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Taking Pen to Paper

“My mom gave this to my dad when he we went to war, and he treasured it as I do now. I shared it at his eulogy, and I look at it at least once a week and when I miss my mom and dad.” ~Debbie McCarthy
Taking Pen to Paper
The Power of Handwritten Notes
"…Nothing holds as much personality, or as much of a person's essence, as their handwriting.” ~Carmen Thomas

In our digital age, it can be difficult to remember to slow down and write handwritten notes or letters, let alone mail them. Do people even still have stamps lying around anymore?

While texting and emailing is easier, neither has quite the same effect. And because they happen so rarely, they’re even more valuable. There’s also the benefit of being edit-free, as being unable to edit does tend to reflect the more genuine and authentic you.

Here are just a few reasons to consider investing in cards, a pen and stamps.

The ‘Why’ of Handwritten Notes

They make the giver and receiver feel good: This is one of those true win-wins. You feel good for having done it, and the receiver feels good for having received it. While an email or texted “thank you” is always appreciated, they can be quickly lost in the sea of digital input. The investment of paper, stamps and time makes an impact on the receiver. And it can be saved, sometimes forever.

  • “My dad, who is in his 70s, told me that he likes notes and cards because he knows I took time out of my busy life to thoughtfully spend just that on him,” Wendy Baroli says. “He’s correct.”
  • Lora Enget tells the story of the time she and her associate had everyone on their team write a nice sentence to their teammates. “I still have all mine, and I break them out and read them to my daughter when she’s being mean so she can see how amazing I am,” she jokes.
  • Reno City Councilman Devon Reese shares, “My Dad wrote me often in college (when there wasn’t email and phone calls were expensive). I needed those letters. I write four to five a day.”
  • “We write post-it notes once a year as a class for a boost,” shares high school teacher Toni Valentine. “I keep EVERY SINGLE ONE in a file titled ‘in case you are having a bad day’ to remind me I have made a difference.”
  • Dave Archer shares, “In the mid-80s I received a handwritten thank you note from a coworker – my first – and I still remember all the details 35 years later.”

Read: Creating an Attitude of Gratitude

They set an example: Writing notes also helps you set an example for the next generation, many of whom don’t know a world without instant messaging.

  • "My grandmother, up until the day she died, wrote handwritten notes to all of us," shares Erin Fuss. "As a kid, it was a way for my mother to get us to practice penmanship, letter writing and thank yous."
  • “My sister writes little notes and puts them in her son’s lunch,” says Elizabeth Hogue. “Sometimes they are just ‘have a great day,’ ‘you’re amazing,’ and sometimes they are little jokes she knows he will enjoy. It was especially important to him when she was working a ton of hours earlier this year, when she wasn’t able to spend the time with him she wished she could.”
  • “My kids joke about Daddy and his cards for everything,” Sean Cary says. “I love giving them.”
  • “I usually put a handwritten note in my daughter’s lunchbox,” shares Ted Ducker.

They can help you get the job!

The key here is to send a thank you note at all. If the position is being filled quickly, you’ll want to use email, but has a solution to this as well: “A handwritten thank you left immediately after the interview can differentiate one candidate from the others,” says Al Smith, author of HIRED! Paths to Employment in the Social Media Era. “If the interview is at an office, sit in the waiting room to complete an already-started thank you note — some of the content can be written in advance — personalize it then ask the receptionist to hand it to the interviewer.” Additionally, if you’ve already sent an email, you might follow up with a handwritten note to underscore your interest in the position. This can help you differentiate yourself from other candidates.

This has also been demonstrated anecdotally with these stories from our friends on Facebook:

  • “I had a boss who taught me the value of handwritten thank you notes after job interviews,” says Brianna Soloski. “I firmly believe that those notes have helped me rise above other candidates in certain opportunities.”
  • “I got my first internship because I sent a handwritten note,” shares Beverly Ingle.
  • Julie Malkin-Manning agrees. “I left interview #1 and put a thank you note in the mail within an hour,” she says. “Two days later I was called in for interview #2 and on the way in, the hiring staff was shown my thank you note, and it sealed the deal. I was the last candidate to interview over a few weeks, and not one other candidate had sent a thank you note! Of course, I was qualified — but many others probably were, too.”
  • Local high school teacher Craig Musni shares, “I always tell my students to write a handwritten thank you note after a job interview. If they don’t get hired, I promise to pay them $5. I have yet to pay out.”

