The best gift I received this Christmas was a journal full of letters written just for me. Almost nothing shows you care more than taking the time to write to somebody. It's a reminder that in another time and place, someone was thinking about you. This is why I write letters. This is also why when I don't write them for long periods of time, I feel like I'm missing something.
On a related topic, the Month of Letters is about to start again. I probably sent more letters last February than I did the rest of the year combined, but mailing something each day made me happy in a way that I've found hard to replicate.
It's an illustration of the principle that it is better to give than to receive. Receiving letters is great (in my dorm, I'm known to turn from an empty mailbox with an exclamation of "Nobody loves me!"), but it results in another kind of satisfaction that isn't exactly the same as that of sending one. In writing letters, you give a part of yourself. In that letter, you, as the writer, are frozen in that time and place forever. When someone receives it, it can read it in many times and places. To quote Mary Robinette Kowal, it is "both lasting and ephemeral."
If you're interested in writing or people at all, I'd recommend sending letters. They don't have to be long. They don't have to be especially eloquent. They just have to be. Need some tips for getting started?
- Be quirky! On the back of letters to my cousin Kara, I write poems about mail. (T. S. Eliot used to address his letters with poems.) Sometimes, I write quotes. Sometimes I like to draw on envelopes. What's life without a little whimsy?
- Who needs to buy envelopes, anyway? The poor college student must save money any way possible.
- Get to know the people in your post office. I once stopped in for directions to a pumpkin farm, and the lady behind the counter offered to take me there herself if I couldn't find a ride. I've met some really neat people employed by the postal service.
- Get sappy. Valentine's Day is in February, you know. See the second sentence of this blog post.
This is not a plea for the people who know me to send me stuff so I can feel loved. Rather, it's an encouragement for everyone to spread a little love around. I'm almost certain that you (yes, you) have family and friends who aren't near you at the moment. Go ahead and send them part of yourself. The impact will last much longer than it takes to write the letter.