A Bringer of New Things

Musings on personal growth, books, motherhood, writing, and more.

Reviving Letter Writing


I love writing letters. And receiving them! I miss the old days of “snail-mail” letter writing.

When I was a teenager, I always had pen pals; at one point, I had five at once. One of them was a girl in my class at school—even though we saw each other every day, being pen pals gave a different, richer dimension to our friendship.

In junior high letter writing was largely about the fun of stationery, stickers, and getting mail; in high school, writing letters became a way for me to express my increasingly complex thoughts and emotions to likeminded friends. But in college I stopped writing letters because I was busy and email was just easier, and since then, email and social media have reigned.

But now I want to bring letter writing back into my life.

I think of letter writing as a leisure. It’s a purposeful turning away from the rush of modern life. It allows me to pause, reflect, and write deliberately, my thoughts tuned in to the specific person I’m writing.

Writing by hand also brings its own benefits of forcing my mind to slow down. It also, particularly in writing letters, encourages me to accept the wording of what I’ve written and go on, rather than go back and change it an unlimited amount of times, as I do with email.

So I’m on the hunt for new snail-mail pen pals. Anyone interested?


14 comments on “Reviving Letter Writing

  1. Witness
    May 5, 2014

    I know lots of people who love getting letters, but hardly any who are willing to write them!

    If all you want is to know someone’s reading yours, I’m sure you’ll have takers. If you want someone motivated enough to write back, there are websites to connect you with people likely to jump at the chance, like prisoners and soldiers.

    Good luck!


    • Sarrah J. Woods
      May 5, 2014

      Thanks for your comment, Witness. One-way writing isn’t what I had in mind, but it’s something to consider.


  2. Ginene Nagel
    May 5, 2014

    I have an idea that you might want to think about. All across the country, there are thousands and thousands of people in nursing homes who have no visitors because everyone in their life is gone, but they are still vibrant, intelligent individuals who would love to get letters and answer them. I did this once and I met a woman who was 95 and had never been married so she had no family. She came from a wealthy family in Chicago and she actually worked with Jane Addams at the famous Hull House. This woman enriched my life is so many ways, though there was a 60 year difference, at the time, between our ages. When she died, I read her obituary in the paper and it said, “She dedicated her life to helping the poor.” I didn’t even know that she was so wealthy that she did was charity work throughout her entire life. She was certainly a mentor to me.
    I think that a call to a few nursing homes would connect you quickly with someone interesting who has all the wonderful attributes of a well-seasoned letter-writer. I am not sure that writing soldiers or prisoners would be a good match for you. And your husband would probably not like it!


    • Sarrah J. Woods
      May 6, 2014

      Ginene, thank you for saying this. I have actually thought about doing that, but I hadn’t taken any steps towards it. Maybe this is the push I need.

      I love visiting nursing homes (I did it for years with my church groups) and talking with any senior citizens; I admire how much life experience they have. Sometimes I’ve thought that I fit in better with them than with people of my own generation!–back in my church days, I went through a phase where my closest friends at church were a group of women in their 70s and 80s. I loved that.

      Also, I don’t have any grandparents left, and I miss my closest grandma a lot.

      I tried visiting nursing homes alone once in the recent past, but I found it difficult; everyone (not the staff) kept asking me why I was there, was I with a group, etc. They wouldn’t believe I just wanted to be there!

      So, letter writing with some nursing home residents is a perfect idea for me. Thanks for giving me this extra nudge!


      • Ginene Nagel
        May 6, 2014

        I remember it was initially hard for me to go in but the nurses gave me a list of people they thought would make a good match. I always felt the same way as you, that I had a good repertoire with the women. And, you are so right on about people asking why you are there, in fact, I remember once on a trip to see my special friend, I was sitting in the waiting room and a policeman came up to me and asked me how long I’d been living there! He thought he was funny. I suppose that the folks are very curious about everyone who comes in.


        • Sarrah J. Woods
          May 7, 2014

          Haha! I like the policeman’s joke. Yes, I think it’s completely natural and understandable for the residents to be curious about their visitors; after all, it is their home. I just found it difficult to explain why I was there by myself just to visit with them. I think it’s much easier to either go with an established group, or even better, to visit a particular person you already have a relationship with.


  3. Meghan McKindley
    May 6, 2014

    I love to send and receive snail mail. I currently correspond with my great aunt, who is in her late 80s and housebound. It is a wonderful idea to write with some nursing home residents. Some of them never hear from anyone and it would really make their day to send and receive letters.


    • Sarrah J. Woods
      May 6, 2014

      Thanks for your comment, Meghan. That’s neat that you correspond with your great aunt! I definitely agree with you (and Ginene) about the idea of writing to nursing home residents.


  4. whatmeread
    May 8, 2014

    I am up for this. I have continued to write to my elderly relatives, but I have no one else I exchange letters with. I even looked at a couple of sites for adult snail mail pals, but I was worried that I might be getting into something else. If you want to exchange letters let me know how you want to get in touch.


    • Sarrah J. Woods
      May 8, 2014

      Oh my gosh, you have just made my day. Maybe my week. To have another literature lover as a penpal would be a dream come true!! If nothing else, we can talk about books. 🙂

      I love your blog, by the way. But I’m so jealous of all the reading you do! That’s really awesome.

      And yeah, that sounds like a good call on the web services, haha.

      As for getting in touch, you can email me, and I’ll write back and give you my mailing address, and we can go from there. Here’s my email address (written out so “spam bots” can’t fly by and grab it): annake AT suddenlink DOT net

      Thanks! I’m so excited!!


  5. Jen Allan
    May 9, 2014

    I adore penpalling, I have absolutely thousands of letters from all across the world.

    Have you ever tried postcrossing?


  6. Susanna
    July 11, 2015

    I just stumbled across this and my mom lives for the good ole US Mail every day. She would absolutely love to get a letter from you and would happily write back pretty much immediately. If you’re interested, please feel free to email me.


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This entry was posted on May 5, 2014 by in Discoveries from Living and tagged , , , , , , , .
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