Dear PenPal: Lessons in Letter Writing

~A Mailbox always welcomes a Letter~
~A Mailbox always welcomes a Letter~

The first penpal I ever had was a colossal disappointment. I don’t know how old I was when I first desired a ‘penpal’ but I know I was a youngster. Since my Mother had forbidden me from writing the State Inmates who advertised in the classified ads, I was desperate to write someone…anyone…So when my teacher announced to the class that we were getting penpals from another school I was certain my dreams had come true.

I labored over my letter to my new best (never met) friend certain we were destined for a lifetime of correspondence. I used my best penmanship and put my heart and soul into each sentence. The assignment called for half of one lined school page of paper. I wrote…pages…I took the opportunity seriously and dove into it with the gusto of a kid who had just been handed her dream. I had no doubts that my new penpal would be ecstatic that she had hit the penpal jackpot when she got my letter. And then I waited.

My return letter was 1/2 of one page of school lined paper. Exactly the assignment. And it was an awful, boring letter with horrible penmenship as well. I was crushed, bitterly disappointed and crestfallen. A bittersweet lesson in writing another person who has no interest in writing letters themselves. Now, I didn’t give up, I simply waited.

Thankfully, I’ve had some rewarding, incredible Patrons of the Pen (penpal) experiences since that letter writing low spot. I’ve learned it’s far more effective when wishing for a penpal, to write someone who desires the same thing. Everyone writes for their own reasons and because I’ve written so many different sorts of people over the years I made several observations which I’ll share over time on Patrons.

But for today, some people never want to write letters, but absolutely adore getting something in the mail from me. I’m good with that and understand my purpose when writing them. In those cases, I send unexpected smiles in the mail. I never expect reciprocation and just enjoy the act of sending letters to them, obligation and string free. Currently I have a long list of people who fit into this category and I enjoy it, very much.

And lastly, finding someone who you can thread a true ‘relationship’ via written letters takes effort and a love of writing from the heart. It’s a mutual relationship that is not built on rules, expectations, obligations or neediness. My most successful and beautiful penpal relationship has never burdened itself with such implied guidelines.


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