Just what you needed to hear

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Reading

Ralph

Snail Mail Revolution

I’ve been doing a course on Instagram, trying to improve my photography and Instagram engagement in general. It’s challenging, fun, inspiring, and frustrating, like most things are when you’re learning something new. Then today, someone else in the course shared this video with the class.

I’d heard of this little piece by Ira Glass before, but had never actually taken it in myself. If you’re struggling with trying to be creative – or really, with trying to be good at anything in life – and you feel like you’re just not up to scratch, do yourself a favour and spend two minutes listening to this. (If you can’t see the video below, click this link to find it in Vimeo).

It just might be exactly what you needed to hear.

THE GAP by Ira Glass from Daniel Sax on Vimeo.

Oh dear

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And I was so smug. And I felt so free! Less than a week after I congratulated myself on being free from Facebook for a whole year, I find myself sucked back into its insidious blue-and-white vortex.

Earlier this week I signed up to a course of study and only after I had committed (and paid) did I learn that the Facebook Group component of the course was essential. Essential if I wanted any feedback whatsoever from the coach or other participants, that is. Which of course I do.

I took the night to think about it, and in the morning I admitted defeat, and dipped my toe back into the Facebook pond. To do it, I created a new email address so that Facebook couldn’t access my contacts, and created a private profile under a pseudonym and with a fake birthday.

And yet, within mere seconds of doing this – in fact while it was still all in progress – I received a friend request from someone who knew me. And then a bunch of “people you might know” suggestions of people who I did, indeed, know.

Facebook had insisted on a mobile number for me to confirm details, so I guess this is where that private information came from. I tried to delete the phone number but, so far, without success.

Ugh. Did I tell you how much I hate Facebook?

I’m going to stick with it for the duration of the course I’m doing, which ends just after the New Year, and then I’ll be gone again.

But if Facebook tells you I’m around (because it is a creepy stalker piece of software), please know that I’m not ignoring or rejecting you, I’m vigorously ignoring and rejecting Facebook.

Instead, come say hi to me on this blog, or on Instagram (or send me an email or write me a letter). I’d love to be your friend!

ps. In happier news, here is some information on my work in progress, a book about snail-mail! 

The pop-up letter shop

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This is the best idea I’ve heard of in a long time. In Seattle, USA, a woman named Rachel Weil has launched a snail-mail truck, known as The Letter Farmer. Like a food truck, you know, but serving up food for the soul (awwwww).

She has fitted out a beautiful, red truck with all kinds of carefully selected stationery supplies – pens, paper, cards, stamps, even sealing wax, and hits the road every day. Wherever she stops, she sets up some tables and chairs outside, provides free postcards (and postage!), and invites people to start writing. She keeps a stack of prompts – people to write to and things to write – for those who are stuck.

When they’re done, folks can even pop their missives into the post box attached to her truck.

Rachel says, “Sharing the narrative of our life through pen and paper as they meet and the nuances of our handwriting, paper selection and an envelope is addressed, stamped and mailed is priceless and timeless. Letters can be reread over and over, giving us the opportunity to have voices of our past speak again. Holding and touching something that someone who is either no longer with us or geographically far away is a way that we can feel physical connection with that person.”

Can you imagine how fantastic this would be in your city, turning up at parks and carnivals and open spaces? How perfectly would it fit in at a food-truck festival! The Letter Farmer would be my dream business, except that I never have managed to master the art of hook turns in Melbourne. Maybe Australia Post could launch a fleet of these mobile shops, and bring their business to the people…

Here’s an article about The Letter Farmer in the Seattle Times

Image credit: all photographs are from The Letter Farmer website

Things left unsaid

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This is the truth about what really happened that weekend.
I have loved you for years.
A secret.
I have to know why you did that.
I’m your biggest fan.
There’s a question I’ve always wanted to ask you.
I’m sorry.

Is there something unsaid lingering in your life, that is eating away at you? Is there someone out there who you wish you could tell, or ask, that one thing? But you can’t find them, or you don’t have the courage… you don’t know how they’d react?

Me too.

This blog post is a story about six degrees of separation, which seems to happen to most of us at some time or another, but it is also about snail-mail (so hooray!), and there’s a way for you to find some personal resolution on those unspoken words, too. So really, there’s something in this blog post for all of us. Read on, comrades!

