A couple of weeks ago I blogged about “Snail Mail My Email,” a homage to the handwritten letter (read here). Ivan Cash started the idea, hoping that a few hundred people would participate. Instead, thousands of people sent in emails. These emails became letters as volunteers wrote, drew, and even sealed the letters with kisses to people all over the world. I was lucky enough to have Ivan share his story personally. Not only did Ivan have the courage to take a brilliant idea and make it happen, he spread happiness to thousands of people around the world by showing how a signed, sealed, and delivered letter can make you smile.
Enjoy—and write your own letter today!
1. What inspired you to start Snail Mail My Email?
I started Snail Mail My Email because I was fed up with how much time I was spending emailing, Facebook messaging, and texting. Handwritten letters is a communicative medium I really value, for its physical tangibility and for the patience and thoughtfulness it requires—and I sought a way to turn myself back on the snail mail as well as to show the accessibility of it to others.
A handwritten letter brings more happiness than email or Facebook messages because it takes time. We live in a culture where people are forgetting the value of slow, of patience, of mindfulness. Everything is speed based. But if you move too fast, it can quickly get overwhelming. Handwritten letters slows people down, and you can appreciate receiving snail mail because you know someone took the time to write it. It’s a very intimate act and shows someone you care about them.
3. What has been one of your favorite letters?
My favorite letters have been the ones people I know have received through the project. Content aside, it’s been very satisfying to see direct results of snail mail more fully integrating into the lives of my friends, family, and peers.
That being said, I also really enjoy reading letters that are unexpected, insightful, and creative like a letter of acceptance from Hogwarts or letters to infants meant to serve as a handwritten letter artifact (anticipating the extinction of snail mail).
4. How do you think this project has brought people together from around the world?
I don’t know if this project has brought people together per say, aside from the bonding of the SMME team. Using a third person to handwrite a letter from you to someone you presumably know is admittedly kind of weird. My hope however is that this project will inspire people to come together from around the world, by encouraging them to send more snail mail.
On the project’s fourth day, over 1,000 letter requests came in and I had to take down the site. I considered ending it prematurely, and had no idea how it would move forward in a similar capacity. It just seemed impossible. But then Lucy Tan from Shangai contacted me and offered to volunteer, and an hour later we were talking on a Skype call and brainstorming possible ways to make the project viable. She decided to come on board as project manager for a month-long commitment. We then reached out to Terry Farris from Oklahoma City and he joined as administrator. By the project’s end, we had 234 volunteers from around the world. That was so cool. My happiest memory during this project is the dedication and generosity of so many volunteers coming together to help promote a cause (in this case, the lost art of letter writing). SO inspiring. It’s been humbling.
6. Did you write a letter yourself?
I wrote one letter (from an alias email) to my father for his 70th birthday. It arrived and was perfect.
Specifically in regards to this project, a book (a la Post Secret) is in the works. Fingers crossed that a publisher picks it up!!
And then, going forward, in addition to the freelance work I do that helps pay the bills, my goal is to continue to work on activist based art projects that are both fulfilling for me and contribute positively to the world. I love working on things that challenge pre-conceived notions and encourage critical thinking. Culture jamming stuff. I love projects that have tension and are edgy. Anything inspiring though, really. I love banksy and improv everywhere and how prolific they’ve become in spreading unexpected joy. I’d like to collaborate with people that inspire me and just keep doing stuff and see where it goes.
I’ve been really into Buddhism lately, and so am wondering what I might be able to do with that issue in terms of spreading its messages across. If anyone reading is interested in future collaboration, feel free to email me. Film editors, web devs, and other professional creatives are a plus.
8. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
-People who are interested can join Snail Mail My Email’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/snailmailmyemail
-For people who have a bit too much time on their hands, you can follow my creative inspiration blog: http://shwizle.tumblr.com/
Thank you so much Ivan for such an outstanding interview. You are inspiration for us all so that we can take tradition and make it a part of TODAY.
The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook