Celebrate My Unofficial Handwrite-a-Letter Day

When this English tree lost its leaves, it snuggled up in a secondary, fuzzy coat.

When this English tree lost its leaves, it snuggled up in a secondary, fuzzy coat.

Miles run today: 4.5

Chapters still needing revision before submitting to writing group (Sunday–eek!): 1

Handwritten letters most people write per month: 0

Happy birthday how oil are you now. Can You send a note back to me.

My son received this note from a first grade neighbor the other day. The paper is taped together, and the words are way, way up near the top, very carefully considered.

I love it.

I would not dare suggest that I believe we should all go back to the days before email and texting and dial-in conference calls and Skype.

However, I believe a handwritten letter is special.

I receive hundreds of emails each week. I love hearing about writer friends’ accomplishments through Facebook. I am thankful that I can interview people over the phone for work; it saves time and gas expense.

But when I walk out to the mailbox and once in a blue moon receive a handwritten note, my heart skips.

Back when I was away from home for the first time as a freshman at college, we had tiny mailboxes in the large dorm lobby. Each day, I would open the small door and hope for something from home or something from a friend away at another college.

When I saw my mother’s steady, loopy cursive or my father’s sharp, diagonal scroll, my grandmother’s warm script or my friend’s careful blend of cursive and print, the envelopes themselves made my day before I even ripped open the seal.Β The stamp or the sticker used to secure the envelope was often chosen with care.

After I opened the letter, I might be able to tell that the writer was short on time: their writing seemed labored and cut off quickly without completely finishing the thought.

Or perhaps the edge of her coffee cup had rested for a moment on the edge of the paper; I could picture my mom writing at the kitchen table, gazing out at the birds stopping by the birdbath right outside her window. Maybe my dad had been sitting in the recliner, resting the paper on a magazine and taking the time to describe a recent dinner before he lifted the leg rest and let his eyes grow heavy.

When I was away from college and home for the summer, my boyfriend sometimes sent letters with intricate drawings of things he had seen or places he had been.

Before we met, my husband spent many months in England away from his American girlfriend in the days before the Internet. He wrote pages and pages that made the trans-Atlantic voyage, laboriously penned while his friends were napping or headed out on the town.

As I addressed our Christmas cards last night, I thought about how glad I am to receive the photos and good wishes around the holiday season from friends and family far and wide.

But even better are the notes and cards that come without any warning or expectation. Almost no one is expected to write thank you notes or to send letters that make no demands; words that simply shoot the breeze.

What if you were to choose one lucky person to write to? Not for the holidays, but for today.

For all of you young people who can’t remember life before the Internet, choose someone older, someone who remembers the joy of receiving a letter. Or better yet, choose someone young who never checks his mailbox because there is never anything of value inside.

I urge you to take pen in hand tomorrow, Saturday, December 1, and write to a neighbor, friend or family member. Tell them anything: thank you for existing, what you did last weekend, how you think about that trip you took together two years ago whenever you need a pick-me-up.

I guarantee that when that person opens the mailbox, she will smile. And you will be the reason.

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38 thoughts on “Celebrate My Unofficial Handwrite-a-Letter Day

  1. I am often reluctant to handwrite a letter because the editor in me always wants to rewrite, and, well, that means starting over.

    But I shall take up your challenge. Here’s hoping others will, too.

    • annewoodman says:

      Yes, you will have to tame the editor inside you. Sometimes the mistakes make the letters that much more interesting to read. ; ) And I can’t imagine yours have any errors anyway. Let the words float out!

  2. Carrie Rubin says:

    What a wonderful idea for a day. Much better than some of the ‘special days’ that already exist. And this is something I actually DO remember–how much I cherished the letters I got when I was a lonely young Au Pair girl in Paris years ago. A letter in the mail was like gold for me then. πŸ™‚

    • annewoodman says:

      Wow, Carrie, I had no idea you were an au pair in Paris! How wildly romantic! I can only imagine how you must have treasured word from home.

      I think a handwritten letter says so much about how you took the time to slow down in your busy day and write to that special person. I hope some people will give it a try.

