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Jane’s Journal

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The joy of snail mail and how to send more letters

making postcards

I love (love . . . LOVE) receiving letters through the post.

When I see a properly addressed envelope there, lying there amongst the fliers for food deliveries and private hospitals, my heart flips. A day with proper post is a good day.

And yet . . . while I love receiving letters I have become very lax in sending them. I decided to change that.

I always meant to send more proper letters, but I rarely got around to it. At certain times in my life I have been an avid sender of snail mail, and so I began with thinking about what was different then and how I can re-engineer regular letter writing back into my life.

Usually, when there is something that I would like to do but somehow am not getting around to, it is because of micro-frictions. things that are turning a simple pleasure into a multi part chore.

When I lived in Glasgow, and walked to work past a post box and somewhere to buy stamps, I was a great letter writer.

The frictions I identified with the letter writing were
  • Having a supply of cards. Cards small enough for a letter to be written quickly.
  • Having a working pen - the amount of times I cannot find a working pen easily is quite ridiculous. I found one that worked and put it in a box with the cards.
  • Knowing what to write. That half knowing people's lives can make it difficult to know what to write - as though it should be something momentous to justify the paper. I decided that I would simply mention something that I had enjoyed related to the recipient - whether it was harking back to a physical meeting, or something they had done or shared. It is simply being in people's thoughts that so often brings a smile.
  • Not knowing an address - in this time where most communication is virtual I have many close friends whose physical addresses I simply don't know. I am gradually making a point of asking and writing them into my phone contacts.
  • Not having stamps - I bought a pack of stamps and stuck them to the envelopes.
  • Posting the letter - To my shame I often do write a letter and then carry it around for months without remembering to actually post it. I worked out which post boxes are near regular dog walks.

All this may sound ridiculous - for how difficult can it be to actually scribble down a few lines to a friend - but so many times I find that something I really want to do, but somehow never get around to, is simply solved by ten minutes of working out the friction and then getting rid of it.

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Alison Johnston

Working out the friction is very good advice rather than getting in a fix and letting things slide! Thanks Alison