“The pen is an instrument of discovery rather than just a recording implement.”~Billy Collins, American poet
Have you written a letter lately?
April is National Letter Writing Month. I was ahead of the game last year when I started writing random letters to one friend after I picked up some colorful notecards from the $1 section of a craft store. Time to use those fun items I constantly buy, and it’s a distraction from writing real work stuff. It felt like uninteresting rambling, me writing about the strange-looking person who just walked into the coffee shop or what my to-do list was for the week. Would she even care about this stuff?
I did this with childhood penpals: what the cute guy I had a crush on was wearing; my thoughts on the book review homework assignment; the latest gossip from so-n-so classmate; past and upcoming weekend plans; describing my Prom dress; what Mom made for dinner; whether my chemistry teacher still picked his nose; and always how are you doing, my friend?
This was the dinosaur age before online accounts and personal safety concerns. The joy and surprise of receiving a personal letter in a physical envelope never ends, whatever your age. I have a good list of friends in my address book, but the whole act scared me for no particular reason. I chose my most trusted friend and started there. That felt safe. Not that she wouldn’t keep my scribble-scrabble private, but that if I seemed foolish, she’d be the kindest to forgive me.
Writing letters got easier after that first one. She never wrote back, but getting return mail isn’t why I did it. It’s a form of journaling, I guess, or a way to share thoughts with a far-away friend I missed talking to. We’d chit chat about stuff like this if we met to see a movie and lunch afterwards, so why not pretend that we were sitting next to each other? It reminded both of us that I was thinking of her.
Her one casual statement sticks with me forever. I wrote to her in my post-college days when I had gobdoodles of free time, and I often took a marker and sketched dragons and unicorns on the envelope. I stopped doing that at some point, and she commented once, “I miss the drawings you did on your envelopes.” I remember thinking that I was doing a disservice and disappointing her. Never again! These days, I occasionally create a Zentangle in a corner on the front of the envelope. Her mail carrier should see that she has a creative friend who loves her enough to create personal art. Or I’ll fill up the front and back of the envelope with stickers from my piles of scrapbook supplies. Glitter mermaids and metallic unicorns are recent $1 store purchases that make me happy to look at. I want someone to send me stickers like that! I share these with her to make her and the postal clerks smile.
Okay, the postal clerks may find this a tad annoying rather than fun, but someone along the way will take note of it.
I branched out and wrote letters to a few other safe friends in the same this-is-my-day tone. I thanked one friend who said a kind word to me years upon years ago and how I was thinking about that today. These past few months, I haven’t done much letter writing to anyone. I’m busy. I’m not inspired. I don’t have a regular schedule. I’d rather be napping. Whatever my reason or excuse, I miss writing letters. I don’t feel guilty or ashamed for not keeping up the routine; I just miss it.
April is the perfect inspiration time. Want to share the love of letters? Let the April write_on campaign inspire you. This month celebrates poetry and letters. Not everyone is a poet, but anyone can scribble a short note. Even if you type a letter, Happy Mail with a stamp brings a smile to anyone. It stirs the soul. Think about it: any envelope that doesn’t contain a bill, legal action or advertisements is fun.