What Sending Fanmail Taught Me

One of my ‘pandemic’ hobbies is sending fanmail (both emails and physical letters).

In sending fanmail, there’s the question, ‘will they read this?’ Some people say, ‘I’d send them a fan letter if I knew they’d read it, but I don’t know if they would.’ I understand this. Nobody likes the idea of putting effort into a letter which the recipient will never see.

I once sent a fan letter and received no reply for half a year. I wondered, did she read it? Did she read it and hate it? Later, I sent a much shorter letter congratulating her on her new project. She replied, and said that she loved my first letter, and had even written a draft of a response, but she hadn’t sent it.

Some celebrities say they read all fan mail, but because of the limits on their time, they sadly can’t reply.

Before I started this hobby, I expected that less famous people would reply more often and more quickly than more famous people. That’s… not the case.

The correlation between fame and response rate/speed is weak… and it favors the more famous people. I’ve yet to send fanmail to anyone as famous as, say, Taylor Swift, but it makes me wonder whether the people who appreciate their fans more are more likely to become famous.

Writing fanmail is not so different from writing anything else. I can get writer’s block while working on fanmail. “Resistance” fights me over fan letters as much as anything else. Those people who would like to send fan letters but don’t because they think the recipient wouldn’t read them… I wonder if that’s ‘Resistance’ talking.

My years of blogging experience help a lot with writing fan mail.

Do I love receiving responses? Yes, of course, even short ones. But over time, I’ve made peace with non-responses as well. Even when I believe a response is unlikely, I no longer let it stop me from sending fan mail if I feel the urge to write it. First, I know that people who do not reply might still have read and appreciated the letter. Second, I’ve done this long enough that I know that if I send out enough fan letters to enough people, some of them will reply. It’s a matter of odds. Thus, non-replies no longer bother me.

Much as I love responses, the best part of writing fan mail is… writing it. Thinking about something good someone has done in the world. Thinking so hard about it I can express it in words. Taking the chance that sending the fan letter may make someone I admire smile. Even if it’s lost before it reaches the recipient, whether through spam filters or letters falling out of mail trucks, having thought about the good the person has done improves my life.

I never expected sending fan mail to reward me so much.

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