The Renewed Art Of Letter-Writing & How To Do It
Just A Note To Say…
I knew I wouldn’t get a chance to say goodbye in person. So when my grandfather was ailing, I was fortunate enough to see him over a video call. But I’ve always been better at expressing myself on paper, so I also sent him a letter.
I wrote about the silly things, like how I was writing sketch comedy shows with my friends, and I wrote about the big things, like how grateful I was to have him in my life and for all those afternoons we spent fishing together. I told him I loved him, both out loud and on paper. It was the best goodbye I knew how to give.
My heart finds peace in knowing my note resonated—I heard he’d shared it with people who came to visit. I realized then that I absolutely must send more letters.
How long has it been since you pulled a hand-addressed envelope out of your mailbox? How long has it been since correspondence with a friend *didn’t* rely on little red notification dots, and instead, in reading their words in the context of their handwriting, the paper they chose, the stamp they peeled and placed just for you? It’s been far too long. I miss it.
We’re heading into the holidays, and many of us will be enduring heavy heartbreak these past few years. While I’m all for the cute family photo-postcards you can print at CVS, I still remember the days of my mom handwriting a family update on Santa stationery to send to our long-distance relatives. So cheesy, and so good.
And what better timing! The rush to buy stamps to support the post office last year was exciting and a relatively simple way to preserve an important and beloved public institution. With more than a 30 percent drop in first-class mail volume in the past 10 years, and not to mention the reduction in print publications, the USPS is still at risk of privatization and disruption. Now that you have your 2022 stamp book—are you going to use it for more than just the occasional security deposit check?
It’s time to put our mail where our mouth is—because 2022 needs it, and so do we. Let’s send some love notes!
How To Write A Letter
Let’s start with the basics—well, let’s let USPS cover the basic basics, like how to address an envelope. They’re the experts. If you’re sending a short to mid-length letter in a standard envelope, your best bet is to purchase Forever Stamps. They’ll cost a flat rate now but will cover the fluctuating price of standard postage in the future. Otherwise, as of writing, the cost of a standard First-Class Mail stamp is $0.60 and $0.44 for a postcard. If you have penpals in other countries, head here for international postage prices.
When it comes to supplies, it’s okay to do it up on fancy stationery—or just keep it simple! Use what you have first, but if you must invest in stationery and writing utensils, look for paper made from recycled or FSC Certified materials. If you somehow don’t have a million promotional pens at home, invest in a refillable pen made from natural or long-lasting materials (like these ones) or a fountain pen. There’s also nothing wrong with tearing out a page from a mostly-used spiral-bound notebook and drafting something up with those sparkly gel pens you still have (I see you).
You can even make an envelope from thick paper you already have on hand. My friend sends me letters in envelopes made from vibrantly colored pages from her grownup coloring book. It brightens my day every time, and I always pin the envelopes on my bulletin board or use them as bookmarks.
Who should you write to?
The possibilities here are only limited by the addresses you can’t find in your contacts or on the internet (don’t be creepy though). Write to friends, family, old coworkers, old flames (🔥😘). Ask your friends and acquaintances on social media to send along their address so you can send them a letter to brighten their day—we’ve all been a little lonelier these days, so it never hurts to reach out. Just be thoughtful about who you share your address with!
If you’re not comfortable writing love letters just yet, you can send letters of accountability to your representatives. The American Psychological Association has a handy guide on how to write a persuasive letter, along with tools for finding who you should address them to and what to expect. You can write to officials at the local level or send postcards to swing states to encourage citizens to get out and vote during the next election season. Other ways to send letters include writing to seniors, finding a penpal in this moderated group on Facebook, or writing to people who are currently incarcerated through this Better Business Bureau-accredited organization.
What should you write about?
I felt love when I wrote that letter to my grandfather, and I know he felt love when reading it. What do you want to say from your heart to your recipient’s heart? That is what you should write.
A good letter is one that thoroughly considers its recipient while honoring the voice of the sender. If you know your reader will love a rundown of your daily routine under lockdown, by all means, share it. If you know that they distinctly would not like that, then choose a different direction.
Letters are a place for writers to get their message across uninterrupted. It’s all about you telling your story in a way that invites the other person to feel seen, recognized, supported, and understood. In turn, any note you receive should be treated the same. By writing a letter, we’re putting trust in the hands of someone else to hear us—spilling the ink of vulnerability, so to speak.
A “just because” letter can be special and come at a time when someone needs it most. But maybe you need some extra prompting—here are some other occasions to send a letter:
To make an apology
To extend forgiveness
To express gratitude
To say “I love you”
To console grief
To set boundaries in a relationship
And if you receive that ever-coveted response, it’s okay to take your time in responding. Maybe you need to mull over some of the points from your correspondence, or maybe your schedule doesn’t allow for a response right now—the point of writing letters is to celebrate the slowness and make space for the process.
Finally, writing a letter can look different for everyone! You can work with a trusted friend to take down a dictation, send photos of your daily life instead of writing, or type out a note on a typewriter. However you send your next love note, make it count by writing in a way that only you can: from your heart.
As for me? I’m off to that little blue postal box on the corner, with my next letter in hand. 💕
Do you write letters, too? ✉️ Who would your next letter be for? Share in the comments below!
Emily Torres is the Editorial Director at The Good Trade. Born and raised in Indiana, she studied Creative Writing and Business at Indiana University. You can usually find her in her colorful Los Angeles apartment journaling, caring for her rabbits, or gaming.