Lately I've been feeling really stressed out by all of the "holidays" happening in the stationery biz. Why are they all in the first four months of the year? Do we really need them all? Do they exist to challenge us to spend more time with the things they're celebrating or to shame us into feeling like we have to celebrate each one individually? Handwriting Day, Pencil Day, Eraser Day and Stationery Day have all come and gone in the past few months. I've ignored some, celebrated others but have probably under-appreciated all of them. Even Pencil Day became more about the launch of my new book than actual pencils, which is something I don't feel bad about because Pencil Day happens more frequently than I write books. With all of that in the past, the one that we're still left with is the one I'm struggling with most--National Letter Writing Month. Yes, MONTH. During the month of April we're supposed to write a letter each day, with the goal of making it through the month without missing a day.
I'm an active letter-writer and a founding member of the New York Letter Writers Society (along with Alyx, Caitlin and our pals Rhea and Samantha). I go to the meetings once a month with an ambitious list of mail to send--usually 8-12 pieces. On my Friday afternoons off I've made the habit of packing a little kit and parking myself at a cafe or bar for a little one-on-one time with my pen pals. My letters and cards are no easy feat to complete--I chose the stationery carefully, put a lot of time into addressing the envelope, curating the postage stamps and appropriately sticker-ing them (for the record--I have done a great job of using more stationery than I buy in 2017 but I still have a SERIOUS sticker problem). My weekly output is anywhere from 5-15 and my many pen pals almost never wait longer then 2 weeks to hear back from me. I log every received piece of mail and every sent piece of mail in a letter ledger so I don't repeat stationery or lose track of topics I've already brought up.
This month, like all the Aprils I've tried to conquer in the past, I've failed. As I'm writing this it's April 27th and I've sent exactly 28 pieces of mail, but I've sent them over only three days. Today I have 6 postcards to write on my lunch break, pre-addressed and pre-stamped so I can focus on what I'm writing (one is a reply to a dear friend who send me a card this week confessing that she'd cheated on her favorite pencil). That will make 34 pieces of mail total--which technically is more than a months-worth. This is my third year attempting this feat and I think it'll be my last. I don't think I'll ever be the kind of person who can focus enough to do something like this every day. Anyway, aren't I supposed to enjoy it? Shouldn't physical correspondence be enjoyable and meditative not anxiety ridden and chore-like?
Perhaps what I actually should be doing to promising myself that I will not longer fall victim to the pressures of these "holidays." They aren't holidays. They're days invented to remind us of things we love or things we've forgotten about. They're marketing opportunities, yes, but their intent is simply to recognize the things they're promoting. They're not supposed to be stressful or burdensome. Apart from National Pencil Day (March 30th), I'm thinking I'll just quit them all and stick to writing letters and admiring erasers on an as-desired basis.