Monday, February 28, 2011

Day 28: Thank you everyone!

Cost: $30, plus postage
Difficulty: 7
Time: 15 hours

For the final day of February, I decided to unplug the cable modem, turn off my phone, and spend the day writing thank you letters to some of the people who made my month fun, different, and invigorating.

I have not written a personal letter in years, not since social networks and email became ubiquitous. But I have a shoebox full of letters from my college years. These represent tangible memories in a way an email cannot.

My handwriting skills were never good to begin with and have since atrophied to the point that even a single, legible page of writing leaves a painful welt on my middle finger. Writing letters to everyone I wanted to would be impossible.

I settled on the next best thing: personal letters lovingly hammered out on my mother's old Smith-Corona Skywriter. It's old enough to have personality. The Caps drop slightly below the baseline. The "z" and the "w" have become good friends, almost inseparable. There's no exclamation point, but there's a "cents" key.

I had already purchased 50 half-sheets of paper with a color and texture I liked from Bob Slate's in Harvard Square. When I had written something unsalvageable, crumpling them up felt good. I subsequently learned that the makers of the paper, Crane & Co. of Dalton, MA., have a particular claim to fame: they make (most of) the paper that US currency is printed on.

I spent over 15 hours from 8:30 to nearly midnight typing, with a few breaks for meals and to rest my wrists. The style of the letters changed throughout the day; more stoic and formal early, then personal and open in the afternoon as I loosened up, and finally punchy and misspelled in the evening after a few glasses of wine and fatigue had set in.

In total, I wrote 30 letters, 35 pages total, to 33 different people. I threw out 15 sheets. I estimate that I typed between 3-4,000 words (including re-writes).


  1. Just wanted to say it looks like its been an awesome month. I haven't had a chance to look through them all, but it's something I'd definitely want to try some day (month).

    Probably a bit late now, but with your Skywriter, if you've got an apostrophe key and a full stop, you can combine them to make an exclamation mark =)

  2. Hi! I found this blog and your experience so inspiring. I don't write blog so much anymore, but please allow me to write something about this. Thanks.

  3. @michael: Yes, I did know that, thanks! I just thought it was interesting that whenever the typewriter was made, an exclamation point was a "3 stroke" character, but 1/2, 1/4 and "cent" got their own keys (none of which made it onto modern keyboards).
    @Fakhur: Please feel free!

  4. hey really nice 'challenges'! Very inspiring!J

    ust accidentally came across to your blog and have read every single day! So what's this month about ;)

  5. Hey Kevin,

    I got here through a link you left on reddit and have worked my way through the whole 28 days. It was especially interesting since I live in Boston too! Thanks for posting it.

  6. @ping: Thanks! I'm taking it much easier in March; still doing fun and different things but not forcing it. Some things are carry overs from the 28 days: I'm going to the MFA with a bunch of people I met during the month, still playing poker with another group and the trapeze outing looks like it will have another go.

    @cearballain: Thanks! There's a remarkably large number of things to do in Boston, even in what could be described as the worst month of the year.