What happened when I challenged myself to write a handwritten note every day for a month


Editor’s note: To start the new year, CharlotteFive writers and staffers committed to 7-day, 14-day and 30-day challenges through January to shake up our norms and lifestyles. Other challenges included the Minimalist Game, 14 days of veganism, 14 days of talking to strangers, 7 days of classic Charlotte things, letting your fiance choose your outfits for 7 days and Whole30.

I think New Year’s Resolutions are really fun. I love starting over and taking a new lease on life. But one thing I’m not good at is trying to implement something I have to do every. Single. Day. I’m a writer who spends a lot of time on a computer. So I took a rather ambitious, self-imposed challenge to hand-write cards 30 days in a row.

I didn’t think it would be way outside my comfort zone, but it was — and totally worth it. And, like Sallie (who tried to go vegan for two weeks), I had to give myself a little grace for when I just couldn’t hang. Maybe it’s a self-discipline issue or maybe it’s that I don’t function well within an absolutist mentality. Either way, this is what happened:

Week One:

Jan. 1- I kind of forgot today because it’s New Year’s Day so I’m giving myself a pass. Why do we start resolutions on the first day anyway? Don’t we know how late we’ll be up the night prior?

Jan. 2- Today I wrote a note to my friend Jessie who facilitated our connection with this new breakfast “church” (which is not a church at all) and I wanted her to know what a difference that has made. I couldn’t be more grateful.

Jan. 3- I started an Etsy shop (shameless self-promotion) and my sister’s childhood friend was my first customer. I wrote her a note to thank her for her support. It reminded me of all the people who have supported my dad’s business over the years and reminded me of why I love small business so much.

Jan. 4-  I had another friend — this time a friend of some college friends — buy from my site. It was nice to connect with her via written note instead of just Instagram comments. It was more tangible.

Jan. 5- Another note on another Etsy purchase by another friend of my sister’s. Adding little handwritten notes feels intentional.

Jan. 6- Woke up and wrote a note to a college roommate who now lives in Texas. I started out thinking I wouldn’t have much to say because #internet but found myself having to stop because I ran out of room. It’s like therapy and meeting an old friend for coffee all in one. It feels vulnerable to sit and write about myself for so long, but also rewarding to let her know what a big role she plays in my life. I’m excited for her to get this.

Jan. 7- A dear friend of a dear friend’s mother passed away a few weeks ago. It’s hard to write notes that are more heartfelt than the “I’m sorry for your loss” that we all say when we don’t know what to say. I am glad I stepped out of my comfort zone to let her know I was thinking of her, even if it was penned awkwardly. I’m sure it will be well-received.

Week Two

Jan. 8- Wrote lunch-box notes to the kids. Wasn’t my best work but dammit I did it.

Jan. 9- Wrote a detailed card to Randy, my partner, about how much I appreciate him. It felt good to get it on paper even if it might have sounded like a high school student falling in love.

Jan. 10-15- I took this time off for a break I had in grad school residency. I’m giving myself a break here with letter-writing, too.

Week Three

Jan. 16- After taking a week break from writing notes, I see that my self-imposed regulations have been hovering heavily above me. I’m back to it today by writing a note to my friend, Sam Brown, from grad school and a girl named Donna from school who also bought something from my Etsy shop! Shout out to friends!

Jan. 17- Wrote to my college BFF with whom I was once pen pals. Sure, we talk on the internet but I haven’t seen her in person in almost a YEAR and I miss sending her things.

Jan. 18- I have an actual pen pal I haven’t been writing to at all and today took up two pages of my brand-new Rifle Paper Co. stationary. It’s like meeting up with someone you haven’t seen in a while and you can’t stop talking. Sounds pretty natural for me.

Week Four

Jan. 22- I wrote cards for the kids’ lunch boxes, which may be a cop out but I don’t care at this point. I keep forgetting to do it.

Jan. 24- Wrote Emma, a dear friend from Virginia I don’t get to see nearly enough, a letter to update her on life. Got new stamps and thought that would keep me motivated and it does but I’m busy!

The Verdict:

After the 24th, I basically gave up. The taunting stationery won and we decided to go our separate ways until a few days ago when I wrote letters to my kids while they were at their dad’s. Thirty-day challenges are just not for me. I need something a little less daunting, like seven. Or three.

So, if you look at the dates, you can see I didn’t do it every day. Life is busy and letter-writing is time consuming.

I felt such intense guilt for not writing on certain days and felt like my stationery was taunting me when I walked by without sitting to write. Apparently I have a hard time when I set goals and don’t 100 percent follow through on them. The self-shaming is real, y’all.

When I did write, the recipients were incredibly grateful. One college pal wrote back, another sent a text that she loved the letter, and another called and scheduled a visit this month because clearly we have a lot to catch up on.

Even though I didn’t do it every. Single. Day. For an entire month, it was totally worth it and has made me want to send more letters, only without the absolutist precedent I’d set for myself. And the self-imposed guilt was good to feel because in a more far-reaching way it taught me to let go of unrealistic expectations I put on myself. So feeling the guilt taught me to let go of guilt.

It’s good to set goals and meet them but I have to be realistic with the life I have around me. 

Photo: Liz Logan


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