Once again, it is time to throw out my annual letter-writing challenge! I am sharing the challenge a week early this year, as I am hoping that it will give people time to prepare. I am also hoping that I can convince more people to join the challenge this year so that we can bring some extra joy to what is looking to be another crazy and stressful year.
Regular readers will know that I have long been a letter-writer, and that in recent years I have participated in the annual “Month of Letters” challenge throughout February (in addition to a few self-proclaimed writing months). Readers are probably also aware that I try to recruit more letter-writers each year – and this year is no exception!
Indeed, I believe that it is even more important for us to reach out in analogue form this year, given the ongoing trauma that so many people have been dealing with since early 2020. Between the loss of in-person interactions, the overwhelming nature of social media (especially right now), and the pain and suffering people are experiencing related to a deadly global pandemic, a hand-written letter might be just the piece of tangible joy that someone needs in their life! And, of course, for people sending letters from America, it is also a fantastic way to support the United States Postal Service, which is a nice bonus.
The “official” challenge is to write a letter for every day the postal service delivers mail in February. That works out to 23 letters in America, as there is no post on Sundays or Presidents’ Day, and 24 letters in the UK.
However, my challenge to you is a bit more manageable:
Challenge: Write one letter per week in February (4 letters)
You do not have to write long, multi-page missives. In fact, you don’t even have to write a “full” letter. No, this challenge isn’t about word-counts, it’s about sending a bit of friendship and love through the post.
Examples of things you could send include:
- A traditional letter
- A postcard
- A note/greeting card
- A newspaper clipping or a recipe
- An inspirational quote
- An “old-fashioned” printed photograph
Any of these things, sent in the post as a piece of personal correspondence, can brighten someone’s day and serve as a reminder that they matter to someone, somewhere.
Who do you write to? Well, anyone!! For example, you could send:
- A thank you letter to someone from your past (for example, a former teacher or coach for encouraging or inspiring you or to your best friend’s mum for feeding you)
- A random memory to a friend or a sibling about something silly you once did together (throw in a photo or two for extra joy)
- An old family story or memory to your child or another young family member – or even a special family recipe
- A letter of encouragement to someone who is struggling – or congratulations to someone who has done something great (no matter how seemingly small the accomplishment)
- A love letter to your partner – or to the person you have a crush on (send it anonymously, if needed)
- A letter asking or granting forgiveness to someone (again, anonymously if needed)
- A Valentine’s card to a family member in a care home or an elderly neighbour who lives alone
- A note filled with inspiration or gratitude to teachers and tutors (including parents who have become home-schooling teachers/tutors)
The possibilities are endless, but the process is basic: Pen to paper! Although you could type something out and print it for mailing if that’s better for you.
Top tip: If you want to make your letter a surprise, but don’t know your intended recipient’s mailing address, reach out to someone you both know to ask for an address. This way they’re not “expecting” something.
Note: It might also be tempting to send cards/letters to front-line workers or COVID patients, but please note that (1) medical facilities might be too burdened to manage non-essential mail and (2) mail to a non-specific person (Dear Nurse; Dear Patient) might not be delivered. If this is something you want to do, check to see how/if it’s best done.
But what about stationery? Most people don’t have a wide selection of “pretty paper” on hand, but a little bit of creativity can help! For example, you could use:
- Colouring book pages (colour on one side, write on the other)
- The reverse of decorative wrapping paper
- The reverse of a child’s drawing
- The reverse of a “quote/word a day” calendar page
- Any paper items from your recycling bin that has blank space for writing
- Old greeting/note cards that are torn in half keeping the front cover and writing on the reverse (these work well as postcards, too)
- Cereal boxes (or similar) cut into postcards
- Fabric swatches/scraps
Ultimately, it’s all about taking the time to connect with others outside of the digital world, whilst rediscovering the pleasure of a good old-fashioned, hand-written letter. By accepting the challenge, you are giving someone the joy of getting real, hand-written, personal letters in the post. And let’s face it, that’s such an awesome feeling!
I will share my personal writing plans next week. In the meantime, please feel free to add your ideas and inspirations for what to write, who to write it to, and what to write it on in the comments below.