Why you need a Pen Pal

I’ve previously written about my love for letters, and also about my group on Facebook, The Snail Mail Project.

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It’s slowly growing momentum, we’re now up to 47 members, who are all sending gorgeous happy mail to one another. It really makes me happy to see so many people making friends across the world and receiving beautiful mail through the post!
Anyway, I was talking to one of the members of the group a week or so ago who inspired me to write a series of blogs on the subject, and I felt that a good starting point was “why you need a pen pal!” It’s such a dying art form these days, writing letters. It’s not common for people to put pen to paper in the digital age. So why do it?

Stationary.

If you’re a stationary fiend, just like I am with my mountains of journals, writing letters is an excuse to lay your hands on more beautiful paper. And there’s some stunning writing sets out there. Paperchase is my “go-to” but you can get plenty of beautiful sets from Amazon, TK Maxx and beyond!


Time away from screens.

In a day where we are glued to the screens of laptops, TV’s, phones and tablets, there’s something really relaxing about switching all that stuff off, and it being just you, a piece of paper and a pen. I feel like I’m living right in the present, and being absolutely mindful when I’m writing a letter.

You make a new friend.

How much fun is it getting to know someone new? Through the joy of both sending someone a letter and receiving one back, you also get to know a whole new person! You may even find that it opens opportunities to go and visit a new part of the country, or even the world.
It doesn’t just have to be words on a piece of paper

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You can get really creative with the letter. You can make it look beautiful. You can personalise it. You can even include a gift! If you want to keep it to the price of a stamp, different tea bags can be good (who doesn’t love a good brew whilst they either read a letter, or write back?). Post cards with inspirational words on might be included or photos of your favourite things, places or people, which can help to paint the picture of your life.

Local delicacy’s can be included too, although this might increase the cost of sending a little. This brings me nicely on to…

It’s cheap!

Sure, postage stamps aren’t as cheap as they used to be (I remember getting a 2nd class stamp for about 18p with my first pen pal as a child), but the price is still totally affordable. The only thing you need to be rich in, is time.

Personal

It’s difficult to be impersonal in a letter. When writing by hand, you’re more likely to write informally in comparison to typing. We type emails out at work all day long, so putting pen to paper breaks us from our usual habits. We pour a bit of a soul into the written word in comparison to when we express ourselves electronically.

You can keep them

I’ve not saved a text message since the guy I fancied sent me one that gave me butterflies when I was about 15. Text messages are so transactional I don’t want to keep them anyway. But letters. Someone has put their time, thought and effort into that. Even if I wanted to, I can’t put handwritten letters in the bin. I still have letters that I shared with my friends when I was a teenager, and that attachment to a letter hasn’t changed at all.

If you write a letter, you’ll probably get one back!

And it will be a lovely suprise when it arrives. It will make your day. And guess what?

You get to make someone else’s day!

What better feeling than knowing that you have been the part of the day that made someone smile. They may have had a rubbish day at work (or they may have had a brilliant one), but coming home to your letter, might just be the thing that makes it.

You’ve Got Mail…

I have always loved letters.

When I was younger I used to love, love, LOVE this book:

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I can’t tell you how many times I borrowed that book out of the library. I adored it, though sadly never actually owned it. I’m not sure what I loved about it so much. Perhaps there was something exciting to me about reading letters written by people and something quite naughty about reading a letter that wasn’t addressed to me!

I was obsessed with the arrival of the mail. Although there was rarely ever post for me, I’d always be the one to collect the post, everyday with the unwavering hope that there would be something for me. Even to this day, I feel a sadness when there are no letters for me.

As I grew up, my sister and I used to play what we fondly called “The Letter Game”. We rigged up all sorts of contraptions to deliver mail to each other from one bunk bed to the other (we seemed to favour a “pully-cord” method, made from scraps of our Nan’s yarn). We would spend hours writing each other letters, creating word searches and games for one another. My sister, the comedian that she is, liked to include a joke, whilst I always sent a positive thought.

“The Letter Game” developed to writing letters to close school friends at school. Back then there was no option to email your friends, keep in touch via Facebook or even chat via text or MSN Messenger. I spent hours pouring over letters from my friends and writing back to them. A friend, Katie and I had a notebook which we passed back and forth between us. I think these letters are all still in the loft at my Mum and Dad’s. Next time I’m back there, I must try and get them down. I would LOVE to see what rubbish we used to talk to each other, which obviously at the time was the most important thing on earth.

I also started writing to my cousin, Emma, around about this time. My Aunt, Uncle and cousins lived about 1.5 hours away and we didn’t really see much of each other. So we used to write to each other, creating our own magazines to send with the letters!

An actual Pen Pal though, that was something I never had the pleasure of. The closest I got was with my German Exchange partner, Daniela, at 13 years old. She was 16 though and our age gap was likely responsible for our written friendship fizzling out with just one or two letters after I visited her in Germany.

This is why the fact that I, Joanna Livermore, am about to acquire two fabulous Pen Pals is such an amazing thing. I’m so excited about making two new friends, but also have so much excitement about both writing and receiving beautiful, handwritten letters.

The art of writing a letter seems to have died a death in the face of social media and digital means of communicating, but I really want to bring it back to life!