Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Origins of This Project

First came the letters.

I was inspired to embark upon this letter-writing project when, one day, I was once again playing around on Facebook and clicked that I “liked” something my friend "M" had done.

It struck me in that moment that M was the person with whom I spent the first several hours after the 9/11 attacks. Released for the day from our jobs, we sat in a coffee shop in Albuquerque and talked about the state of mankind and what it might all mean. We had in each other solace and understanding on one of humanity’s bleakest days.

So when I found myself clicking that “like” button in response to M's post (I seem to recall she became a “fan” of National Public Radio), it hit me: was this what now stood in for communication? Had we really gone from sharing real words and emotions and experiences to the impersonal click of a mouse?

I wondered: what might happen if I attempted to return to "real communication?" Pen and paper communication, in the tradition of Plath and Woolf and de Tocqueville and Jefferson (can you imagine if he had Facebooked from France? "Thomas Jefferson became a fan of the

An idea was born. Over the next several days, I began collecting names--
friends new and old, family nuclear and extended, coworkers, teachers, mentors and old flames, even a former landlady and a handful of famous people who had influenced me personally or professionally.

And so I wrote. On Feb. 14, 2010, I composed my first letter, to a couple who were my colleagues at my very first job. Then it was an old roommate. Then the mother of a childhood friend and a former boss. Soon, I'd written--and sent--an astonishing 64 letters.

Then came the blog.

At first it seemed counterintuitive--blogging about traditional communication? But the more I thought, the more it seemed like the right idea. I wanted to share widely the amazing insight and gratitude I have gained from this project, and let's face it: the Internet is the way to do that.

My hope is that the blog will play out just as the letters have: sometimes predictably, more often in ways I could never anticipate.

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