All great historical figures eventually have biographies written about them. Their biographers research them in many ways, but one of the most invasive is by reading their personal correspondences. These people wrote back and forth with colleagues, collaborators, family, friends, and lovers. Sometimes, an entire book of these letters alone is published, and the reader is slapped around with a sense of possible-guilt. Everyone involved is dead, but why does it feel like such snooping?
Our future biographers are going to be in a bind! We will make them work hard, harder to understand us, because we might have written a few emails here and there which have been deleted or lost, but most of our ideas and banter will have been confined to chatlogs which have also been deleted or lost, or pitifully drawn out as comics. If you can’t tell what I’m getting at, I might as well just say it: let’s start writing letters to each other again. If only to make the lives of future historians a little easier.
Okay But How to Begin?
The first step in becoming a great letter writer is to accumulate stationery. Hoard it. Cute papers, an array of pens, whole stationery sets centered on a theme — grab it all up and store it in a large cabinet. Buy rubber stamps, stickers, a variety of envelopes, greeting cards for every possible occasion, postage stamps, post-it notes, construction paper. Go to an office supply store and empty your bank account on everything you think you probably won’t need but you’d rather be safe than sorry. Be VERY safe.
After several years of gathering supplies, it is time to begin your process. Choose the person to whom you will write your very first letter. Each person is an individual, and they deserve custom care. If I were to write Dollissa, I would choose stationery adorned with cute bees. If I were to write to Saxon, the paper would be colorful and the pen ink would be glitter gel. If I chose instead to write cchris, I would try to find genuine papyrus, or, failing that, specialty vellum made from human skin. See? These are choices that you have to make yourself. I cannot help you here.
Speaking of pens, you should have every kind on hand. From ball point Bic to fancy calligraphy quills dipped in a bottle of expensive ink, the writing tool you use should reflect your personality, your quirks, your hangups, and your intention. If you want to look like you are in a hurry and that the letter is important but hasty, go ahead and use a cheap pen. Heck, use a sharpened stick smudged with charcoal if you want to. Are you sending notes on a dream you had filled with ill portents to a friend? Inscribe with blood, or a brownish-red free flowing ink, if you are of the dainty sort. Really, many of my tips and tricks for writing to celebrities applies just as equally to anyone you know. If you need to know, follow these hyperlinked words.
How to Muddle Through the Middle
I discovered from writing that celebrity fan mail article that we are finally in the Age where people have forgotten how to write a letter. Like, at all. What do they even teach in schools these days, I ask you. Okay well, you start the letter by saying “Dear [person’s name],” and then you start talking in written words. You can change it up, once you get a little more advanced, by saying “Hello [person’s name],” or any number of things, depending on how well you know them. The first image in this article shows super high level letter opening ability. I don’t recommend moves like that to a novice. Just stick with “Dear [person]” or “To Who It May Concern,” or even “Dear Sir or Madam.”
Try to remember how to write in paragraph form. Letters are more or less casual articles that are written by hand and only one person sees. Your audience is only one person (until the future biographers show up), but you should still strive to be entertaining and intelligible. Generally, my paragraphs begin with an introduction to the new topic or point, then I have a few “supporting statements,” and then a conclusion such as “which leads me to my next point” or something.
Practice makes perfect! When I was a teenaged child in the 1990s, I somehow became involved with the strange world of pen pals. You would send your name and address out there into the ether by some method, fill out these things called “friendship books” and “slam books” I think, where you would list your interests and such and people would just magically begin writing and stalking you. What a time to survive! But it was these years of having like fifty pen pals that enabled me to become the expert you see before you today. I’d write like thirty page letters. No wonder I can cough up two thousand word articles without even pausing to think! This quality content represents millions of hand-written words that were probably about nothing worth reading.
At the end of your letter, say goodbye and sign your name. Unlike the start of the letter, which is solemn and important, the ending can be much more casual. After all, by this time, you will have shared several hundred or thousands of words together, no matter how much you knew each other before. Tell them you love them. Leave a lipstick kiss. Put down teardrops and put arrows to them explaining that they are from your emotional eyes. Just remind them to write back soon. I don’t care what you say!
End It All
After you have written everything you wanted to let the other person know, you have to find this little pocket of paper known as an envelope and fold up your letter, or if you’re like me, just insert the greeting card. On the front of this envelope, you write the recipient’s address, usually in this form:
Friendo Q. McGillicuddy
Number of House on Street Name
If you are writing to a friend outside of the United States, from within the United States, you must take it upon yourself to research how that other nation prefers to lay out its addresses. It is a slightly more advanced endeavor, but ultimately worth the cost due to the chance of an exciting cultural exchange and, assuming that they will write you back, the chance to be thrilled by foreign postage stamps. Oo la la!
The back of the envelope is meant to be a canvas for drawing, writing more, writing to the postal workers, or putting stickers everywhere, the more the better. I suppose you shouldn’t do that on the front so that the mail carriers don’t get in a snit and claim that they “couldn’t see the address.” I KNOW YOU COULD READ IT, YOU JERKS.
According to advertisements I hear repeatedly on my free copy of Spotify, the price of postage is constantly going up. A hundred years ago you could write three letters a day and only spend three cents. Now, those three letters will cost you the same as one good burrito meal. I can see why this hobby has fallen on hard times, but people also drop tons more money on stupider hobbies all the time! Not wanting to spend cents should not be your excuse.
So get to writing, you hopefuls! Maybe even write to us! I suppose we should get around to buying a Post Office Box so that we aren’t hacked to pieces by anyone we wouldn’t want to be hacked to pieces by. Right? Watch this space (or our Look At Us page) for that inevitable update.
Cordially, Your One True Pal,