Quirky concepts catch my attention; visually engaging blogs hold my interest. Leah Dieterich’s blog, thxthxthx: a thank you note a day, is a quirky and visually entertaining concept that I enjoy immensely. Here’s the basic premise: “There’s always something to be thankful for. From the important things like Songs You’re Embarrassed to Like, and Heavy Eyelids that Tell You When You Need to Sleep, to friends and family, love and loneliness, light and darkness, Leah Dieterich sets out to acknowledge them all. thxthxthx is her daily exercise in gratitude.” I am thankful to Dieterich for this email interview and to Jason Bitner for putting me in contact with her.
Tim O’Shea: In the about category for the blog, you explain”Leah Dieterich’s mother always told her to write thank you notes. So she does.” What’s been her reaction to your blog?
Leah Dieterich: It’s funny, she told me after Christmas that she hadn’t written her thank you notes yet. I think it was almost February when she told me this. And she said “I guess you’ll have to take my name off your blog, huh?” That’s just silly. Other than that, she likes the site, but I don’t know that she reads it very often. She’s on the internet a lot less than I am, lucky woman.
O’Shea: How long does a typical entry take to create–and what all is involved (including taking a photograph of the note)?
Dieterich: Not very long, really. Maybe 15 minutes. I think of the note, I write it on the fancy card, and then I scan it, size it down and post it. I really enjoy the “boring” parts of the posting actually. The methodical, kind of mindless part of the formatting, after I’ve written the note. Some days I write more than one if I’m inspired.
O’Shea: The actual act of writing is also an element that shows up in your short film Prioritaire, “about a series of confessional letters that form a relationship of sorts, was an official selection at the AFI Dallas Film Festival“. Where did the allure of writing on (its core level) originate?
Dieterich: My father is an almost compulsive note-writer. Growing up, there were always instructional notes for each family member on the kitchen table, because he was often out of the house before we were up. So I think from an early age, I was comfortable with writing as a convenient means of communication. But beyond those kinds of utilitarian notes, there were lots of creative ones. My mom and he always stressed card-making over card-buying for holidays. And I still remember notes he wrote to me that were from the Tooth-Fairy and ones my mom wrote me that were from Santa. I’ve always written notes. In fact, I used to get in trouble a lot in school for note-passing. It runs deep, needless to say. I think the core allure comes from the chance to really think out what you are going to say. I think I have always had a fear of saying the wrong thing, or what I might blurt out in conversation. When you write, you get to say what you want to say in simplest way possible. You also get to hide a little bit, which I like. Writing allows for reflection and then of course, for better or worse, revision. I try not to revise the notes I put on thxthxthx too much because I don’t want to compromise the authenticity.
O’Shea: Do you find you now notice other people’s appreciation or acts of gratitude since starting this project?
Dieterich: I’m not sure, but do I know that in talking about the project, everyone I know has concurred that appreciation and gratitude are important and something they want to incorporate into their own lives more.
O’Shea: Looking at the categories, other than being struck by the fact there are two separate Guns n Roses entries, are there any trends or patterns that have have caught your attention? From an outsider’s perspective, I enjoyed the musical entries and the fact you appreciated the musical qualities of broken glass.
Dieterich: In looking at the categories myself, I notice that the category “People” has almost twice as any out there. I guess that just goes to show that even though I thank a lot of things, when it comes down to it, the world really is: people. So it makes sense there would be a lot of them to thank. Food factors in quite a bit. You know, the basics. I’m struck that there are are more notes to fear and pain than to love. I have a lot of love in my life, but I think part of this project involves being thankful for the things that seem unthankable. There are more notes in the category labeled “writing” than almost any other. Nothing like thanking the thing you do all the time, I guess. I’m kind of glad to see that.
O’Shea: Did you adopt a certain style of handwriting for thxthxthx or has it always been that distinctive?
Dieterich: What you see is what you get. I’m a lefty, so I’m proud that my handwriting is even legible, considering.
O’Shea: thxthxthx has a Facebook fan page, where people sometimes share their own thank you notes–do you intentionally avoid using their thank yous as inspiration for your own?
Dieterich: In general, it’s hard not to be inspired by other people when they are doing something they feel passionate about, but I don’t ever find it a problem. This whole gratitude thing, and the expression of it, is über personal, so it’s not really an issue.
O’Shea: Some of the Facebook fans consider thxthxthx to be inspirational for them, had you hoped to touch folks on that level or was that never part of your thinking when you started the project?
Dieterich: I never imagined people would react to it that way, but it makes me smile. Makes me blush. It’s a little bewildering, but I like it. I’ve always done the notes for myself though, even before I had the site for them. That’s what it’s all about, the personal expression of what matters to me that day.
O’Shea: A thank you note a day is a tough pace, how do you avoid burnout? Do you see a finite end to thxthxthx or not?
Dieterich: Nah. I’ve got endurance, man. And when you love doing something, it’s not really an effort.