How to write a letter

Don’t lie. I know you’ve forgotten. But don’t feel bad, because so has everybody else.

I love handwritten letters almost as much as I love clothespins. There’s a statement for you (from the girl with the clothespin logo). I have a few pen pals: two under the age of 10 and a few grown-ups.

My delightfully creative friend Alison—a calligrapher and fellow Victorian novel enthusiast—sends me things like this every so often.

In fact, Alison is the one who turned me on to Harriet Russell’s mail-time masterpiece Envelopes—a darn fine way to spend a chilly, full-teacup afternoon.

I know what you’re thinking. I know you’re not a calligrapher, but that shouldn’t stop you from delighting your friends with mail they might want to hang on the wall.

Fancy up your letter writing regime (or start one) with a few simple ideas:

1. Pens, pens, pens. Nothing says time to write quite like a fine pen. My favorite multi-purpose pens are Zigs, but there are a few other brands of calligraphy/archival pens out there. Head to your local art supply or stationary store and give a couple different kinds a whirl. Warning: this just might change your life (and relationship with pen-to-page communications.)

2. Paper matters, sort of. Ditch the stationary card set. Tear out a page of your journal or sketchbook; even loose-leaf notebook paper or plain copy paper will do. Since you’re going to fancy up the page you don’t need designer paper. I buy substantial-paper tablets only when they’re on sale, so in the meantime, use what you’ve got.

3. Collage is the poor-man’s art form. (And a very legit fine-art form, too.) If you’re not much of a doodler (translate: totally averse to attempting a few sketches) snip a few small, pretty images or text blurbs from a magazine or newspaper.

4. Supplies in place, check. Now what to write? Write about that book you’re reading, or a movie you saw, something that recently inspired you. Write about what you see out the window at this very moment, the dream you had last night, or the woman sitting next to you with the colorful hat. Don’t fret so much. The words will come. What might you say if the recipient was sitting in front of you?

So, what are you waiting for? An unsuspecting pen pal is awaiting your post.

Tell me how you choose pens, how it feels to receive mail like this, how you overcome writers’ block. Most importantly, tell me about how you’ll give it a shot.