About six months ago, I received in the mail a little book of short stories, from my dear friend Sonya. (Once, Sonya and I and my dog Oliver squeezed into a tiny, tin-pot rental car and drove across the United States from New York to Florida, into New Orleans, up to Oklahoma, and then all the way to LA along Route 66. I have been lucky to travel to a lot of wonderful places in the world, but that was the best journey I ever had). The book she sent me, Portable Curiosities, had been written by another of Sonya’s friends, Julie Koh. It was full of stories that were magical and whimsical and disturbing and challenging in all the right ways. “This writer is my kind of person,” I thought to myself.

Then earlier this month, Julie put out a call for participants in a fabulous new snail-mail project, planned for ABC Radio. I might not have heard about it, except that my sister-in-law, who also works for ABC Radio, did hear about it. So she sent a message to Julie, telling her about me, and Julie sent her back a photograph of my book, Airmail. Turns out Sonya had been busy sending books between us! And then my sister-in-law sent a screen-shot of part of the conversation to me, also alerting me to the aforementioned fabulous snail-mail project.

And so everything came full circle, and yesterday I reached out to Julie at last, because I think the universe was saying, “Do it!”

Onwards to the bit where you come in.

You’re wondering what the fabulous new snail-mail project is, aren’t you. Well, it’s called Expressive Post, and here’s what it’s all about in Julie’s words:

Have you always wanted to write a letter to a particular someone but haven’t, for whatever reason?

Is there something you want to tell another person but it’s a delicate topic, and you’re not sure how they’ll react? A topic so delicate that only a letter will do?

I’m testing a potential new show for ABC Radio National that needs letters like these.

To participate, all you have to do is:

1. Write that special letter and post it to the address below.

2. Include your name and contact details.*

As part of the test run, I’ll select the most compelling letters. Then I’ll track down the intended recipient for each letter and deliver it to them. They’ll read the letter for the first time on the show.

The address to write to, and all the other details (including the fact that you can remain anonymous if you prefer it) are on Julie’s website, right here. But be quick: this is a trial program and will only go ahead if there are enough good letters and connections to make.

The deadline for the first round of letters is next Friday, 4 November, so if you want to write, especially if your letter is coming from outside of Australia, maybe drop her an email just to let her know it’s on its way.

I am going to try to find the words to reach out to my best friend from high school. For years I felt like I had failed her, but I also loved her dearly, and I’ve wanted to reach out for a long time. I’ve tried in the past to reach out to her, but with no success. I don’t know if she didn’t want to hear from me, or if my overtures were never delivered, but they’ve only met with silence.

Maybe this is my chance to say, at last, “I know I failed you. I tried to be a good friend, and I did love you, but I didn’t understand.”

How about you? What have you left unsaid? Will you take this opportunity to find the words?

Checking in: quitting Facebook, one year on

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Nope, still not missing it. In case you were wondering.

If you’re new around here, here are my reasons for quitting Facebook (and Twitter, and LinkedIn), and here are some lessons I learned a month in.

One thing I feared I’d miss on leaving Facebook was the occasional clever content. Events, ideas and happenings that people posted online, that I wanted in my world.

But thankfully, friendships can exist outside of social media. Who knew!?

Back in my Facebook days, if a friend saw something that they thought I’d like, they’d tag me in the comments to let me know. “@naomibulger,” they’d type, and then move on.

These days, my friends write me letters, they send me texts, they send emails. They write, “Hi how are you? I saw this on FB and thought of you. Let’s catch up soon!”

And I write back. “Oh wow that’s interesting, thanks for thinking of me. I’m well, how are you guys? Coffee next week?”

It’s so much more personal. Quality over quantity, that old chestnut. I feel so much more connected without Facebook than I ever did with it.

And better still: my friends know me and care about me, so the stories they share are actually stories that I want to read. Stories about extraordinary kindnesses, inspiring creativity, and new snail-mail projects.

Not once has anybody written to me, “Hi how are you? This grandmother looks 20 years younger, without surgery!” Or, “Hi how are you? I saw this article about Brangelina’s divorce and thought of you.” Or, “Hi how are you? They told this woman she couldn’t breastfeed in public and you’ll never believe what she did next!”

Turns out, my friends know me even better than a piece of software. Who knew?

Keep on making bread, my friends. Keep on writing letters, brewing tea, tending plants. You don’t have to quit Facebook, but do make time in your life for slow things, for tactile things, for real things. Fresh air. They will feel like fresh air.