When was the last time that you wrote a meaningful handwritten letter to your spouse, parents, siblings or friends? Do you remember the last time you received a handwritten letter from someone significant in your life? The odds are, you’re much more likely to remember the answer to the latter of those two questions because it felt like a special occasion. Ever since the mid-1990s when “you’ve got mail” became a familiar tagline, handwritten letters have fallen by the waste side - being replaced with emails, texts, and tweets. For so many reasons, putting down the phone and picking up the pen can be substantially more impactful.
I spent some time last week making a few DIY journals, and it made me think a bit about why I always have a stack of them filling my shelf. After looking through a few in the pile, I decided yes, they're definitely worth the effort. Here are a few reasons why.
“… my landlady, by the way, doesn’t like the Germans because when some playful Nazi pilots lived in her house some months ago, they threw a hand grenade into her chicken coop, and they had to eat the winter’s supply of chickens all at once.”
This is one of my favorite lines from our family's treasure: my grandfather’s back-and-forth correspondence letters during World War II. Frank T. Waters was an editor of the military newspaper, Stars and Stripes. At several instances during the war, he sent correspondence back home to his mother, family, and friends sharing daily life overseas and fighting the biggest war of the 20th century.
Going through these letters is a truly amazing glimpse of a soldier's life during war-time Europe in the 40s. I counted 207 letters, official correspondence, orders, postcards, etc, so far. Reading these, I discover my grandfather was smart, curious, and pretty funny. Here are some of my favorite bits:
If you’ve attended elementary school in the last 30 years, you’ve heard of haiku: three-line poems with a 5-7-5 syllable pattern, usually about nature, often cutesy. I’m happy to report that despite some grains of truth, you’re wrong. Haiku is a lean, muscular form of thinking, and the discipline of writing haiku is a rich addition to a full life.
I don't remember when it happened, but one day I decided to write. I took a simple journal and filled it up with my thoughts, dreams and goals. A basic notepad was nice, but after a while something like that became so personal it was only natural to upgrade such a personal item.
Oh my, the art of writing. Handwritten notes are always the classiest way to correspond, but here are a few people that take it up a notch with some of the most amazing hand drawn type you'll ever see.
Let your big goals be long ones.
Don't think: "I want to write a book."
Instead think: "I am going to work on a book this year, and next year, and the year after that."
It's empowering to shift your timeframes this way, and I encourage you to try it. Here's why:
Long-term goals are commitments
Short term goals are small aspirations. They're about things you want, not about the person you want to become. When you let yourself to approach something over a period of years, or even decades, you make bigger choices and commitments about who you want to be.
Back when I wanted to be an astronaut (just kidding NASA take me now I'll do anything), my mom gave me a space pen that somebody had given her and it was SO cool. Besides being able to write upside down, I loved the design of the sleek little guy and the connection I felt with my gravity-defying heroes. The history of their design is quite the little story, recently featured by Cool Material.
I'm a big believer in pen and paper. I like apps just fine, but I'm a fan of having personal stationary - it makes me that much more likely to actually follow up with kind words and thanks. And a great pen is just as important.
A lot of us have nostalgia for old typewriters, regardless of how many hipsters put them on display. I have one myself and I was surprised by how much the guy in my local typewriter repair store knew about my machine and how quickly he solved my problem. This is a celebration of "a dynasty of repairmen keeping the world's typewriters from going obsolete."