*this post contains affiliate links
When is the last time you wrote a real letter? Or got one in the mail?
When I was about 10 years old my family moved several hours away from my grandparents. This was the days before unlimited minutes on cell phones, so letters went furiously back and forth between me and my grandma. I also had several pen-pals from all over the country (some of whom I still keep in touch with today!), and there was nothing more exciting than opening the mailbox and seeing an envelope, heavy with Lisa Frank stickers, addressed to me. I spent hours practicing my handwriting, scouring the dime store for stationery and pens, and learning to fold my letters just so. Come to think of it, not much has changed.
In this day and age most of our writing and communication is done online, and I am the chief sinner as one who sits at a computer for most of my day. But nothing can truly compare to a pen gliding across a page. As a matter of fact, science has shown that more areas of the brain are engaged when writing with pen and paper than when pushing buttons on a keyboard.
Don’t you like to write letters? I do because it’s such a swell way to keep from working and yet feel you’ve done something. -Ernest Hemingway
My family sponsors two children through Compassion International, and we are able to exchange letters with our sponsored children. I have been a little lazy with writing, in the past, until it was explained to me how much those letters mean to the kids. One advocate visited his sponsored child only to find that they had saved every single letter, and kept them in a box with their most prized possessions. Now, I can go on the compassion website and send a letter that way, but it’s so much more special if I write one by hand, and include a bookmark, or some stickers. That is great motivation to me.
When I was 10 years old we moved out of state, and away from all of our family and friends. I was intensely close with my grandparents and absolutely devastated to be hours away from them. Letters flew back-and-forth, fast and furious, because back in the day there weren’t unlimited cell phone minutes. Actually, there weren’t even cell phones.
This summer I was sitting down to write out some bills and I had a wild hair to write my grandma a little letter. My grandparents only live about 45 minutes away for me, and I see them a couple times a month, but when I picked up the pen and paper nostalgia took over. I thought my grandma might think I was a little crazy sending her a letter, but if you can’t act crazy in front of your grandma, who can you can act crazy in front of? I sent the letter without another thought, and lo and behold a week or two later I got a letter back from her. At the end of her letter she said, “p.s. Make sure you write back!” My grandparents are in great health, but they aren’t getting any younger, and someday I will really cherish those letters.
Some of the greatest minds of the century have had pen pals. Whether its an old friend you keep in touch with via snail mail, or a new pen pal you gain as an adult, there is something therapeutic about writing a letter to another adult. Plus, it’s a great excuse to use some nice paper and pens.
Tools For Writing Real Letters
One of my favorite mediums to compose a letter is a nice box of stationery. You can find almost any color or style, and it makes the letter feel “special.” If you have more to say than what will fit in a card, this is the perfect option.
Another option is a pad or notebook of nice paper. Rhodia is my favorite because it is fairly reasonable in price, but is high-quality, french paper that will stand up to almost any ink, including fountain pens. It is available in dot grid, graph, blank, and lined pages. If you enjoy nice paper, you definitely need to own a Rhodia notebook!
One of my favorite pieces of stationery is a nice set of notecards. If you don’t have to compose a long letter, there is no reason you can’t drop someone a quick note to brighten their day. I also like to have notecards on hand for thank-you notes – and yes, you should send a thank-you note.
I’ve talked many times about my love of pens, but I will try to keep this list practical. I have recently fallen in love with fountain pens, and there is nothing smoother if you have a good nib and nice paper. My current favorite for writing real letters is my Pilot Metropolitan with a medium nib. I currently have this inked with Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-Peki Ink, but I can’t wait to try Private Reserve Ink in Suede Blue and Noodler’s Ink in Apache Sunset. Actually, who am I kidding, I have a VERY long wish-list of inks I can’t wait to try, and the beauty of fountain pens is that I can switch my ink out frequently.
If inky fingertips does not sound like your idea of a good time, a few of my other favorites for writing letters are Pilot G-2 Ballpoint Pens with a .07 tip. This is a bit thicker than I prefer for other pens, but these are so smooth and fluid, I enjoy the density of the line. There are some situations where you need a ballpoint pen, and these are always my go-to.
I also like Papermate Flair pens. These are felt-tipped and medium. They can bleed and shadow through thinner papers, so they aren’t going to work for every letter, but they have lovely colors, and a nice, smooth line. My daughter likes these, too, which is probably why I am down to being able to find only 2 colors of this pen in my collection.
This is definitely not an exhaustive list of tools you can use to write a great letter (hello, we didn’t even cover stickers!), but I hope it has inspired you to put a few more thoughts on paper and share them with the people in your life. Do you enjoy writing real letters?