The art of letter-writing.


From The Jane Austen Letter Writing Society.
From The Jane Austen Letter Writing Society.

I recently asked a friend to be my pen pal. She lives several states away, and in a sense, a majority of our friendship has been based on writing to each other, although mostly via email, and sometimes through text messages. But, I have been wanting to handwrite letters.

A few years ago, a colleague put out a call on Facebook to see if anyone was interested in writing letters back-and-forth. She wanted a reason to utilize her stationary, and take up letter-writing. I jumped at the chance, but unfortunately, her health didn’t allow us to continue this hobby long (she’s doing well, now).

When I wrote my first letter to her, I realized just how difficult writing a letter can be. Essentially, you’ve got to craft your storyline before you begin – there’s no copy and paste, or deleting. So, how will the letter open, what paragraph will go where and what will follow it.

The other part to consider is the page layout. I know it sounds silly, but most stationary doesn’t have lines on it, so writing in a nice, straight line is one challaenge, while also considering how maybe paragraphs you can fit on one or two pages, with or without using the back of the page.

And of course, there’s the handwriting. I can always start out nice and neat, and by the end, my hand is cramping and it looks closer to chicken scratch.

Just a few days ago, novelist John McGregor wrote a piece for The Guardian (read it here) talking about his love for writing letters; how he grew up basically collecting pen pals, and in those letters they wrote in the margins, using arrows to instruct the reader where it should have gone. And often, letters were stuffed with Post-It notes and mementos – pressed flowers or a lock of hair.

My letters haven’t quite reached that level yet – I’m using some stationary I ordered years ago off Etsy, but have recently purchased a few blank cards for the holidays and am working on my handwriting.

I have recently taken an interest in learning calligraphy, and my mom surprised me my mailing me two beginning calligraphy sets over the Thanksgiving holiday. With the extra time off work, I had hours to spare and wrote a few handmade gift tags and a Christmas card. It took me awhile, but it was well worth it – it looked so cool!

The kits have instructions and examples, along with practice paper and tracing paper, pencials, erasers, watercolor markers and pens with inkwells. Pretty cool.

Of course, there are tons of instructional videos on YouTube, which are much more fun to learn from instead of trying to decipher from a book.

If you’re interested in writing letters, let me know and maybe we can be penpals! I’d love to give myself another excuse to actually sit down with a pen and paper, and of course, practice more calligraphy.

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