The Lost Art of Letter Writing

Alicia Jensen · April 22, 2020

So, we are a month into this new normal. I know that there is an end in sight, but what I can’t yet picture, is what that end is going to look like. What I can picture are the people that I want to be in that scene with me. Being home, with my husband and our three boys, has given me a lot to think about. I am grateful for our health, but I also miss the relationships that maintaining used to be as common as walking down the hall. 


This experience has also caused me to reflect on all the ways that we build, and maintain our relationships. Those strategies have shifted over time, but the premise remains that it is through connection. That connection in middle school and high school for me was built through the amazing art of writing and then folding notes to friends that were passed in class. My children may not ever learn this skill due to the ability to text a friend on cell phones, but I bet past generations would have thought the same about my intricately folded notes as well. Historically, there have been great letter writers, those individuals who brought on cries for social justice, formed nations, built long distance relationships,  and brought peace to hearts in the times of angst. I am not a Martin Luther King Jr, or Alexander Hamilton, but I have been trained by some of the best. 


I have been blessed with two amazing letter writers in my life, who passed on the importance to me. They were from two very different generations, but both naturally knew the art of connecting to others through the written word and the power of that. My Grandma lived through the Great Depression and sent me a letter a week all through college. She would check in, ask me about things I had last written to her, and fill me in on the latest in her small town on the Olympic Peninsula. Long distance calls were saved for emergencies for her, so letters were what she did. If she found a magazine article that she thought would interest someone, she would send it to them. If you made the newspaper, she would cut out a copy, and save it in a file for safe keeping, and she never forgot a birthday. My other letter writing mentor is who I passed notes to daily in school, then sent letters to in college, and still to this day. We planned sleepovers, trips to the movies, and who we were sure were the loves of our lives through intricately folded pieces of notebook paper from 1992 through 1997. Topics shifted as we got older, but her handwriting is to this day one I can pick out in a heartbeat when I check my mail. 


Why do I tell you all this? Because connection and relationship is more important now than ever. We are in a time where we are craving it, and all our normal means have been stripped from us. I must say though, there is still great joy that comes from getting some real mail! So, how do you go about writing one, if you weren’t blessed with some hands on training your whole life? Here we go! 


Step One: Pick a person, any person. There is no wrong person to choose. Once you get started it is easier. 


Step Two: Pull out a sheet of notebook paper, a cute card, a blank piece of paper, or even an index card. It doesn’t really matter, so don’t let this be a barrier for you! I have had these cute cards for quite some time, so that’s what I used.


Step Three: Start writing. If writing letters is new to you, I recommend starting with the card option so that a whole piece of paper doesn’t become overwhelming. This is one of those times to not hate your handwriting. It is what it is, and it is uniquely yours. People appreciate the calm that comes from familiarity, that that is including even just knowing that I always make my letters too big. 

So if it’s been years since someone spelled out the specifics of a “friendly letter” here is the quick and dirty version:

  • Opening your letter. Start with a hello message, ask a couple of questions: How’s your new house? What does working from home look like for you? Are the kids holding up ok? Have you watched Tiger King yet? 
  • Body of a letter. Give a bit about what is going on in your world. Answer any questions you were asked. Give a funny anecdote to your current reality. Or open up honestly about how you are doing right now. 
  • Close your letter. Propose another way to connect, tell them you miss them, why they are inspiring, or just telling them to have a great day! 


Step Four: Seal, stamp, and address your envelope. Due to concerns of virus transmission, I didn’t lick the envelope. Instead, I found a make-up blender sponge, let’s be real, I’m not doing as much make-up during all this. A wet paper towel, washcloth, or something similar would also work to moisten the envelope glue. Did you know that you can order stamps through USPS? I had a bunch of cute designs shipped to my house. All of the ones I got were the sticker type, so one less thing to lick. If you don’t keep addresses already on hand, shoot a text to your person, and find out their mailing address. 


Step Five: Drop it in the mail and spread some LOVE!


That’s it! I hope this helps and inspires you to reach out to the people in your lives! We can be better versions of ourselves at the end of this. Take the time to connect, step out of your normal comfort box, and brighten up someone else's mailbox!


Alicia Jensen

Alicia is in her fourth year as an elementary principal, and seventeenth year in education. Her passion is to make every person: student, staff or community member, who walks into their school know that they are valued and loved. She strives to find a good balance in her life, because she is also passionate that her husband and their three boys know that they are loved and valued as well. She loves to keep up on current education things through twitter @PrincipalAlicia, and if you would like to see the day to day work her school does, follow them on Facebook at Ptarmigan Ridge Elementary School.