I often get asked by aspiring letterwriters what to write when introducing oneself in am initial letter. This isn’t an easy thing to explain.
Letters are wonderful but require the writer to:
a) invest time
b) invest energy
c) gather their wayward thoughts
d) be semi-coherent or engaged
e) establish a personal style
But even the above list doesn’t cover the numerous ways one can communicate with another human being. You may discover that one penpals enjoys skiing while another wants to share tea from around the world. The lists of possibilities are endless and are only limited by your imagination and USPS regulations.
One thing I will say is that if you think you’re boring, you’re not. There are a bunch of ways to bolster creativity, offer aage wisdom and encourage to the recipient on the other end. The magic is what you using–your own unique and amazing brain–decide to express.
What I will say is based on my own personal life experience. To me, there is nothing worse than opening a beautifully decorated envelope complete with unique washi-tape written on gorgeous stationery all to tell me that you suck at writing letters or that you had the worst bout of anxiety and want to list all if your ailments and troubles in alphabetical order. At the end of such a letter, I just feel tired and a little bitter that you took out your awesome fountain pen with special colored ink just to tell me how much you suck and how terrible your life is going. To me, this is as inappropriate as inviting me over for tea and scones only to vomit on me. It leaves me feeling negative and a little sick and now I wish I’d never read your letter. What. A. Let. Down.
The old adage saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it” still holds true in all that you do. I’m not saying I’m going to dissect your words, but politeness and kindness really is valuable and will serve to be the way that we are remembered. Who would want to store a troubling letter about your suicidal thoughts as a keepsake?
So I’d encourage you to consider some things to help the newbie letterwriter:
- Take your time. You are in charge of the clock.
- Set the rules. If your penpal expects a letter every single week but you cannot make that type of commitment, be honest and tell the person. Make arrangements that match your expectations or move on.
- Speak like you. No need to embellish or brag about yourself.
- If this were the last letter you ever wrote, does it best represent who you are as a person?
- If someone were to accidentally read this, would it offend or inspire?
- Don’t write when you’re tired, angry or worried about something. Wait until you are in good spirits.
- Share a little bit of what you know: a cooking recipe to try, a suggestion of where to stay if your recipient ever comes to Iceland, or how to draw a bunny (R.I.P Ray Johnson).
- Make a list of things you are grateful for or share a bit of unconventional wisdom.
- Share quotes or what you loved about a recent book you read.
- Send a small little thing: something you made (that’s small), a sticker, a tea bag, a drawing, a sticky note, small stationery, lip gloss, a dollar store item…
Considering these can help ignite your curiosity and soon you’ll be a letterwriting expert!
Please comment below if you have any letterwriting advice to share.