I Miss Writing Letters

When I was a kid (and a teenager), I used to have penpals. There were about 20 or so that I corresponded with at least once a year, but there were four that I regularly exchanged letters with. My first and longest penpal was from France and was named Sabine. She was my age, and sent me French trinkets and postcards all the time, and sent her the silly comics I'd draw. And as the years went by and communication methods evolved, we moved from letters to email, with disasterious results.

Something was just... different. And after about three months of trying to move our penpal relationship online, it fizzled.

There was just something about the instant nature of correspondence that just never quite matched up to the fun and exciting anticipation of getting those red, white and blue envelopes marked "Par Avion", and I imagine it was the same with her, receiving silly business-sized envelopes with upside-down American flag stamps and handdrawn cartoons on the back. And as it was, quite a few of my other penpal relationships floundered and fell off during the transition to digital. And I'm only slightly ashamed to admit; most of the reason why is because I just quit writing.

Email was faster. IM? Even faster. Speed overtook craft and anticipation as prime motivations behind my method of communicating with people. And eventually, the notion of writing a letter became even less than quaint. I pretty much considered it silly. And now in 2011, I can meet new friends and know their entire life's history (or as much as they choose to share) just by friending them on Twitter or Facebook or Google Plus. There's just no reason to exchange letters anymore. Mail is going the way of the telegraph.

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago. I emailed the proprietor of one of my absolute favorite sites. Her name is Debbie, and she runs That Girl, a Tumblr log that curates some of the most inspirational pictures, quotes and videos I've ever seen in one place (notable runners up: Merri's Creative Problem SolvingMagnificent Ruin and This Isn't Happiness).

I found her through a recommendation from a friend, and since then, she's set my morning right every single day for a little over two years. Hers is the first site I read the moment I open my browser during morning coffee and Pop Tarts. When I go away from the internet for a while, I return to a slight tingle of anticiaption of reading the hundreds of items that have stacked up on her blog, just waiting to be enjoyed moment by moment.

And you'd think that, after a few months of reading inspirational stuff, I'd do what I absolutlely insist readers of my books and blog do, which is contact the author. But no. I'm actually very shy, believe it or not. At least, when it comes to creators and curators of content I love.

But for some reason, a few weeks ago (and now that I think on it, it was actually a few months ago, shortly after my long internet and work hiatus... That's how much time I've lost track of), I was moved to let Debbie know just how much I appreciated what she does and how much light it brings to the dim haze of each waking morning (and how it had for more than two years). And she was very kind in her reply, and it was a neat internet-person-I-read-and-like-wasn't-a-jerk moment.

So, being that I'm someone who likes to share, I asked if I could mail her copies of my book, and she was very nice to say "yes." I'm guessing more than one table in her house needs leveling. Either that, or it gets really cold in Chicago and she's still using a fireplace to keep warm. Regardless, books were placed in envelopes and they were sent.

And for some reason that I THINK is because of the kind of stuff she posts, I thought "You know what? I haven't written a letter in a long, long time. So I think I'll do that." And I did. And it was very fun.

I know, right? Fun? What makes the act of taking four times longer to generate a page of words "fun?" But it was. And I think it's probably the same reason why I've loved returning to the drawing table to do website layouts and draw elements before I work on them in Photoshop, and why I really miss hand-writing my journal. There's something immensely satisfying about creating something physical.

It's the human element of creation. The tiny imperfections; the noted attempts to improve something on the page. It's also the effort put into creating a thing which makes it worth so much more than something using efficiency as its primary motivation. And as I was writing that letter (which was pretty much just one page about itself -- the very meta letter about writing a letter), something clicked in me that made me want to get back to analog methods of communication, if for no other reason than I miss it.

So, here's what's up: if you're interested in a little post-digital-era experimentation with returning to some analog awesomeness, write me a letter and I'll write you one.

My address:


The rules:

1) Postcards are nice. I get a LOT of postcards. I welcome postcards, anytime. But this is about letters. If you send a postcard, expect a nice thank you! But not a letter. A letter gets a letter, nothing less.

2) No dead bugs or bombs in the envelope, please.

That's really it. I'll go on to say that I make absolutely no guarantees in regards to quality of content, length, timliness or penmanship, except to say that I'll promise at least one page to anyone who writes me at least one page.