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The Beginner’s Guide to Writing Letters

Have you ever thought:  I’d love to write letters and cards, but I can never find time. Or, I don’t have the faintest idea of how to start. Or, I hate to write, so why would I waste my time doing it?

If any of the above sentences resonate, perhaps you could benefit from a primer on the fine art of letter writing. Some would call it the lost art since mail volume dropped significantly with the advent of the Internet, but if you have patience and desire, a resurrection of this skill is possible. All you need are a few tips to get started.
Have Materials on Hand
You just ended a phone conversation with your father who commented on Great-Aunt Bertha’s recent hip replacement surgery. You know she’d appreciate a note, but you immediately run into a roadblock. There are no “get well” cards, blank notecards, or stationery anywhere in the house. How frustrating trying to unearth materials only to discover that you have nothing available.

The Girl and Boy Scouts’ motto Be Prepared is apt if you decide to join the world of writing letters. Simply put, you must be prepared. Purchase a variety of cards or a box of stationery before needing them. Take advantage of sales. Stock up. Find easily accessible spots for storage. Fancy isn’t as important as serviceable. A closet. A small space on a book shelf or counter. Even a sock drawer could work.

Don’t forget stamps. Why settle for buying only one at a time when you can obtain a booklet of twenty or even a roll of one hundred? Worried about the price? Select postcards and postcard stamps instead. Or, maybe colorful stamps would generate excitement. If so, a trip to your local post office might prove surprising. The beauty and variety of designs is mind-boggling.

Procure a reliable writing utensil. Avoid pens that release inky blotches or are difficult to hold. Do you fancy gel writers? Get one. Or two. Do you favor fine-tip ball points? Acquire a package of ten. Prefer blue ink over black? Enjoy the fun of red, green, or purple ink? Some of the finest pens are promotional gifts from area businesses. Whatever style you adopt, store pens in the same place, so they’re handy.

Oh, My Aching Hand!
Handwriting isn’t for everyone. Sometimes the process takes too long, causes physical pain or fatigue in fingers, hands, arms, or shoulders. You might be worried that your penmanship is undecipherable. There is nothing wrong with composing on the computer. The large array of font designs, letter sizes, and the extra features of bold-face, italics, color, and underlining allow creativity and emphasize key points. These elements also can be adjusted to the needs of the recipient (easy-to-read fonts and letter sizes considerably aid the visually impaired, for example). Don’t forget the final steps of printing and mailing the letter.
Where Have All the Addresses Gone?
Are addresses on slips of paper scattered willy-nilly around the house? Tucked under piles on the desk? Or, do you depend so much on email that you have no knowledge of the home addresses of far-flung relatives and friends?

An address book is a necessity then. It might require a few hours to transfer pertinent information, but the time saved later on will be well worth it. Immediately update when friends move, since another frustration is having a letter returned to sender after spending the time and money writing it.
Finding Time
A common complaint centers on lack of free time. Preparing materials beforehand can eliminate this excuse completely. Signing your name on a card, sealing the envelope after addressing it, stamping it, and placing it in your mailbox can honestly take less than five minutes.

Writing more than a signature will, yes, take longer, but utilizing commercial breaks while watching Survivor might be all that’s necessary to add a few sentences.
Be Comfortable
No one enjoys sitting in a lumpy chair or at a too-short kitchen table to write. Find a comfortable spot. Do you need a pillow? A hard surface? A stronger beam from your lamp at night? Will lighting a candle, sipping a glass of Chardonnay, or nibbling at a box of chocolates enhance the experience? If so, by all means, do it.

Or, if sitting cross-legged on the floor while children bathe in the tub works, then go for it. Comfort lies in the eye of the letter writer.
Set a Goal for Send-Off
Want to improve your track record in sending greetings? Then, set a deadline. Should the birthday card arrive on the celebrant’s actual day? Beforehand? Afterward? Is it ever too late to send a card or letter? Frankly, receiving correspondence at any time is better than not at all.
Now that your preparations are complete, what are you waiting for?  Dash off that card and letter to Great-Aunt Bertha. She will be glad you did. And, so will you.

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