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A postcard of Il Ponte Vecchio

Too beautiful to use? I purchased this postcard of Il Ponte Vecchio in Florence and found it too lovely to send. Shame, shame.

How many of you keep a Precious File—a folder filled with letters, thank you notes and other mail from people you’ve known over the years?

You probably think I’m about to say what a pity it is that people don’t send snail mail anymore. As if you ever have time to sit down and write a note, right? I hear you loud and clear. Here’s the thing. 

There are occasions when sending a letter, written in your own hand, is simply priceless.

A personal note is—well … personal. It’s not handy for you, and that’s just the point. Every time you pen a letter, you show the recipient that they are worth the extra effort. The fact that your letter can be read again later is a powerful bonus.

My Precious File is one of the first things I would rush to save in a fire.

Cursive writing

When disappointment, grief or physical pain beat me down, I can revisit a note written in beautiful cursive by my friend Audra, thanking me for supporting her project.

When I’m feeling insignificant, I can review the six-page letter sent by an old boyfriend a few weeks before he died of pancreatic cancer. (That one makes me bawl every time I read it, but I always feel more important afterwards. When time must have been so very precious, he was using what little he had of it to let me know that I mattered. I hope I never get over the generosity of such a loving act.)

Through the lens of your friends and family, you see how precious life is and want to live it more fully.

Everyone should have this encouragement, but how many will if we don’t keep this vintage rite alive?

I agree that sending email is acceptable and easier for most correspondence. But what keeps us from writing letters and notes for special circumstances that deserve more?

Here are four of the most common reasons we don’t write personal notes, and suggestions for overcoming them.

Not enough time. Lindsey Bugbee, founder of The Postman’s Knock, allocates time for correspondence as part of her routine. She has a habit of visiting a coffee shop on Sunday mornings just to write letters. There you go–make it a treat. Could you set aside time once a week or once a month to correspond? Imagine what it might mean to an elderly person or someone who is sick to get a personal note from you.

Poor handwriting. After years of note taking for work, my handwriting is atrocious. But I have discovered that it can be salvaged when I slow down and enjoy cursive as a creative endeavor. That’s how I found The Postman’s Knock—on a search for resources to help improve my cursive. Lindsey not only teaches calligraphy via video; she also has many free tools to help people improve cursive writing. How lovely to know that there are millennials out there, breathing new life into an old custom. Lindsey elevates snail mail to an art form with custom-made envelopes.

Ho-hum writing materials. With the demise of snail mail, there are fewer bricks-and-mortar stores for greeting cards and stationery. Fortunately, there is a lively online economy of independent designers and other suppliers of extraordinary paper goods. Given a choice, I prefer to buy from independent people who have figured out a viable alternative to working for The Man. If you’re the same, you can discover many stationery artists through Oh So Beautiful Paper. The OSBP blog regularly features an artist or designer in their Behind the Stationery series, which is where I learned about Taylor Hamilton.

She is the founder of Tay Ham and designer of this whimsical Iris Apfel card. If you’re into fashion, Tay Ham has lots of fashion-related designs you’ll love, too.

My friend Jeff, the old boyfriend who wrote to me in the final weeks of his life, had a thing about pens. In his precious 2014 note, Jeff told me about the pen he was using, a Conklin Crescent Fountain Pen, designed in 1898. Mark Twain used a Conklin to pen many of his manuscripts. Jeff bought his at Fahrney’s Pens

Jeff also favored a Yafa Rollerball Pen, which he liked because it shared the same cartridge as his Conklin. To demonstrate similarities between the two pens, Jeff wrote two side-by-side sentences, each with a different pen. I can’t begin to tell you how I feel when I think about the effort he put into that final letter. He was an engineer, and it was so typical of him to weave in such details. I have Jeff to thank for my new lust for the perfect pen. The Postman’s Knock has tons of information about pens used for cursive or calligraphy. 

You don’t know what to say. It’s common to have a little anxiety about saying things in writing. If you recognize that writing notes is a great way to nurture relationships, then look for ways to make it less laborious. For that, I highly recommend that you buy (or borrow) a copy of On a Personal Note: A Guide to Writing Notes with Style, by Angela Ensminger & Keely Chace—a wonderful book with tips and tricks to make every type of correspondence easier. 

Stationery from ItalyNow that your top four obstacles are resolved, what’s keeping you from picking up a pen? My friend April just returned from Italy and brought this elegant stationery to me as a gift. How flattering to be remembered in such a way! It has already inspired me to write two notes that are long overdue.

Notecards to benefit Pink Ribbon ConnectionFashion-minded friends, don’t forget that the Vintage Pink Sweater notecards, inspired by one of the most remarkable vintage pieces in my collection, are on sale all year–not just during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. One hundred percent of the proceeds support breast cancer patients in central Indiana with wigs, prostheses and more through Pink Ribbon Connection. Buy a set of cards today and I’ll write you a personal note! 

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.

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