Sunday, October 19, 2014

Habits: how I keep my letter log

Letter log received: Always the same pen and ink

I am a creature of habit, and when I find one I like and that serves me well, I am pretty good at sticking with it. So I have kept the same letter log habit for many years, and I was reflecting upon it this morning so I thought I'd share my thoughts.

I've blogged before about how I keep my letter log, and that has evolved over the years so you can sort of see that evolution in those blog posts, but I explained my method in great detail in my 2011: a year in mail post.

Not much has changed since then: I still log all my mail in a small black Rhodia Webnotebook (I have many volumes of them at this point!), and log all received items using a Pilot Varsity fountain pen refilled with Noodler's Heart of Darkness ink. I love this method. It is an immediate visual differentiation between sent and received, and I can page through and see the received immediately because I always use this blacker-than-black ink in the same pen with generous flow for the task. (I should note that the Pilot Varsity is a disposable fountain pen, not technically made to be easily refillable but it's quite simple to pull it apart and refill it with whatever ink you like - I explain that a bit in this post - and the pens do eventually die or wear out, but it's just a few bucks to replace with a new one, and their quality control is quite high so it feels just like the same pen.) Above you can see my current letter log, with the Pilot Varsity and that lovely very-black Noodler's Heart of Darkness ink. The letter opener just helps to hold the book open for the photo, but it is always close at hand when I'm logging my mail.

Letter log sent: ink used in letter

I log all sent items in whatever ink I used last for the body of the letter or the postcard, so there is quite a colorful variety there. I don't often use the Noodler's Heart of Darkness for the body of a letter, so it doesn't create any visual confusion in the letter log.

The letters P or L indicate a postcard or a letter, and the numbers indicate how many I've sent that month. It helps me count for my own statistics, which I don't really do much with except note with curiosity how each month varies. I used to post my mail stats on this blog, but it felt too competitive, either with myself or with others, and that is not the point of my enjoyment of mail or this blog, so I discontinued the stat-posting.

I have thought about making a searchable Excel spreadsheet with this information; it would certainly help me find something quickly when I need to look it up. Ultimately, though, I come back to the conclusion that my mail habits are to slow down and get me away from the computer, and every time I've needed to find something in the letter log, I've been able to do so.

So, for now anyway, I'm sticking to my pen and ink habits.

What about you? How do you keep track of your mail?

14 comments:

  1. I was inspired by your 2011 post to revise my letter log approach. This has further inspired me to adopt the idea of using one color for received and the color of the letter for sent. Visual differentiation works well for my brain. :)

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    1. So glad to help with ideas and inspiration! Visual differentiation has been so key for me. I wouldn't have thought so, but it really has.

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  2. I am so glad I read this. My mail pile is a huge mess. have tons of letters hanging around my apartment in little organized piles... until my husband gets aggravated with the piles and then *gasp* combines them into 1 big pile. I am going to start a letter log tonight. I just brought some moleskin journals that will be perfect for a log. I will also work on finding appropriate places for my received mail. I've been getting a ton done around the house today so this is great timing. I'll go do it now while I'm motivated!

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    1. So glad to help motivate! I love my letter log. The act of writing in it is part of the pleasure.

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  3. I do use a spreadsheet. I started in 2013, but it's just in 2014 that I found "the definitive" system. It helps me to keep track of answered and to-be-answered mail.

    I also write down the money I spend, but I hardly check this column because I could faint... :)

    And I don't like to publish my mail stats. As you, if I do I feel that mail is a sort of competion. Which isn't.

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    1. I know a number of people that use and really like the spreadsheet method. I am frequently tempted, I confess!

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    2. Before I started my first 365 Mail Art project, I never kept track of any mail in or out. With my first 365, I got a little spiral notebook, added dates and numbers (which was easy the first year for the first month as they corresponded to the date) and to whom I sent the card. I made, scanned, posted, and sent on the same day. Years 2 & 3 365 Mail Art projects also dates and numbers in other little notebooks. Since finishing those projects, I continue to keep a record. I stamp the date and the numbers of the cards in the notebook, the name of the recipient and the date sent if not the same day as the card is made, which is more often than not the case these days. It's pen and ink all the way. I don't keep a record of incoming - sadly, as I think it'd be a good idea, but I just am not that orderly. Sometimes, I wish it was like the "old" days where I made and sent and kept no record and sometimes didn't even put a return address on my Mail Art. It was really letting go, back then. But I like having my tiny notebooks. Four of them now. Thanks for sharing your method.

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    3. Mim, thanks for sharing your method as well. I am intrigued by your occasional wish for the "old" days, when it was really letting go. That's interesting food for thought in really releasing your art.

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  4. I have a very extensive digital record keeping database where I record incoming and outgoing, in great detail. Because of my Orphaned Postcard Project I really have to keep careful records so I don't lose track of the "orphans." I also send an awful lot of Postcrossing and other mail that I like to document. But, as the years go on, the online record keeping has lost a bit of its charm for me. I won't give it up, but in 2015 I am going to start a pen/paper log where I record the incoming and outgoing for my regular penpals ... those who write to me more than a few times a year. I want to have less online time and more on-pen time!

    Another thing I want to get back to in 2015 is a mail journal. I used to keep some of my favorite incoming mail in an art journal. I would add bits of ephemera and notes about my daily mail, as well as the actual mail pieces I loved. It was time consuming, but the journal was beautiful. I want to get back into that and spend more time enjoying my mail than I do now.

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    1. PostMuse, you bring up such a great point about the balance of the time - more time on-pen and less online! I love your idea of a mail journal, and I did even start one at one time (aided by YOU, if I recall!)... it's always such an interesting and personal decision about how we each choose to spend our time in savoring our hobbies. I can only imagine how exquisite your mail journal is!

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  5. Lewis Carroll describes his system in Eight or Nine Wise Words about Letter-Writing, which you can find here. Apologies to those offended by the sexist remark at the end of Section 2; I don't like it either.

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  6. Off the topic, but I LOVE the letter opener!

    - Sharon

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    1. Thanks, Sharon - I've had it for more than 20 years and I'm very fond of it, too.

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