I had a pen pal from age 13 to age 18. We had known each other for 2 weeks at a summer camp in Iowa City, Iowa, and then proceeded to write one another for the next 5 years. I can’t say that the letters were anything special–no written words of wisdom that belied our ages, no hinting at secret longing or love, no exchanges of teenage angst. He wrote about his band and drew me pictures; I wrote about what I was reading or drawing that week. I looked forward to getting his letters, neatly folded in halves three times, always on notebook paper. I wrote my letters on girlie stationary that I was given to me for Christmases and birthdays, and folded them in the clever ways that junior high school girls bothered to learn back then. Every time I got another letter or sent one out, as silly and pointless as they seemed, it gave me excitement and made me anxious for the next exchange.
Today on Facebook my friend Joe posted a link to his Kickstarter project. Kickstarter is a website that helps people fund their ideas. It’s pretty simple: make a goal, set a deadline and an amount to be raised, and then determine the “rewards” you will give people for pledging their monetary sponsorship to your idea. Seeing Joe’s idea got me incredibly excited… there always something enthralling about the hand-written word when used creatively. (At the end of this post I will link to a few projects that are interesting in this regard.) Joe’s project is called, “Let There Be Letters!“(click the name to link to his page) and in his words:
HERE’S THE GOAL: To help fund the proliferation of letters. To be rewarded by receiving one or two (consider your options, because there are plenty). To help Let There Be Letters send letters to other people, too. To connect with people, to add a touch of strangeness to certain lives.
HERE’S THE REASON: Because handwritten letters touch us differently than other forms of communication. Because the style is dying. Because you want to hear from us. Because we like to write. Because it is good to hear the sincerity of strangers. Because honest endeavors for the public good ought not to go ignored. Because we’re silly, and serious about it.
This is not just the funding for the project, this is the project.
What a wonderful idea.
I just received a letter in the mail from my grandma yesterday. I love her handwriting, the way she phrases her sentences, the way she hyphenates words that might not need hyphenation, and the way she signs her name with a heart-shaped balloon at the end to symbolize my grandpa who passed 9 months ago. There is so much you can learn about someone by a hand-written note, and so much you can learn about yourself. My sister was plagued with letter-writing perfectionism for years. So much so that she rarely accomplished the task of mailing the letter. After a decade or so, I finally convinced her: “Just write! Off the top of your head! Don’t practice, just write it!” Never mind the scribbled-out words, the imperfect grammar, just write! Let your energy be conveyed through the words freshly and without rehearsal!
So I encourage you to write a letter this week–to your sibling, your parents, your friend, or to your partner. It can be fun, silly, confessional, or loving. It can be a picture, a card, a postcard, or a wordy message. No matter the effort, think of how much it will make someone’s day to get something other than a bill or junk mail; how refreshing to receive a letter–not a message–in their mail box rather than their inbox!
A few links:
Joe’s Project Let There Be Letters!
60 Days: A Personal Journal Project
Post Secret There is at least 1 book published out there with the same name, for the same project. Pretty interesting read.
Have a great day! Let me know how the letter writing goes!
Just before I started Let There Be Letters I received and wrote more letters than usual, although I’ve always been a fan. I did just what you recommend — put pen (cil) to paper and wrote without planning. My first went to my girlfriend Jen, and the next went to my nephew Bryce.
Funny that you should mention pen pals, I am writing a novel set in 1982 and I mentioned a character who’s got a pen pal, it was something I had not thought about in ages. Great idea about the letters. Well done 🙂