What to Write When Writing Letters
You’re convinced of the benefits of hand-writing letters. You’re motivated to send letters to everyone you don’t see on a regular basis. And you’ve even amassed a small collection of stationery sets in anticipation of all the letters you’re going to write. You get your favorite pen, a cup of tea, you sit down, and...blank. You have no idea what to write. This was me about once a week, early in the pandemic shut-down when I thought I would write one to two letters a week to my friends and family whom I missed dearly. I mean, what do you write when it’s not someone’s birthday, or a holiday, and you don’t have big news to share? And what could I say that was worthy of being committed to paper rather than emailed, or sent via text?
Rather than throw in the towel and let my good letter sets go to waste, I did some brainstorming, and came up with a list of ideas that will serve as inspiration every time I sit down to write.
Celebrate the small things
We tend to only send correspondence during the holidays or for someone’s birthday. But there are smaller milestones to recognize every day if we pay attention. For example, my sisters text pictures of their kids when they lose a tooth. My friends will be celebrating “Gotcha Day” to mark the anniversary of the day they brought their dog home from the shelter. And my cousin is starting her PhD program this summer.
I often scroll through old photos on my phone when I’m waiting around for something, and sometimes I come across pictures of old friends, or past vacations that I remember fondly. I might send a text to the people in the picture with a smiley face, but this is a great opportunity for a handwritten note. Jot down your favorite memory from that time, and if you have a printer, print out the photo and include it. It doesn’t have to be a high-quality print, or done on photo paper. They’ll get the idea.
Write to kids
Teenagers might give you side-eye if you suggest they correspond by snail mail, but little kids would love, or at least be very amused, to receive a letter in the mail. What to write to a kid? Well, keep it simple to read, maybe tell a funny story or a silly joke. I keep a little stack of sticker sheets in my drawer and will often include a sheet of stickers when I write to my nieces and nephews.
Remember (other people’s) anniversaries
It’s obviously a big deal to remember your own anniversary, but how many other people’s anniversaries can you remember or even have in your calendar? Think about all of the weddings you’ve attended. Send a letter, or a card to those folks on their wedding anniversary. It’s likely an important date to them, and they’ll be touched that you remembered.
Despite our best efforts, it’s common to go months or even years without seeing someone you consider a good friend, even though they live a short plane ride, or maybe an hour-long drive away. The longer this gap is, the harder it can be to catch up. Some people keep a “snail mail tracker” to keep track of when they last sent a letter to each recipient. You can also set a recurring calendar reminder to write. I find every quarter to be a good cadence for me. I can hit the highlights (and lowlights), I can easily recall the events of the last three months, and the letters don’t get too crazy long. Of course this timeline can vary from person to person, and can be influenced by the timing of responses.
Letter writing is an art form. Anyone can do it, but some people are really good at it. With some practice, we can each make an impact with a well written letter.