The ugly hidden underbelly of InCoWriMo expectations – and how to avoid them.

Sorry to say but one of the more common problems people seem to have with InCoWrimo is the “but I’ve written all these letters and I haven’t yet received any mail” complaint.

This doesn’t mean you won’t get any mail when you participate, it’s just that it might not turn out like you planned it in your head. People do like you, and if you write you’re pretty sure of getting a reply but a little bit of explanation may be of some help.

Basically, a fair number of people don’t really notice that the challenge is to ..’write one letter a day, every day for the month of February’.

There exists a very complex and tricky part of our mind that’s fully capable of turning this into ..’get a letter every day for the month of February  (and a couple of weeks more because I deserve it).

And trust me, no one is immune to this, no matter how many times they’ve been a participant.

Sobbing doesn’t help. Nor does tidying up your writing desk for the umpteenth time while muttering under your breath about the march to the mailbox. Only to find that the letter that should have arrived by now ..hasn’t; and it had better show up soon ..or else.

We don’t want to scare people away, nor wish ill to anyone who finds themselves in this predicament. In fact it’s why we fuss and worry over this site so that no one need fall prey to unreasonable expectations.

If you’re new to InCoWriMo, there are a few simple things you might want to keep in mind. Remember, knowledge is power.

First of all is to remember that it is ‘correspondence writing month’. Chances are that you will get mail, but there’s a lot that will influence how this happens.

There are certain people in life who possess a special genius in statistical analysis, and can easily lay out all the pathways and probabilities. But we unfortunately, are not adepts in this art.

However, we do possess some very valuable empirical knowledge that once understood can avoid disappointing InCoWriMo expectations.

  1. Not everyone who writes a letter will address it to a participant in this years event. As mentioned elsewhere in another post; some people find February a great time to thank distant relatives for that glass punch-bowl they received years ago as a gift. Others like to get in touch with long-lost friends. Or even send condolences to their cell-phone carrier for not doing so well this year. This means a lot of letters make their way somewhere else.
  2. Some letters can take up to six weeks or more to make it to their destination. This means that with another six weeks turn-around to get to you, it could be mid-May or even later before you see a reply.    Do not!  ..we repeat  ..Do not let this stop you!   Many an amazing and worthwhile friendship has started this way.
  3. We have found most participants to be especially friendly and extremely good at replying to a letter. However, they may have arbitrarily planned who they will be writing to by the beginning of the month. That means that unless they’re writing two letters a day, it might be a few extra days before they respond to yours.
  4. Personally we have had many letters arrive from March through to September, which is why so many participants end up writing all year round.
  5. Sometimes postal problems can delay your precious replies. There have been floods, cyclones, snowstorms, forest-fires and other unexpected delays. Sometimes letters get damaged. Shredded, soaked, ignored and more. It can take ages to receive a reply. Fortunately this is pretty rare, but it has happened.
  6. Sending even a mildly interesting letter is likely to get a response. Simply packing up old bills and flyers in the mail is unlikely to elicit the replies you would like. There are suggestions on creating an interesting letter elsewhere on the web and on this site.
  7. Patience is a virtue. This last one is a gift of gold.

For some reason, people keep returning to this event, and we can let you in on some hidden secrets that they know.

  1. You might find that the real gift of InCoWriMo is in the unexplored adventure of just learning how to write a good letter. Or discovering and expressing some unknown part of yourself.
  2. It could be the new experience and freedom of sending something off into the world to let fortune and serendipity work their magic.
  3. It could be that one written letter, as mundane as it seems to you, touches your recipients life in a unique way. Or the letter in reply that encourages you to continue to write.
  4. And then there’s all the unknown inks, paper, penmanship and panache you’re likely to encounter on the way.

In short, this is the project that’s done with a smile on its face. Better to dispense with all your luggage and expectations. Grab a notebook, ink and pen. Garner a few stamps and maybe some washi tape. Find some stickers, wax seals and a place to write. And set sail on the vast seas of vintage social media.


  1. I return because it is an exciting adventure into the unknown, a different way of meeting people to write to, and for me, this has been very rewarding.

    There is no magic formula making a letter special, but you are more likely to get a reply if it contains more than just the words, Happy InCoWriMo. I like letters with character, be it in the way it is written, the story, the anecdotes, the humour, the genuineness & sincerity of the person writing.

    Some people might think the main goal is one-off notes/letters for just 28 days, but that is not how I see it. I see it as reaching out to new people, and while I do hope for replies, I would like my letters to make a difference, to brighten the days. I also think letter writing is an all year round hobby, not just for February, but I won’t commit to writing every day.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just wanted to say thanks for all of your hard work in organizing this. This is my first year participating and I can’t wait to reach out to some new friends. Have a great day.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. JujyCakes says:

    Too often people expect a return on their investment of time and monies.
    Finding joy in writing and embellishing one’s snail mail should be a personal journey. Perhaps just a shift in attitude? Each letter is a gift & true gift giving means one should never expect reciprocation. Like you said IF it happens, wonderful- if not that’s okay too.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. mimitabby says:

    what has helped me get letters is to write MORE. Write MORE than 1 a day, and you will be almost guaranteed to receive one by the end of the second week. Write a few letters to people in your own country, that means, the turnaround time is more likely to occur in February. Write to people in other countries first, this gives them a chance to write back and you get their response before February is over. and lastly, February is REALLY short. write fast.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. im1luckywoman says:

    What a very helpful post…especially for a first timer like me! I am hoping for new letters in my mailbox, but if that doesn’t happen, I am still pretty excited about the fact that I get to share my thoughts (and cool stationery) with others around the world who love the written word as much as I do.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Betsy says:

    Yes! It is so important to keep in mind what the essence of corresponding is! Connection isn’t always give and take. Sometimes all it takes to connect is the positive impact you’ll make on someone’s day by sharing of yourself. It’s fun to receive letters, but feeling good about writing letters to others is where it’s at. Great points, InCo!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Brad Merrill says:

    One year, a person I wrote to in South Africa wrote back, but I didn’t actually receive the letter until September. The postmark wasn’t legible so I don’t know how long it took to arrive. But that is less important than the person did respond to my letter. It didn’t go much further but that happens sometimes.


  8. hertryk says:

    This my 4th Year and in previous years I have received a minimum of 4 or 5 new “friends” and some Are now on a regular basis! I just love writing with a beautiful fountain pen and New inks! Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Bill Buehler says:

    And I’m off to a shaky start! lol I have to say that with that first letter, I felt like I was rambling on and on. It didn’t help that the pen I inked up didn’t seem to like the ink I used. But I got through it…and the second letter went a bit better today. I still felt like I rambled a bit, but I’ll chalk that up to not being used to letter writing. I knew going in that the odds of someone picking me to write too wasn’t going to be high, and I’m 100% okay with that. I’m doing it so that I can hopefully put a smile on a someone’s face (or an eye roll once they read my letter.) Cheers!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. hertryk says:

    Just posted my 23rd letter to France! I have been exceptionally fortunate to receive 3 from new correspondents that selected me from the address list! I have replied, and extremely grateful ! Keep them coming! Have fun everyone!


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