pen and ink: an old-fashioned revolution

I sent out an email last week.
My first, to a list of people who’ve chosen to read my words and connect with this online space of mine.
It’s got a little story, and a little something I haven’t shared here, and a little list of things I’m loving, and a little list of how-to ideas in embracing slow.
It felt sweet to write, because it was going to people who’d said yes to receiving my words… different to blogging and posting out into what often feels like a silent void (hello, anybody out there?).

I called the e-newsletter pen and ink, because for quite a while now, that’s where I’ve been showing up—in pen and ink.
In words on the page.
In early mornings.
In my Moleskine journal and my (new, Mother’s Day gift – that I bought for myself and gave to my family to give back to me, isn’t that how we should do it?) fountain pen.

I sit, and the ink flows out, and sometimes it’s neat and sometimes it’s messy and I’m not just talking about my handwriting.

So when I was putting together my email I just kept thinking, I wish I could write this in ink, on paper. I wish I could connect with people behind the screen. And a little seed of an idea started to grow.

The seed began when I read a chapter in Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. She advises to just write, keep writing and don’t stop writing, and tells a story where she wrote letters and poems for people. She’d set up a spontaneous writing booth at a Summer Festival and had a waiting line all through the day. People would give her a subject line or ask her for a poem on a topic and she’d just write. “My rule was that I filled one side of a piece of standard-size paper, did not cross out, nor did I stop to reread it… I filled a page like I did in my notebook. It was another form of writing practice.” Natalie then says years later she got a letter from a man claiming that when he joined the Coast Guard he only took two things with him: photos of his family and what she’d written him three years before at a summer bazaar.

I want to write for people words that they’ll tuck up and carry with them for years later.
I want to write words that inspire and uplift, just the way I try to do here, only with paper and ink.

So, at the bottom of my email, I wrote this:

If you got this far, I’d love to reward you with a real letter on paper written in ink. A love letter from my heart to yours. The first three people to reply with their mailing address, will get one in the mail for real.

I thought maybe one person would respond.
I doubted, thinking letter-writing is probably too old-fashioned, a bit out dated, and a rather nerdy endeavour for the common population to care for (all three of these are perfect descriptions for me, by the way!).

Well I thought wrong.

The responses came rolling in. Actual, real-live people from across Australia were replying, responding. Saying yes I want real human connection away from the screen. Yes to pen and ink. Yes to words scrawled by a stranger, folded into an envelope and slid into iconic red boxes, whisked to their letterbox.

So I didn’t stop at three.
So each evening I’ve been writing letters and praying as I write. And the words are laced with hope and encouragement and grace, and I’m sending these hope-words and handwritten prayers to people I’ve never seen face to face.

I don’t know what they look like, I don’t know what season they’re in, I don’t know their struggles or triumphs or their quiet daily wins. But I’m sending prayers and I’m sending a whole lot of vulnerability, and a whole lot of cheerleading and high-fiving (and, a spearmint and chamomile teabag from me too).
In words, on paper.

One person responded to tell me she was going to buy some paper so that she could write a return letter, and while she’s at it, she’d write to other friends across the country – and that maybe I might just have begun a revolution.

A revolution of championing each other, with the written word.
How fun.


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