      • Carrie Rubin says:

        Although Paris was wonderful, sadly my stay was far from romantic. I was treated like a servant by the family and put in a tiny room on the top floor of building. My toilet was shared by the other ‘servants’ and consisted of a Turkish toilet (which is a hole in the ground and nothing more) in a tiny room. Plus I was dirt poor. But I was 18 and in Paris and perfecting my French, and really, that’s all that mattered. πŸ™‚

      • annewoodman says:

        Wow. A Turkish toilet? I think I would have been taking the kids to the museums and “borrowing” their facilities. ; )

        And still, I am very impressed with your Paris life.

      • Carrie Rubin says:

        Believe me; I used that potty as seldom as possible!

  3. Daryl says:

    I will not comment here, but on paper with ink. I will deliver it tonight πŸ˜‰

  4. globalexplorer1 says:

    You have inspired me. I am going to write to my grandson, whom I have not seen since June. He and I don’t talk nearly enough (he is 6 yrs. old). I know he loves receiving my postcards when I am traveling, so he is bound to like a letter – maybe it will get there in time for Christmas. (I could always FedEx it.) Thanks for a great idea!

  5. jmmcdowell says:

    I remember in junior high and high school having several “pen pals” from Europe and Australia. Getting a letter from overseas was such a day maker! Luckily, my Australian pen pal tracked me down a couple of years ago, and we’re back in touch. Of course, it’s all email and Facebook now, but it’s still fun!

  6. kathleen says:

    Great idea, Anne. I’m going to drop a note to my sister thanking her for the birthday gift that I wear the heck out of!

  7. Subtlekate says:

    I shall, Anne. I shall do it today as it’s already Dec 1 here.

  8. Andria says:

    Sadly, I’m just getting ready to write 2 handwritten notes to the loved ones of a dear friend who passed on. Of course nothing else would do. I wish I had your talent for finding the right words.

    • annewoodman says:

      Andria, I’m sorry to hear that.

      If it makes you feel any better, I often struggle with the right words in those situations. Writing is very easy until… it isn’t. Illnesses and death are always sad reasons to write.

  9. When my daughter traveled the world for close to a year she sent handwritten letters from all over…some were written on scraps or receipts or menus! Those will remain my prized possessions until I draw my last breath.
    You are so wise to suggest we all handwrite a letter to post tomorrow. (By post I mean “send via letter carrier” NOT upload. πŸ˜‰ ) I’m sending one to each of my boys…even though I could get away with doing only one because they live together.

    • annewoodman says:

      That’s so wonderful that your daughter wrote to you as she traveled the world! I agree; my kids’ handwritten notes are the things I would save first in a fire.

      Also cool that your sons live together; you must have done some good parenting that they enjoy being together that much!

  10. I love writing and receiving letters! This is a great unofficial day and I will participate tomorrow, Anne.

  11. That’s the most gorgeous note I’ve ever seen – how oil are you now! I love it! There was a great article in the Time about handwriting and letters, but this post was better πŸ˜‰
    That is a beautiful tree at the top.

  12. When we were kids at school, we were always scribbling little notes to each other and passing them along when the teachers had their backs turned, it was fun and exciting. These days they text each other. It’s just not the same. And what about keeping old love letters in a box – love emails just don’t quite capture the same sentiment.

    • annewoodman says:

      And today at writing group, one of my friends said that her friend had saved a bunch of letters she had written at age 21 and mailed them to her just last year. She said it was such a nice reminder of the person she had been! I doubt our texts will have the same staying power.

  13. 4amWriter says:

    I just handwrote a letter to my daughter’s teacher. Does that count? And I even tore it up and rewrote it because I thought I came across as too wordy.

    • annewoodman says:

      Yes, Kate, that absolutely counts. And extra bonus points for stringent editing. ; )

      I think any time you slow down enough to sit and write something longhand, it’s special these days.

  14. Melissa says:

    My grandmother was my first pen pal…to the point that my mother would read them with me in case I had trouble with her cursive handwriting or the “big” words. Those letters started my love affair with letter writing. I view my blog as my letter writing now…letters to my family and friends, whenever they want to “pop in” and see what’s going on. I do miss the thrill of the arrival of an actual letter though.

  15. David Gentry says:

    You are spreading joy, love, and kindness. I say as I write this electronic note.

  16. Excellent Idea. The art of letter writing, (Yes it is an art) needs to make a comeback. What better way than sending letters to someone who may have never received one? Outstanding.

  17. […] Then Anne Woodman asked us to celebrate her Unofficial Handwrite-a-Letter Day […]

  18. […] how we should write real letters more often, […]

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