Getting a personal letter in the mail is like getting a surprise present. It’s all wrapped up and you’re eager to find out what’s inside.
Actual physical letters are rarer and rarer these days, though ironically the availability of beautiful and/or interesting note cards seems to be greater than ever, thanks to ease of printing small batches and all the special effects possible in print, not to mention on-lineshopping at etsy, for instance.
|Note cards come in an amazing variety.|
So maybe you’d like to send someone a letter or card, just to give them a pleasant surprise in the mailbox. Why not have some fun writing it? There are so many options.
First, there's the paper. Really, any paper will do. Notebook paper is fine, if you write better with blue lines to guide you. Otherwise, there are all those amazing cards to choose from, as I mentioned earlier, or nice stationery (though I suspect the choices in plain stationery have decreased.) If you're feeling creative, you can always make your own card. Pen-and-ink, rubber stamp, colored pencil, cut-and-paste (actual or virtual), watercolor-over-crayon,… Making the card by hand is traditional when it is from child to grandparent, but there’s no reason an adult can’t make a card for a friend.
|Postcards can indicate places you've been or seen, or not.|
Then there's the pen. The paper you are writing on may limit your choices. Fountain pen on loose-leaf tends to bleed. But there are still plenty of ball-points and gel pens, not to mention pencils, that are a pleasure to use on even the cheapest notebook paper. (Can you tell I love pens?) And if you are using nice paper, go ahead and use an elegant fountain pen (or a cheap, yet chic, one. Pilot MR, for instance.)
|Various pens and pencils|
Of course, what stops most people is not a lack of pen and paper, but figuring out what to write. The first thing to remember is--given how rarely most people receive personal letters now, the bar is set fairly low. And while you may want to write a letter that is full of wisdom and will be treasured forever, letters like that have always been in extremely short supply!
(Letters used to be the main way to convey basic things like “Please send money,” “I miss you,” “Your father has been ill,” or “We are very disappointed in your behavior,” going back to ancient days. So a lot of letters were probably not such a thrill to receive.)
So what will you write? There's the usual "what I've been doing recently." It may seem dull to you, but to someone you don't see often, it's still news. However, if this is someone you talk to on the phone all the time, you might want to write about something else.
What are you excited about? You must be excited about something. (If not, stop your letter and go work on your life instead.) For instance,
The latest season of "Death in Paradise" is now showing on PBS. I'm excited! Of course, they've replaced every character from the original except Dwayne, and if they replace Dwayne too, M and I may quit watching altogether.
The original detective inspector Poole was so delightful—why was that? Something about his grouchy, fussy, detail-oriented self was really entertaining. But the actor wanted to spend more time with his kids, instead of spending time in the Caribbean, and who can blame him for that?
You could be excited about something small, like a book or a movie. Or it could be an idea or a project you’ve started. Or maybe you are about to go on a trip, move, or change jobs. Even if the fact of it isn’t news to your recipient, some of your thoughts about it may be.
Maybe you talk to this person on the phone so often, you're thinking, "What's left to talk about?" Well, give it some thought. There may be things you didn't have a chance to go into detail about, or you've thought about some more since the last conversation. Or maybe it would be fun to do something else entirely and just describe what is happening around you at the moment--set the scene for your reader, so they can share the moment with you, at long distance and delayed in time.
I'm sitting in my kitchen typing on my iPad. I don't know why I often sit here instead of at my desk, or the little table I put near the window with the nice view, or out on the porch. Well, I sort of know why. My desk is too messy, and right now it is over 80 degrees outside, so the porch is a bit too hot to be pleasant. Still, the seat by the window would be an improvement. Maybe after I make a cup of tea. (In this heat, I'm still drinking hot tea? Maybe I'll make that iced tea with orange juice, instead. Or regular sweet tea.) The cats are lying around the living room, Pearl on the sofa, Conga sprawled on the floor (she was outside, and black cats do heat up on sunny days). I wonder if she would enjoy having a cool cloth laid on her. Probably it would be too strange a sensation for her.
If you're up for it, you could send a riddle or a puzzle, or draw a doodle, or clip something out of the paper/magazine. (Yes, I know, that's what Facebook is for. But getting an actual clipping in your mailbox is still more like a surprise present than seeing a post on Facebook.)
Having written, you enclose the note in its envelope. If you have stickers, you can put one on the back for decoration. Or stamp it with a rubber stamp, or draw a doodle on it. Or none of these, if doing so would delay you in getting the thing in the mail. Remember,
A plain letter that gets in the post is 100 times better than a great letter that never leaves the house.