most people just don't write (or write back).

  9. I have not tracked my statistics as carefully as you've tracked yours, but I definitely used to write more letters than I receive, and there is always a drop-off. At this point my average turnaround time for a letter or postcard is 3 months (I get a LOT of letters, and falling behind once means I am behind forever), so that means sometimes it takes me less time than that and other times... well, 6 months is not unheard of. I don't like those stats, but, I have an unusually high mail volume (and I am nowhere near as amazing as the fabulous PostMuse!!!). That being said, though, there is always a drop-off. There is the phenomenon of people who are newly interested in letter-writing: it's great, but count on a big percentage of them losing interest.

    You summed it up well, though: if you want to receive letters, you gotta write a LOT of letters!