I recently heard a quick clip on the news about the fact that the USPS is going to soon eliminate Saturday mail delivery. The anchor mentioned how the cost of stamps keeps going up and that the government mail system is struggling. She actually questioned, quite sarcastically,
When was the last time you actually used a stamp and put a letter in the mailbox?!?
I didn’t have to think much on that one… fifteen minutes prior I had walked to my mailbox and put two or three stamped envelopes inside and raised the little red flag.
I admit I’m much more apt to write notes when I have the mailbox at the end of my driveway than I was in Germany when going to the post office on post required a bit more effort, but even then, I still kept stamps in my wallet and in my desk so that I could write notes whenever I wanted to.
If you are not a letter-writer and don’t care to be, let me be the first to relieve you of all pressure. Email/text/call away. But if you wish you were a letter-writer but haven’t figured out how to be one, let me give you a few tips to make it much easier to do so.
1. Remove the pressure of perfection: Perfection is just not necessary. I hate my handwriting, have all my life. But even still, I write notes to my friends because there’s something living in a card written by hand. Even if the message is short and simple, there was time, thought, and love put behind the note.
2. Keep everything handy: Just slightly less important than releasing the pressure of perfection is the need to have everything close by and ready to go. If you have to hunt stamps, search for addresses, or run to the store to buy a card, you won’t write a note to the friend who made you smile or the neighbor who has an ill grandparent.
Here is my station:
This one little corner of my desk has a few boxes of blank-inside note cards, plain envelopes, and stamps. Nothing too fancy, except for the homemade stationary Christy made for me, but you’ll have to place an order and beg her for some of those. If you glance at the photo below you can see that this corner of my desk sits to the top right and I can reach in there, grab what I need in an instant, and get it ready for sending.
Behind my Crete mug is another vital letter-writing tool: a pen organizer. Sounds silly but many people don’t write notes simply because when the idea hits them one element of the process is not right at their fingertips… have all the elements, you’ll be more apt to write the note.3. Write “just because” notes. Sometimes we think notes are only important if they are a direct “thank you” for something. Those are great, but there are many times someone comes to mind for no apparent reason. The next time that happens, sit down and write a note letting that person know that you thought of them and something about them that makes you smile. You could mention a fun experience you had with them, how they have enriched your life since you met them, or on the inside of a notecard you could simply write, “I was thinking of you today and wanted you to know it.” Sign your note, address it, and send it. You don’t have to write a lot for the other person to know you appreciate them.
If you are serious about taking your note writing from the “I thought about it” stage to the “doing it” stage, just get started. There are people in your life who could use your encouragement. Start there.
A few final tips:
A. If you can’t think of someone to write a note to, here are a few ideas:
- an influential teacher/mentor you’ve either had in the past or currently have
- your child’s teacher
- your spouse
- your parents
- your grandparents
- a neighbor
- a pastor
- a chaplain
- your child’s pediatrician (wonder how many notes a year they get?)
- a friend you haven’t seen in ages
- a friend you moved away from but miss dreadfully
- someone you recently met and would like to get to know better
- there are so many people who could use a smile…
B. Send things with notes. For example, my friend in Germany was whining about it being cold (I know… I know… there’s no way to guess which friend was whining since ALL OF THEM WERE but I’ll let you try to guess). I found some hand-warmers for skiers and mailed them to her, just to make her smile. I also included some Strawberry Chapstick (just gave away the recipient, huh?) because you can’t find that in Germany.
If you have little things lying around the house or see items in the store that you could send to a friend to brighten their day, do it. You are investing in more than the USPS… you are investing in that friendship.
C. Don’t put the stamp on your envelope until after you’ve addressed it. There’s nothing I hate more (in letter-writing) than wasting a stamp! So, I’ve learned to address the envelope first and then put a stamp on it. (I’m STILL writing my German address in the return-address section and just as I get used to my Columbia address I’m going to be moving to Texas. I’m excited to buy return-address labels!)
D. Have an up-to-date address book. Okay, here’s where I’m going techie on you. I love my Mac because I can add an address into Contacts and it automatically updates to my phone and iPad. If I’m out and about and want to update the address from my phone, it automatically updates my computer. I rarely have to go searching for an address because I always have either my phone or computer handy. However you want to keep your Rolodex updated, fine by me. Just keep that in mind.
I’d love to see your letter-writing areas. Snap pictures of your stations and share them with me. If you write a letter to a friend as a result of reading this, I’d love to hear about it. What was the most valuable tip in this post? I’d love to hear from you!