Discovering the Lost Art of Letter Writing

Or perhaps the title should say Rediscovering, because it isn’t as though I’ve never written a letter before! Anyway…

You never know where clicking that “Accept Invitation” button will lead you!

A friend of mine invited me to join a Facebook group of likeminded women recently. I didn’t have to think about accepting, since I’ve been really enjoying focused groups on Facebook for quite some time. I belong to at least one group for pretty much everything I’m into, whether it’s cross stitch, writing, fountain pens, or bearded dragons.

Soon afterwards, a pen pal project arose within the group where members would be randomly assigned to another member to write to for a couple of months. I didn’t have to think at all about joining the project. An excuse to use my vintage fountain pens? Yes, please! What could go wrong?

Well, maybe not wrong, but it’s certainly given me yet another hobby. I’d forgotten just how much I love writing letters. Even more so, I love getting them! I couldn’t settle for just one pen pal, and so I joined yet another Facebook group which focuses specifically on that. The next thing I knew, I was buying digital stationery to print out on my favorite high-quality paper. That led to envelope templates that I could trace onto scrapbook paper, and these envelopes are way cuter than what’s available in the office supply store. Then came stickers, stamps, and so many glorious rolls of washi tape!

While I really do love using the materials, I have to say it’s also wonderful to find a way to connect with people offline. Especially in a time when we’re all stuck at home more than usual, it’s refreshing to take a short trip downtown to check the post office box, and even more so to sit down with a pen and paper to reply.

So much of our lives happens on a screen, whether it’s a phone, a computer, or a television. There’s no doubt that the digital world has truly come into its own during the pandemic. Zoom meetings, remote learning, online grocery orders. It’s all really fantastic in so many ways. That online world has brought me offline, where I’d much rather be.

It’s also been interesting to find out how many people have never sent a letter in their life, who post in the group questions about how to address an envelope, how to buy a stamp, or even how to use a mailbox. I’ve even met a few who can’t read cursive. I’m not criticizing these people, especially because I know some of them are younger than I am and probably grew up writing emails to Grandma instead of letters. I just think it’s interesting that it’s already something that’s so old-fashioned as to become a novelty.

Have you had a pen pal, or do you now? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.


Close up hot cappuccino white coffee cup with heart shape latte art on dark brown old wood table at cafe,food and drink concept.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.



Filed under Fountain Pens and Ink, On Writing

19 responses to “Discovering the Lost Art of Letter Writing

  1. At one time I had more than twenty pen pals from around the world. My last letter was to an aunt who, due to her age, no longer writes. I tended to keep letters, but emails are deleted as soon as I’ve read them so there’ll be no more nuggets of a forgotten past.

  2. Dear Ashley,
    I practice a lot of cursive writing, my diary, my reading and my work journal and for my first ten books I wrote the first version by hand, later I wrote ideas for articles, scripts and books by hand as well. I have my favourite Mont Blanc fountain pen and love to write with brown ink. Sometimes I write letters by hand as well but I have to admit not that often anymore. Nevertheless, I see it as a special honour to get handwritten letters.
    I have the feeling I think more ‘nicely’ when I am writing by hand and writing beautifully by hand, actually like John Irving and many other authors I know. For Christmas and birthdays, I still write letters by hand.
    Thanks for sharing
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • I agree! There’s just some little something added to the writing when it’s handwritten! Montblanc is one pen brand I haven’t tried yet, but I’ve heard wonderful things!

  3. Louise Brady, Author

    I had a Portuguese penpal when I was a teenager. We met on the internet but decided it’d be cool to send letters to each other too so we could exchange anime sketches 😀 It was great fun, but I have no idea where she is now as we lost touch.

  4. Wonderful post! I still write letters (keep the old hand-eye co-ordination in trim) and my family still makes personal greeting cards for extended family and friends.

    I was a member of the long-running international postcard exchange website Postcrossing, sending and receiving fabulous postcards 🙂

    • I have friends who regularly send illustrated, hand written newsletters by mail. You’ve inspired me to respond on paper, not just by email.

    • Thank you! It’s so nice to see that there are other folks out there who are continuing the ‘old’ ways! I do love all the wonderful things computers can do for us, but there’s nothing better than a handwritten note!

      • Thank You. There is much to be said for the person who takes the time to write a letter and find a stamp.

        My utility bills are always urging me to save a stamp and pay on line. Why not buy a stamp and save a postman (post person).

      • I do love paying my bills online, I admit, but I also think it’s very important that we keep the postal service up and running. People complain about the cost of postage, but considering how far a letter can go for a few cents, it’s really not that bad!

  5. When I was a child I wrote a few letters, but it was quickly being replaced with texts, emails and video calls. By the time I started college everyone went digital.

    Though I didn’t spend much time writing letters it was fun, it taught me patience and I had to be more thoughtful with my words because it was not instant like email.

  6. I write paper letters to my kids and post them USPS. I also use a 60-year-old manual typewriter, an Olympia SM9. About twice each week I type my thoughts, add any illustrations I’m capable of producing, take a photo of it and email it to One Typed Page.

    I’ve kept a running cursive journal for 40 years. As a fiction writer, I often use my journal to find my way out of a corner.

    • That’s fantastic! An old typewriter is on my ‘someday’ list, but I haven’t pulled the trigger just yet. I need to do more journaling, but I also find that it’s incredibly helpful to work out a stubborn plot or character on real paper instead of the computer!

  7. We are not on FB, so I had no idea such groups existed. I am so glad you were introduced to them, because you like them so. I am surprised, as you, that some people have never written a letter, do not know how to address an envelope, where to buy stamps, or know how to read cursive! So, it’s pretty neat those younger ones want to participate. Times are changing so quickly, I don’t think I like it.

  8. Hey Ashley this reminds of the The Goodwill Tribe. They accept requests for letters to be written to a certain person and then strangers from all around the world write letters to them. During 2020 when Covid started it was the first time they went digital they accepted requests for anyone who was going through a hard time during the pandemic and many of the recipients actually wrote back. They were scanned copies of handwritten letters and still they were beautiful. They’ve again started the initiative this year only this time the dedication and requests are for frontline workers and the response staff during the pandemic. It’s an amazing initiative and I just wrote a post about it. It looked like something you’d be interested in so I had to mention, do check it out. You’ve got a lovely blog, best if luck to you and I’m looking forward to reading more.

  9. When I was a teen, living in a farmhouse five miles out of town, that is how you made and maintained friendships; letter writing. You’d meet someone one or two towns over either while working in corn fields or attending a church function or it would be a little sister of your brothers new girlfriend, whatever, and you’d keep up the friendship with letters. I had a suitcase full. Funny, I had so many intense juvenile friendships and 35 years later I could not remember some of them, yet we told each other our deepest teen secrets. Huh. I threw so many away in my first downsizing. I took photos first.

    • I can honestly say I don’t remember most of what I wrote to my friends as a kid, either, but I’m sure it was at least more memorable than just texts and memes like these days! 😀

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