They improve your handwriting: As with anything, the more you do it, the better you get at it. If all of your writing is done on a keyboard, your handwriting will almost certainly suffer for it.

They create mementos: Chances are good you still have letters or handwritten recipes from someone you love or used to love. These are much easier to hold onto than a text message or Facebook post. And being able to see your loved one’s handwriting will bring the memories flooding back, even if you can’t read what they wrote.

You can also turn your loved one’s handwriting into everything from a necklace to a pillow, making it even easier to remember them.

  • “A handwritten note is from the heart and can be cherished forever,” shares Renoite Debbie McCarthy.
  • “When my grandmother passed away, I was in college, and we were going through her house. We found that she had handwritten cards for each of us for all the following holidays that year,” Amy Riley says. “She included recipes, comics she had cut out of the newspaper, prayers and more. It is like I have her back, and I can still hear her laugh when I read through her letters. It was her last, and most precious gift to me, my siblings and cousins.”
  • Kathy Houts also values a note she received from her grandmother. “I was a young woman when she gave it to me,” she says. “I am very glad I have kept it all these years. It always gives me hope.”
  • “I am so sentimental that I keep almost anything with someone's handwriting,” Carmen Thomas says. “I feel like there is a rare object that belongs to someone, and nothing holds as much personality, or as much of a person's essence, as their handwriting.”
  • “I have a keepsake box that has all the favorite cards I've received over the years...from boyfriends, girlfriends, relatives, neighbors,” Christel Hall shares. “These are usually the ones with the personal handwritten notes that have provided cherished words and support, cheer, sage advice, etc. Don't underestimate the power of sharing.”
  • “My grandmother has been gone since I was 12,” shares Shannon Ward. “I cherish the handwritten recipes she left me.”
  • “I think the feelings I get when I see one from somebody who isn’t with us anymore really explains it,” says Amanda Richards. “For example, a card from my mom who passed in January or my grandma who passed many years ago, both give me great floods of memories that are wonderful to recall.”

Handwritten Cards Made Easy

When you look at all the value of a handwritten note and that the cost is relatively inexpensive, why wouldn’t you do it? Here are some tips to make the process even more turn-key.

  • Be prepared: You can find notecards almost everywhere you shop, and they’re often marked down. Buy them when you see them. And keep them in an accessible location.
    • “I keep three boxes of various types of cards in my house as I love to send them — almost more than I receive them,” shares Malkin-Manning.
    • “I keep a box of notecards in my office for anyone who needs one,” says Jane Holman. “It’s the  single most important communications tool on the planet.”
    • “I love finding unusual, perfect-for-someone cards and writing a note about what they add to the world,” says Debbi Engebritson. “I've done it for many years, and last Christmas someone I had written a note to gave me a beautiful set of note cards. The gift was very meaningful to me, especially because she told me she knew I would use them to empower others, as my note to her had touched her.”
  • Be timely. You’ll want to write your notes while the emotions are still fresh. It’s much easier to write something when you remember what they gave you and how it made you feel. But it’s never too late. If you feel like you owe someone thanks, give it them.
    • I love to write notes for ‘just because,’ ‘congratulations,’  ‘thank you,’ or to acknowledge something special that someone has done for WACCS or me personally,” says Pam Russell, the executive director of Women & Children’s Center of the Sierra. “I also make my own cards as I have time, which I hope makes the note more meaningful for the recipient.”
  • Be specific. Whether you’re writing to thank someone or to offer well wishes, be specific. While any thank you note will be appreciated, if you’re thanking someone for a gift you’ve received, it will feel much more authentic if you mention the gift and how it fits in with your plans.
  • Be yourself. While Emily Post might disagree, there’s no need to use engraved stationary and write in calligraphy. Write how you talk. And even if your handwriting is illegible, they’ll still appreciate the sentiment.
    • “My husband writes cards and notes,” says Liz McFarland. “Some are tucked away when I leave town for work. Some say something about our dogs and gas. Some are in shadow boxes.” 

Handwritten notes are appreciated all the time. They can be left on the mirror for your spouse or put in your child’s lunchbox, or perhaps you can leave one to let your mail carrier or cleaning lady know how much you appreciate them. One warning though: Once you start writing notes, you may very well become addicted to the joy they bring you!

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