Did you ever have a pen pal when you were younger? I remember having one and we wrote to each other all the time. We had met on holiday when I was 7 years old and we didn’t meet again until I was a teenager, but we had shared so much with each other that it didn’t matter. It felt great to receive a letter through the letterbox even before I knew what a bill was. From scented gel pens to bubble writing, it all happened in the late 90s early 00s, and let’s not forget how grown up I felt when I used a fountain pen!
I guess with the introduction of text messages, e-mail and social media, it can be easy to forget the humble letter and the art of letter writing itself. Communication has gotten faster and more instant, paperless is the way forward and I could video call my next door neighbour if I really wanted to! How times change.
I appreciate that even with technology we still receive physical letters, but they’re often bills, and that’s one of the main reasons why I love writing letters to people. Imagine the look on their face when they go to collect their mail from the doormat and they realise that there’s a letter from a friend or relative. Priceless.
In light of the unprecedented times that we are dealing with right now (I am writing this during the unsettling times of the Covid-19 virus) and that we may not be able to physically see family, friends and the vulnerable ones in our community, what better way to communicate than through letter writing. Let’s bring some slow communication back. That’s part of my plan to help not only others, but also myself, as I truly believe that both the writer and the receiver benefit. I’m sure that the mental health benefits in themselves will be huge. I have family and friends that live hundreds of miles away so I’m looking to find ways that I can bring some comfort and encouragement since they can’t have me in person. Here are my five top tips for rekindling the art of letter writing if you would like to do similar:
To use a pen or not use a pen?
I guess it would be easier and quicker to type your thoughts down, print it off and post it. I receive formal letters like that all the time; you don’t even need to physically sign them these days!
So much is conveyed in handwriting though and the physical act of writing can feel therapeutic too. Plus, sometimes I draw silly pictures in my letters, so that’s an added bonus.
Just choose the right pen because you don’t want writer’s cramp (along with everything else going on!). I don’t mind what pen I use, I just want it to be comfortable. Fountain pens always look fancy but I often end up with more ink on me than on the page, even if it does make feel grown up. I opt for a pen that helps me write neatly (not blaming the tools here, honest!) and won’t smudge too much.
Choose the right paper or note card
You don’t need fancy paper or note cards to write to your nearest and dearest at all, as I’m sure they will appreciate the letter no matter what. It does feel nice to write on good quality paper though and to be able to send a beautiful picture along with it.
Another way I look at notecards is that, since a lot of them are blank for your own message, they are a gift too. I have framed some of the cards that I have received over the years because I really liked the design on the front and they were works of art in themselves.
Set aside time and get comfortable
It takes longer to write a letter, but it’s worth it. Get comfortable with everything that you need around you and enjoy it. I often find that I write better when I’m sat at a table and I’m not as distracted, but it has to be where you’re most comfortable. This could be something that you do together as a family too and think of all the people you want to write to together. I’m planning on sitting at my dining table with scented candles lit and lots of tea!
Write like you’re having a conversation
With the advance in technology, instant communication has become the norm and so it can be hard to know what to write when we’re not going to get an immediate reply. I often find that it’s better to write in the same way as you would talk to the person. Tell them about your day, tell them about some of the things that you have seen or read that week, or send them some encouraging quotes or experiences. A letter is something that can be kept, cherished and referred back to when needed. I try to remember that the person I am writing to will likely re-read those words even if you manage to talk on the phone or facetime them after you’ve sent the letter.
Enclose a small gift
I’m thinking of getting my watercolours out to paint some pictures to send in my letters, failing that (and if I have a Pinterest fail on my paintings, which is likely) there are lots of lovely small businesses that create positive quotes on cards that could be easily be sent. I know when we were small we used to draw pictures for relatives when we were going to visit, so I guess the next best thing could be to send them in a letter. I’m also going to view the notecards I choose as a small gift in themselves, even if I can’t send something with it.
Don’t forget to enclose your contact details, including a return address so they can write back to you. Seems like a simple thing, but I just know that I sometimes forget and assume that all my relatives have my address! I’m going to try and buy my postage online too via the Royal Mail website so that all I have to do is walk to the letterbox.
This week has been a pretty tough week to process. We can start to feel helpless and lose motivation when this is the time to be proactive and share – this situation affects all of us in different ways.
I hope that you are all safe and well and that you are able to find some positivity during this difficult time.
Let’s keep it going through writing letters to others. Just think, in years to come we will be able to look back on this time and remember, with a letter or a card, those who helped us to keep going and stay positive.
Here is a list of all the small businesses featured with links to their websites. Please head to their websites, as supporting small businesses at this time is very important. A potential triple win – for you, the person you write to and the small business too!
Ditsy Bird Designs – www.ditsybird.com
Beth Garner Art – Etsy shop
Lucy Claire Illustration – Etsy shop
Helleborus House Designs – Etsy shop
Portland Paper Co – www.portlandpapercompany.com
Lydia Meiying – www.hellomeiying.com