Sometimes, being a mail artist is hard work. Not the kind of work that you dread (i.e. cleaning the bathroom or washing the dog), but more like the pleasant kind of work where, at the end of an afternoon, you feel like you’ve really accomplished something. After a few hours of creating and corresponding, I like to bask in the glory of it all, imaging the surprise and/or joy each recipient will experience, upon opening their mailbox.
However, there’s another aspect to receiving a wealth of correspondence, one that people often don’t consider when they dive into the world of mail art — there is always mail that has to be answered. I’ve talked with people who jump into the deep end of the Networking pool, only to find themselves overwhelmed with feelings of obligation or guilt, having never anticipated that mail art would be so much…well, work. I believe the delicate balance lies in answering all of the incoming correspondence in a timely manner. It can be a slippery slope, especially at busy times of year.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: organization is key. For example: to streamline my working process, I separate all incoming mail: postcards are placed in one stack, letters in another. 3D mail art gets a box of it’s own — I’ll make something equally wacky in return. Time sensitive correspondence gets it’s own stack — things such as invitations to participate in CFEs which have deadlines. Once I’ve categorized each bit of mail (it’s like my own version of the USPS sorting system!), I go through one last time — just to make sure I haven’t forgotten anybody.
Once I’ve made my stacks, the real fun begins! I’ll usually spend a day or two making postcards — that way I can design and create something to send to each person who has sent me a postcard, and work efficiently on a group of things all at once. Letters take a bit more time so I’ll often end up at a favorite neighborhood cafe, writing letters while surrounded by folks on laptops. (Ironic, no?)
Ultimately, each person finds a “system” that works for them when it comes to mail art. Basically, you need a way to track what’s coming in and what’s going out. Some people are most comfortable with an Excel spreadsheet; others might have an envelope filled with addresses and scraps of paper. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to keep yourself organized, but at the end of the day it’s best to have some idea of who you’ve sent what to, and whether or not they’ve sent you anything lately.
So what kinds of tactics and schemes do you use when it comes to tracking your correspondence? Is anyone currently using the oh-so-wonderful LWA Correspondence Log? Leave a comment and let us know how you keep on top of your stacks of “send to”!
In all things postal,
I remain —
PS: Letter Writers Alliance Correspondence Logs are available for purchase in the “members area” of the LWA website. If you aren’t a member, you should be: it’s the best three dollars you’ll spend all year. This is what being a member is all about.