Simple Pleasures: Put Pen to Paper
Do you remember the last handwritten note you received? I’m willing to bet you do (even if it was some time ago), because even a few handwritten lines tend to feel so much more meaningful than an email or text. It really doesn’t take much more effort, once you are in the habit of doing it, yet most of us do it so rarely these days. I say it’s time we revived the lost art of the handwritten note.
Sitting down to write a note forces you to think about what you want to say before you say it, helping avoid email regret (it’s so easy to click Send), and you’ll communicate a heartfelt message in a more personal way than is possible with digital mediums. Here you’ll find tips on note writing, including choosing your tools and setting up a writing corner, plus writing inspiration and even details on a modern version of pen pals for grownups.
Choose Your Pens, Paper and Other Accoutrements
At the bare minimum, have a stack of blank cards on hand that can be used for all occasions. These could be monogrammed or printed with a pleasing (but not holiday-specific) design like metallic stripes or polka dots, and either flat or folded (flat feels a bit more formal).
Choose a pen that you enjoy writing with and store your address book and a roll of forever stamps along with your writing supplies. If you enjoy shopping for stationery, you will probably find yourself accumulating more than will fit in a single drawer; try sorting your cards by occasion or color in an expanding file or, for a display-worthy option, in an antique toast rack.
A tip on addresses: If you store all of your contacts online, it can be helpful to print out a copy to store with your writing supplies. Sure, you can always look up an address on your computer or phone, but I’ve found that sometimes the mere act of firing up the computer is enough to make my motivation to write a pen-and-paper note waver. Store a wee address book with your cards and pens.
Set Up a Dedicated Writing Corner
Having a real writing desk (that is, not the one your computer is on) can make sitting down to write a pleasure. Keep your supplies neat and attractively organized, and regularly treat your writing corner to fresh flowers and scented candles. A few small reference books can be a great help when inspiration fails you — I recommend The Art of the Handwritten Note for how-to advice, and Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations for peppering your prose with apt quotes. Cards and papers are pretty, so there is no need to hide them away; try setting them out in a letter organizer or fill tiny cubbyholes with cards.
Or Keep It Close and Casual
It makes sense to store your writing materials near a comfortable spot for sitting and writing, though that doesn’t need to be a desk. An ample nightstand or a kitchen table can also make fine writing surfaces, and you may be more comfortable there than at a desk.
Get Inspired to Write
If you are just dashing off a quick thank-you note, it may feel quite easy and natural; but when you want to send a longer missive, like one expressing condolences or a letter to a far-away friend, you may want to take a few extra steps to get grounded.
Pour yourself a mug of coffee or tea, gather your writing materials and put on music that suits your mood. Open the window if it’s a nice day, to feel the fresh air on your face. Take a few deep breaths and notice your surroundings using your five senses — sharpening your observation skills will get you in a writing frame of mind. Finally, before you begin, call to mind the person you are writing to, as vividly as possible. Imagine he or she is sitting across from you as you write, and then begin.
Reasons to Write
If you are not used to writing notes, it may be difficult to come up with reasons to send one. While emailing is totally acceptable for many occasions these days, there are times it really is best to send a real ink-on-paper note. Weddings, babies, serious illnesses and loss are the big ones, but corresponding on paper can also be a really wonderful way to deepen a treasured friendship. Send a note when a friend shares really big news with you, send postcards when you travel, write love notes (not just on Valentine’s Day) and send an occasional long letter to friends who live far away, just because.
Keep It Short and Sweet With Postcards
I adore postcards — who doesn’t? Postcards are charming, plentiful, inexpensive to buy and cheap to mail, and (this is the kicker) they take about two seconds to write. Start picking up postcards here and there when you see good ones, and soon enough you will have quite a collection to choose from for any occasion. You can send them in the mail, of course (they work well as thank-you notes and for quick hellos), but they can also be tucked on top of a gift instead of a typical birthday card or used as quirky party invitations.