Let’s open with a confession: While I’ve sent countless notes, cards, postcards, etc., there are at least as many notes I should have written but didn’t.
And I regret every one I didn’t send. Every note I waited too long to write (and send), not realizing that it’s never too late. Every note I wrote only in my head while driving home from a lovely dinner, never putting pen to paper.
I regret not writing these notes because I still, today, remember clearly the gifts and events that warranted them. Also, some of these would-be notes live in my memory because I lied to my mother about having written them, and that guilt is mighty. (Knowing right and doing right are two different things….)
Why didn’t I write these notes? A bit of laziness and procrastination, for sure. But also because I didn’t always have everything I needed at hand, when I needed it. And by “everything” I mean: stationery, pen, stamps, and the right words – all in one place.
[And if you want a bit of help there, well, that’s the idea behind these note-writing kits – one each for a different situations. So that’s one easy way to get going.]
Fast forward to now, when texting seems to have replaced not only handwritten notes, but emails and phone calls, too. Technology seems to have solved the problem of never getting that damned note written and mailed, right?
Not really. A quick text message is certainly great for speed, and promptness matters. But today more than ever, there is simply no substitute for a handwritten note. pen on paper, stamp on envelope, delivered by the good people at the U.S. Postal Service.
Notes are on my mind these days for many reasons, one of which is the loss of an artist friend who created (among other things) spectacularly beautiful mail art. These notes and envelopes were his daily practice. As news of Joel’s death spread, friends posted pictures of envelopes and notes, each one unique but also with common threads that united them all (“my coffee today is this color”).
I’ve also been sifting through a box of almost 30 years’ worth of correspondence from me to a close relative who shared, among other things, an affection for stationery. When her friend Martha started a stationery company 20 years ago (ish), I remember talking to her about what email would do to affect that industry.
Looking over that long stretch of correspondence (I kept the notes she wrote to me, too), it’s interesting to see how hand-written notes have become a kind of luxury and also a way of communicating that is simply different from its electronic counterparts. It isn’t that email and text messaging has replaced the traditional form, but perhaps that we now have more dimension in ways of communicating.
Whether it’s a note of congratulations for a new job or new baby, or an obligatory thank-you note for a gift, hand-written correspondence adds depth and dimension to any social or professional relationship. It makes you, the writer, stand out clearly in the recipient’s mind. Each note becomes a treasure, a way to remember a special occasion or time.
Plus, notes are actually fun to write and terrific at improving the writer’s mood and happiness. All you need are stationery, stamps, and something to write with. If you’re nervous about not having the editing options that email and text provide, then write a first draft of your note on a slip of scrap paper. Or dictate it into your phone and let that be your first draft.
Still need more ideas, or don’t really believe notes still matter? See if any of these articles might convince you:
- The Found Art of Thank You Notes
- A Stunning New Social Media Tactic: Handwritten Notes
- Why Handwritten Notes Still Matter in Business
You don’t have to be like my late friend Joel, with his beautiful mail art. You don’t have to write like [insert name of any famous writer]. Sending short, notes is a charming habit to cultivate in yourself – a habit that will improve your own feelings of gratitude and well-being.
So, once a week – or month (or day?) – challenge yourself to try old-fashioned, slow, personal correspondence. Try it five times, or even just three, and then bask for a moment in that great sense of accomplishment. Send a note to a relative, a neighbor, an old colleague, your child’s teacher, even your dentist. You won’t be sorry, I promise. And neither will the person receiving your lovely handwritten gift.
In other news from the month of April…
The month was cold and rainy, so roast chicken and cozy risotto were often on the menu at our house. But spring did spring, and with it came fresh herbs – all the more reason to make this lovely dish (one of my favorites):
The group of people who gather once a month or so to discuss a book that we all happen to be reading at the same time (it’s NOT a book club…) happened to read and discuss The Book Thief, which I re-read and enjoyed even more the second time than the first.
At work my leadership team read Good to Great and the Social Sectors, which is better and more relevant than I remembered. This slim monograph (it’s only 35 pages) is really an addendum to Jim Collins’s classic Good to Great. If you work in nonprofits or are on a nonprofit board, reading G2G for the Social Sectors is well worth an hour of your time.
In other reading:
The heavy: ‘Into Eternity’ – a letter written by a wife and mother as she boarded the train to the gas chamber at Auschwitz
April, that’s a wrap.