If I were to grade myself as a pen pal, I’d give myself a C-. Honestly, that’s being generous. I have such good intentions. I cherish each letter I receive, pore over it, then dutifully log it into my dedicated Circa notebook. Weeks, or even months, pass before I sit down to pen my reply. What the hell?!
Part of the problem is that I feel like I have to, or should, write long newsy letters because that’s what I receive. If I don’t have time to do that, I write nothing. Dumb. Surely a nice card or a short note would do in a pinch. But my all-or-nothing brain thinks that it’s better to hold out until I can get a handful of pages written. Even if that means waiting. And waiting.
It’s no wonder, given my issues, that I was immediately drawn to the vintage postcards I came upon at a recent antique show. One vendor had so many postcards…literally thousands of them…that I had no idea what to hone in on. Cats? My hometown? New York State attractions? Owls? Then my eyes fell on the “Please Write” section. BINGO.
Some postcards feature polite verse, while others get straight to the point. “WRITE! I’m tired waiting for you to write.” Both provide a much needed nudge to slow-poke letter writers like myself. “It’s not how you write, but the words you indite…” (Is “indite” a word?) “Makes me anxious your writing to see.” Forget about writing the perfect letter. Just write. A few pages. A few paragraphs. A few sentences.
I found and purchased a couple more gems, as reminders to myself. The vintage rhymes not so subtly admonish the recipient to sit down and write. Now. Tonight. They pull no punches.
On the back of the 1916 Dutch girl postcard is a handwritten message that made me laugh. In case you can’t quite make it out, I’ll transcribe it here…
Lost! Strayed! or Stolen! Mabel Kritzmacher. Any information regarding her whereabouts will gladly be received by her friend Florence E. Senn, 32 First St, Newark, NJ
Hello! Mabel. Thought I’d remind you that I’m still living. Why don’t you come over or write? Write soon. F.E.S.
I love Florence for her comical and direct approach. Florence wants a return response and Mabel is dragging her heels. This postcard is 101 years old but the plea penciled here never goes out of date. We crave mail, and we want it now. Real mail lights up a day more than any text or Facebook post or email. Real mail is a treasure.
I’m using InCoWriMo—International Correspondence Writing Month— and the kick in the pants from these postcards, to break my letter writing procrastination—this belief that I need a large block of letter writing time and the perfect setting. Yesterday’s mail brought me two postcards and one note from three InCoWriMo participants, which thrilled me. As our chicken dinner roasted, I sat at my desk and wrote my replies, rather than getting sucked into CNN or falling down a Twitter rabbit hole. I don’t want anyone thinking I’ve been “Lost! Strayed! or Stolen!”
How will I improve my letter writing turnaround time? If a day or week looks particularly busy, I’ll turn some of my morning journaling time into letter writing time. I’ll make letter writing appointments with myself in my Hobonichi planner as I tend to honor the commitments I’ve written down. I’ll use random pockets of time to write postcards or quick notes. I’ll back away from social media and the news a bit (better for my mental health, anyway). Sending and receiving handwritten mail is important to me. It’s about time that I made it more of a priority. I owe that much to my loyal pen pals and to the new ones I’m meeting through InCoWriMo. I owe that to myself.
Postcards look very different these days. I bought these stunning “Afghan Girl” notes and postcards after going to Steve McCurry’s photography exhibit at our local art museum and love using them. It takes just a little time to dash off some thoughts or a couple of paragraphs. There’s something satisfying about dropping a few pieces of mail into the mailbox on the way to work—forging a connection with a new acquaintance, or strengthening the ties to friends you’ve known for years.
And so I will write. This very, very night.
Added later: I did it!
Great post – I do the same thing…waiting until the perfect time to write a long letter. Yesterday I sent two cards and a letter out – progress!
Lovely cards – they bring to mind something I read in “The Morning Post”‘s “Twitter by Mail” experiment;
” Back when people wrote letters, they didn’t have to be the long catch-ups that people tend to write today. We write long letters now because we hardly write letters at all, so we feel obliged to make them something special, to pad them out with lots of news. This makes them long and tedious to write, which means we’re disinclined to write letters; so we don’t write any at all, and post on Facebook instead.
But if you get the chance to look at some old letters—properly old, from the first half of the 20th century, or older—you’ll see that they weren’t always long screeds. In fact they were often kept short and to the point.
A bit like social media updates, actually.
A letter back then might simply ask one question. The reply would answer it. Just that. A letter might describe a single event, or pass on a single piece of news. I’m pregnant. Your father is dying. I was sent on patrol last night, and I survived. I love you. I still love you. I no longer love you.
Simple, short messages. That’s what the post was for. That’s why postal services were so frequent, and why there were so many deliveries.”
(Apologies for reproducing it in full, but the last paragraph, I think, really sheds light on the purpose of the post cards you’ve found. I imagine that missing a letter from a regular correspondent might be like missing a regular poster to twitter, or facebook). I try to think of the first paragraph when I’m putting off my own correspondence!
This is fantastic! Really makes sense and is something I’ll keep in mind moving forward. Thanks so much for sharing the piece.
Sorry – the link from which that snippet comes;
Brilliant post! My penpal wrote in June (although I think I got it in august/September) and I have yet to reply! (Admittedly, I have had A LOT to deal with, but still!) I shall also get down to writing this very, very night. ;P
Thanks for your kind words! I’ve been really pushing myself to get at least one piece of mail ready every evening, even if I’m running down to the wire. I continue to be surprised at how little time it really takes to get a short note written. Now, onto some longer letters!
I know! I’m always saying I don’t have time to write… but in reality it doesn’t take long! I might send a little note and then write a longer letter to my pen pal when I have more time. 🙂
I love your blog! I was hoping to write you a letter during InCoWriMo with my three new Franklin-Christopher pens ( Philly Pen Show) – can you share your address ? Or if you don’t want to for privacy reasons, can I write you in care of Hamilton College? Thanks!
Grrrr auto-correct: that should have read, of course, Frankln-Christoph.
Pingback: Sunday Notes and Links – February 12, 2017 | Fountain Pen Quest
“Indite- is indeed a word. It means to write or compose. Thanks, Google!
Thank you! I’ve been meaning to look that up and kept forgetting. Now we know!
Pingback: Sunday Reads: Pens And Other Stuff | An Inkophile's Blog