Saturday, April 1, 2017

A Short Guide to Pen Paling

Pen Paling can be a very rewarding, calming and educational hobby. It can also bring you closer to friends and loved ones. There is something special about a hand written letter. I feel closer to the people I hand write letters to opposed to just communicate through texts or emails. There is something more intimate about the art of hand writing letters and mailing them the old fashioned way with a stamp!

Because of my experiences pen paling, I have both a collection of cards sent to me and a collection of blank cards ready to be filled up by me and sent out.

Here are some beautiful cards I have received over the years. This is just the tip of the iceberg of my collection, but these are definitely some favorites.

Here are some blank cards ready to be filled with letters:

I like going to independent card shops or stationary boutiques to find some of my cards, but here is an insiders tip: look for cards, stationary and postcards at your local thrift store. You can find some real gems!

If you want to have your own adventure with pen paling, here is a simple guide.

Step One: The first step to pen paling is deciding who your pen pal should be. A pen pal can be a friend who shares your enthusiasm for snail mail. I have had friend pen pals both across a couple of states and within my own city. It is always a thrill to receive something in the mail no matter how far the letter came. But if none of your friends are interested in the diminishing art of old fashioned letter writing, there are other ways to find pen pals! Here are a couple of internet resources:
  • League of Extroindainry Penpals: An online pen pal club where you can find your very own pen pal!
  • Postcrossing: Postcrossing doesn't give you a single pen pal that you correspond with, instead, every time you request an address, you get a different person to write to! You also never know who is going to write to you. It is a fun way to collect postcards from around the world and to connect with people you otherwise would have never encountered. Another great thing about postcrossing is if you feel you do not have the time to commit to a full time pen pal,  you can instead the noncommittal nature of postcrossing pen pals. 
  • PenPal World: When I was more active in pen paling, I found my two awesome pen pals from PenPal World. One of my pen pals was from the Netherlands and one was from Australia. I have since fell out of contact with them, but while I was writing to them, I formed friendships and learned a lot. It was always exciting to find a letter from another country waiting in my mail box. 
  • Post Pals: I have never tried this, but it is on my life 'to do' list. It is a charity that organizes people to write letters to sick children in order to bring added joy to their lives. With this, you would not be getting any responses, but you would know your letter was helping to make someone else feel special. 
As with any online way of connecting with other people, use common sense and don't give your inheritance to a potential pen pal claiming to be a prince.

Step Two: Make sure you have all the proper supplies needed for pen paling.

You will need:
  • An awesome card that you feel will the recipient will connect with. When I was deep into my pen paling hobby, I loved pursuing the card sections of any shop. Sometimes, I'd see a card that would call out a name and I would have to buy it for that person.
  • A high quality writing pen. I am very opinionated about what pen I decide to use.
  • Stamps. If you are sending your letter internationally, you'll need different postage stamps than within the states.
  • Envelope. Unless you are sending a postcard.
Step Three: Set up the right environment to write. In this world of hustle bustle, it is sometimes beneficial to set up an environment that is conducive to focusing on the world of your thoughts. Everyone has their own individual way of doing this. For me, I like to start with picking the right music. Not all music works for contemplative activities such as letter writing. One musician that I recommend is Josephine Foster:

Her music is like modern old' timey music. I love it! It really is great for setting the letter writing mood. Other musicians that set the mood for letter writing are:
  • Iron and Wine
  • The Boswell Sisters
  • Great Lake Swimmers
  • Billie Holiday
Besides music, all I usually need is a mug of tea and a dependable writing surface.

Step Four: Write! Sometimes it can be hard to start a letter, but "Hello" is always a good place to start. If you are having a difficult time figuring out what to say, here are some topics.

  • Write about something strange or interesting you encountered recently. For me, I fall back on bus stories or animal stories. I can tell about the time a man started screaming at another man on the bus, or I can tell about the time I saw a beaver crossing the road in Seattle.
  • Write about a book or movie or other piece of pop culture your experienced recently.
  • Write about something you experienced that made you happy. It is always good to spread cheer.
  • Ask them about there favorite: movie, book, tv show, band, animal, experience from childhood, place to visit, food to eat. 
  • Tell them about your favorite: movie, book, tv show, band, animal, experience from childhood, place to visit, food to eat.
  • Tell a joke.
  • Write about your passions and hobbies.
Step Five: Send your letter. Address the envelope, lick the back, stick on a stamp and drop into the mail box. 

Step Six: Eagerly await a response! However, one thing with pen paling is that you also have to be prepared to not get a response. Someone might be an avid letter writer one day, but then their life becomes more busy and chaotic, and the letters may start to dwindle. Although getting mail is always super exciting, part of the joy is the process itself.

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