For about a year now, I’ve been an avid letter writer. I cannot recommend it enough especially during COVID. I’ve been able to keep in touch with friends and family that I haven’t been able to see in over 8 months now in a way that’s more personal than a text or phone call. Especially with a socially distant holiday coming up, keeping in touch with family members and your friends in new creative ways is more important than ever. However, getting started can be a bit difficult. Here is a step by step guide to writing letters when you just don’t know how to begin.
- Step 1: What?
Writing the letter itself feels like a form of journaling to me. I usually introduce myself if my pen pal is a new person to me, or catch my pen pal up on what I’ve been up to. I also like to include a small list of 3 or 4 questions to my pen pal, ranging from coffee or tea, to what they’ve been watching or reading recently. I always end up commenting on their responses to my previous questions a little bit, and ask more. It becomes a time of self-reflection for me and is a great way to unpack. I close out the letter with good wishes for them and their health, and call it a day! Recently, I’ve been also including some holiday wishes.
Letter writing can be daunting, simply because there is so much gorgeous stationery out there to be had. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve written a letter to a friend and gotten a text saying “I’m going to write you back, but I’m going to buy pretty stationery first!” Although the thought is certainly there, those people will not write back until they get the stationery, which could take weeks upon weeks. A piece of paper from your notebook and a plain white envelope is sufficient! However, if you are looking into sending a lot of letters, I can’t recommend pen pal kits enough. I’ve bought 3 or 4 from Etsy sellers and they are always incredibly cute and fairly low cost. They can also help you get an idea of what you like in your letter supplies. My first kit had brown kraft paper envelopes, which I fell in love with, and then bought a whole pack at a craft store and I’m nearly out of them now. But truly, if you have any crafty supplies at home, you can use them to write and send a letter. Truly, you can write your letter on anything.
- Step 2: Who?
Finding your pen pals can be difficult. When I first started, I asked through an Instagram story post and wrote with friends I already knew well. You can also write family! When my birthday rolled around this summer, I got letters from both of my grandmothers and wrote them each back, which was really fun. Finally- online pen pal searches! I have three pen pals that I really don’t know outside of letter writing, all gathered from Rachel Syme’s Pen Palooza! Rachel is a writer for the New Yorker who started a pen pal exchange in the early quarantine months, and has kept it going since! #Penpalooza on Twitter will show you everything you need to know about the type of people participating in the exchange, from simple to extravagant letters, including recipes, stickers, and so much more! Here is the link to get started! There are plenty of other online pen pal services, like Pen Pal World and Global Pen Friends.
- Step 3: How?
I have to admit, it took me some time to figure out how to write a letter. I hadn’t done it since I was a kid and truly had no idea how to send one out to my pen pal. There are only three essential parts of an envelope: send address, return address, and stamp. The stamp goes in the top right corner of the back of the envelope, the sending address in the middle, and the return on the top left corner, or front if it can’t fit. Some letter writers go a bit wild on their envelope decorations, including beautiful calligraphy that takes up the entire back to a completely homemade envelope itself. I may add some doodles or cute stickers, but that’s the extent of my decoration. Then, pop it into a mailbox, and you’re set. Depending on where your letter is going, it could take up to a week, and then perhaps another week or two for a response, and there you go!
Letter writing has been something I constantly look forward to these days. Living at home, I am the first person to check the mailbox on any given day to check and see if I have a new letter. For many people coming home from campus, however, it can be a way to safely and creatively keep in touch with school friends who may be far away for a couple months. It’s the same joy of receiving a package you ordered online, but much more personal (and certainly cheaper than another Amazon package). Snail mail is a great skill to learn, as well as a fun way to connect with others in a time where interpersonal connections are slim to none in person, especially this holiday season.