When was the last time you wrote a note? No, a Post-It doesn’t count (although it’s better than nothing).
Since the advent of smartphones and tablets, handwritten missives have largely fallen by the wayside. I’d an inkling (no pun intended) of how rare and special handwritten notes were becoming when I’d walk into acquaintances’ offices and see my colorfully jotted “Thinking of You”s tacked to their bulletin boards, but I didn’t realize just how out of habit many of us are until a concerned friend approached me about a personal note she had received from me. It seems the slash I drew through my last name at the top of the note caused her to think I had changed my name and was using up my old cards.
And who could blame her? We’ve become so reliant on text messaging and accustomed to signing our name on phone screens these days that signing our name to an actual piece of paper requires accessing that dusty region of the mind that also houses information on sending a fax or playing a CD.
As a result, notes are a great way to stand out in a sea of electronic communiqués. They say, “I took the time to write this down, to find a stamp in the craziness that is my handbag, and to look for an actual mailbox, because you’re that important to me.” Apparently, we’re missing that feeling of special-ness, because letter- and note-writing have experienced a recent resurgence—to the point where entire clubs are formed around writing and sending them.
Some Note-writing Basics
- Invest in special notecards. I prefer personalized ones printed on heavy stock, purchased at my local stationer. These might seem a little expensive at the outset, but I find they usually come out to $.50- $.75 per card. I use my cards for all my written communication (even birthdays and anniversaries, etc.), so the comparison of 75 cents to the $5.00 I might spend on a card at Target ends up being very cost-effective (plus, it saves me time and stress because I’m not running out to the drugstore at the last minute 2 days before someone’s birthday). If monogramming isn’t your thing, there are plenty of companies like Kate Spade and Rifle Paper Company that are dedicated to creating high-quality stationery products with flair.
- Get a decent pen Seriously. Life is too short to write with a nickel pen. My favorites are LePen. I like to think of my pen as infusing my voice into my written words.
- Shell out a little cash for a roll of stamps. I have a few of them stashed in my wallet, in my car, in the envelope of stationery I carry in my work bag, and the remainders go in stamp roll box on my desk. That way, I’m never without one when I need it.
- I once read that Princess Diana would set out a notecard and an addressed envelope before she attended a soiree. When she arrived back home from the party, she was able to compose a thoughtful thank-you to the host before going to bed (while all the delightful happenings were still fresh in her mind), which I assume was promptly sent out the next day. Embracing this concept has helped me avoid procrastination in note writing on more than one occasion.
- Where do you write notes? Put your stationery where it can be quickly and easily accessed. This is another thing that will increase your odds of sending a timely note (I have some on my desk at home, in my work bag, and in a pile on my desk at work).
- One of the best resources I’ve found for learning how to write notes is On a Personal Note: A Guide to Writing Notes with Style. I purchased mine through Hallmark some time ago,but Amazon now carries used copies–well worth the price.
My Instagram friend @papertams is a serious paper aficionado who, believe it or not, exceeds my affinity for note writing. She was kind enough to discuss with us some tips and resources for those intereseted in resuscitating the lost art of written personal correspondence.
Pen Pal Groups I Use:
- Letter Writers Alliance
- International Geek Girls Pen Pal Club
- Postcrossing (this is great for people that love mail, but don’t want to write long letters. Postcrossing is about exchanging postcards all over the world and only require you to write a couple sentences on the card)
Trends in Snail Mail:
- Handmade envelopes and mail art – Grab your washi tape, rubber stamps and stickers! Half the fun is decorating your mail. (Tons of inspiration on Instagram and Pinterest)
- Sending extras – Tucking a little something extra into a letter is popular. This is usually something lightweight like a paper craft, a bookmark, a tea bag and napkin or a few fun paper clips.
- Letter Writing Socials – People get together in a social settings and share stationery supplies, write letters and craft mail art. Socials that allow participants to utilize vintage typewriters are popular right now.
- Swaps – Many pen pals will participate in mail swaps. Especially international pen pals. They will swap candy, crafts, and stationery products from their country. It is planned ahead and participants normally agree on how much they are willing to spend.
Tips and Advice:
- If you decide you want to write to people outside your family and close friends, I highly recommend renting a P.O. Box for a couple of reasons.
- Most pen pal groups will require you to provide an address. For privacy reasons, I believe it’s best to use a P.O. Box.
- There are many snail mail fans that love to share photos of their incoming and outgoing mail on Instagram and blogs. It’s fun and I, myself, enjoy this. Most people do use proper etiquette and hide all address info, however I have seen the occasional slip where someone forgot to cover up an address or someone new to snail mail is so excited they upload a photo without thinking.
- Set a mail budget and stick to it. If you fall in love with letter writing, the costs can easily snowball on you. Make sure you know the current postage costs and rules for domestic and international mail. Plan ahead.
- Don’t expect everyone to write back instantly or at all. To give you an idea of my return rate, I sent out 100 pieces of mail over the summer. I received about 40 pieces in return. So make sure the act of writing letters and sending mail is something you really enjoy.
- If a new pen pal asks you to participate in a mail swap, make sure they send their parcel first. If you ask a pen pal to swap, be prepared to send your parcel first. Unfortunately, there are people out there that love to receive and not send. So, the requester is often expected to send first.