Tag Archives: letters

The Zen of Letter Writing

*Disclaimer: I am not a practitioner of Zen and/or Buddhism. I am using Zen in the common appropriation of the word as meaning calmness and ease of mind*

A few months ago when I began my adventures in letter writing and correspondence I found myself getting a little anxious as I approached my house each night in hopes that a letter, postcard or some other missive would be there awaiting me. I would try and anticipate the amount of time a letter would take to be received and a reply returned and I would stress or worry if the reply did not arrive within a day or two of my estimate. Upon receiving a letter I would rush through my evenings duties to sit down and reply, regardless of whether I felt inspired to do so or not. This I have discovered is not the way I want to enjoy personal correspondence.

I now enjoy a more relaxed, Zen-like pace of letting myself surrender to the ebb and flow of mail. I still enjoy receiving letters but I let be a surprise now and I have stop anticipating letters and just let them come to me and welcome them when they are there. I enjoy the moment of reading a message but I do not struggle to force a reply into the little time I may have or if I have nothing to write, I reply when I can and when I have something I would like to share. I find that this letting go of my expectations and embracing the moments has greatly increased my pleasure and quality of my letters.

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Letters of Note

I stumbled upon Letters of Note yesterday and it is a fascinating site. according to the site its goal is:

Letters of Note is an attempt to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos. Scans/photos where possible

The site has great examples of well crafted letters by people that have played roles of varying importance in society. These letters are wonderful little glimpses into the lives and thoughts of people we have all read about.

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Things I have learned about writing letters

I have been actively writing letters for a few months now and I thought I would share some of the insights I have learned.

What makes a good pen pal?

So far I have found that the best pen pals have been the ones that are most open about themselves and their interests. I enjoy receiving letters from people that are different politically, economically, spiritually…whatever. Many people find that it is polite and necessary to avoid hot button topics like politics and religion but I find that I enjoy people that are open to discussing these issues even if we differ. It may not be appropriate to begin a relationship with those topics but once you have built a rapport I do not think any topic should be off limits to an open, respectful and honest debate. I find this is a great way to learn, especially if both sides are willing to hear and listen to one and another.

A good pen pal is one that is good at replying. I do not mean immediately or quickly but that replies to letters thoughtfully. The best exchanges I have had are with pen pals that answer questions and discuss topics relative to the letters you have written. It is important to be thoughtful when replying. I take my time with letters. I read and re-read letters before sitting down to reply and when I reply I always do so with the other letter beside the one I am writing, I find this really helps the conversation flow.

Bascally a good pen pal is one that is willing to dedicate some time to writing, crafting and honing a friendship

Letter Topics

Man penpals write short letters that will cover the details of daily life such as health, work, family, book reports, and the weather. Others will write about the pens, ink, and paper they are using. I enjoy all types of letters and enjoy adjusting and tweaking my writing style and type of response to each pen pal.

I tend to write letters that focus on family life, books and pens. I can discuss politics but usually only in response as I don’t bring it up often.

To draft or not to draft

This is not a topic I really thought was an issue until I saw it discussed on the Fountain Pen Network the other day. I have never written a rough draft of a letter as I prefer a more causual. stream of conciousness style. I do not mind crossing out and re-writing a misspelled word or bouncing around a variety of topics, and I do not mind receiving letters written in this informal manor. I think of my letters and replies as a organic conversation and face to face conversations don’t get a rough draft.

Patience

One of the biggest lessons I have learned is patience. Letter writing requires patience when writing the letters as well as when you are waiting for replies. In this day of text messages and email it is hard to adjust to not receiving instant responses and I have had to adapt my patience and writing style. When writing an email it is easy enough to write quite little sentences and paragraphs because the recipient can send a quick message asking for more details and clarification but letter writing does not allow this luxury.

Writing a letter requires more thought and dedication and this is one of the aspects of letter writing that really appeals to me.

I hope these tips and thoughts help you in your own letter writing or encourage you to begin.

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Posts of the Week Dec 20 to Dec 26

Okami reviews Pen Quivers – Whatever
Julie writes about letters to Santa – Letter writing revolution
Carpedavid has a nice review of Diamine Monaco Red – Seize the Dave
Diane looks at Sailor Gentle Blue Black – Pocket Blonde
John writes about Arches Textured Paper – Pencil Wrap
AK looks at a couple of Notebooks – Notebook loves pen
Economy Pens shows us the finer points of Pilot’s Purple Vball – Economy Pens
Snarky’s Machine looks at the year ahead and talks Planners – Does this pen write?
Tao writes about the Parker 61 – Bleubug

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I get mail

One of the greatest things that has happened since I started using fountain pens is my subsequent discovery of the art of letter writing. As my collection of pens and inks grew I realized that I was accumulating more than I really needed for Journaling and that using some of the nice papers simply to write grocery lists wasn’t the best I could do.

I started small, I put my name on a Postcard exchange list and began swapping brief messages with people from all around the globe. Postcards soon left me feeling unsatisfied. It was great to get these in the mail but I found that they were not terribly conducive to a proper conversation , so I found a letter exchange list and jumped in with both feet.

I currently have about 10 pen pals and I think I may have reached my limit but who knows. I am exchanging letters with people from all walks of life, from the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Each pen pal offers something unique and interesting. I have pen pals with whom I can discuss parenting, books, pens, local farming and life in general. I have had conversations with people I might other wise never talk to and I find it has been great to help increase my understanding.

I have also found letter writing to be extremely therapeutic. It is extremely relaxing to sit down after a long day of working and parenting and compose a thought out letter. I might write some of the same thoughts in my journal but there is something satisfying in knowing that someone will read these thoughts and potentially provide some feedback.

If you have never or if it has been sometime since you have written a letter I say do it.

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