How to be a Pen Pal: Letter Writing Tips + Inspiration
Here at Root & Branch, we are all about snail mail. Writing letters is one of the best ways to sustain a long-distance friendship, get to know someone better, or send encouragements with a quick handwritten sentiment. In this blog post I've put together tips, inspiration to help you up your letter-writing game. I've also compiled an extensive list of 100 Letter Writing Prompts, which you can download fo' FREE at the end of this blog post!
In honor of National Letter Writing Month, I've teamed up with my friend Dorien Scheltens to give you some tips and inspiration on how to be a better pen pal. Dorien is an incredible photographer (you're gonna want to see her portfolio) as well as an all-around artist, creative soul, and truly the most incredible mail-sender I know.
Before I met Dorien in person, we had a ton of mutual friends and we actually spent a few months writing back and forth. I have been privileged to be on the receiving end of a few of her packages, and they are beautiful, thoughtful, and heartwarming. Honestly when I thought of creating some tips about being a penpal, Dorien is the first person who came to mind.
I'm super thrilled that she was willing to answer some questions for me and provide you guys with inspiration and tips on how to send lovely things in the mail that are guaranteed to make your faraway friends, family members and penpals feel the love.
Let's dive right in!
Jessie: Tell us a bit about why YOU love mail and what sending mail means to you.
Dorien: Offline mail has a timeless notion to it, but at the same time it’s a tangible slice of what life is like in that very moment. Writing letters is a beautiful tool to pause life, put into words how you are doing and engage others in it.
I love the slow process of putting together a package and the moment where it all comes together and it’s ready to be sent off.
What kinds of things do you usually send in the mail? What are your go-to's?
I’ve developed this antenna for goods that fit in an envelope as that saves a ton of stamps!
Lately it’s been [photo] books, but usually I send chocolate and coffee/tea, paper goods of all kinds - posters, photos, postcards that somehow remind me of the person I’m sending mail to. Let me think what else... Leaves, haha. You know! Magazines too, sometimes knitted goods. Notebooks! Always a fave.
What are some of your favorite things you've ever gotten in the mail?
I always love getting notebooks, I’m fairly sure I’ll be mid-thirties when I’ve finally filled all of the empty ones I’ve gotten over the years, haha. Handwritten scraps of paper for sure! Or just paper scraps in general.
And finally, what advice would you give someone looking to be a better penpal?
What helped me is that on my desk I have a few piles of things I need to send, one pile per person, haha. And then there’s the general box for random scraps that’s handy to have too! Honestly now it sounds like I’m a full time post office which I’m definitely not! Sometimes I go months without putting together packages for people. #adulting
Another tip would be to not fret too much about the timing of your packages. Sometimes I get the best ideas for a present on someone’s birthday and then it can take weeks before I actually send something, so my mail is always an after party!
Writing letters is good for you + a powerful encouragement for others, and even though you think you talk to someone nearly every day and they know what you’ve been up to, there’s always words left to be written 💌
Such lovely words. Thanks Dorien!!
I love the way that Dorien uses snail mail to send little snippets of life and encouragement to friends all over the world.
My hope is that this post will encourage YOU, friends + readers, to send a letter this month, and think about ways you can use your creative tendencies to brighten up someone's day by filling their mailbox with something other than bills and junk mail!
As promised, I've got a PDF download for you guys with 100 Letter Writing Prompts. That is a LOT of ideas that are sure to get your creative juices flowing, and get you on track to becoming the greatest pen pal on earth! Download your free PDf here, just enter your email address and subscribe to our (super awesome and non-spammy) newsletter for access.
Who do you plan to send mail to this month?
Let me know in the comments!
For more inspiration regarding letter-writing, photography, and all-around creativity, follow Dorien on instagram or visit her website. She also photographs weddings, including mine! Dorien lives in Holland and is pursuing her masters degree in photography.