Let’s revive the lost art of note writing

Notes and letters make a difference

By Elizabeth H. Cottrell

It’s heartwarming to receive these kinds of responses from your personal notes:

“I truly appreciated the encouraging letter you sent me during one of the most difficult and testing times of my life. I know I have read your note over 25 times; it was a lifeline that kept my spirits up.”

“You have no idea how much your note meant to me and how comforting it was to know how much you thought of my father. I didn’t realize how beloved he was.”

Most of us can point to a note or letter we’ve received at just the right time that seemed like a hug. Sometimes it’s a message to comfort us after a loss. Sometimes it’s a pat on the back for a job we didn’t think anyone had noticed. Often it’s just a reminder that someone cares enough to take pen to paper.

Why it’s hard to write personal notes

So why, then, do we find personal note-writing so difficult to do? Here are a few reasons, and some tips to help you overcome them:

  1. We’re busy and rushed. True, but part of our job as stewards of our own time is to make time to do the important things. I find setting aside 10-15 minutes first thing in the morning at least once a week ensures I’ll get the most important notes written.
  2. We think writing notes takes a long time. Most notes can be simple and short. Use my secret NOTES formula below to help you write a beautiful note quickly and easily every time.
  3. We don’t think of it. This is a myth. You DO think of it, but usually at the wrong time. See No. 4.
  4. We think of it, but not at a convenient time to write. Treat it the same way you would any important task that you don’t want to forget. Put it immediately on your To Do list. Use your smartphone or other information management tool. I’ve been known to leave myself a voicemail reminder!
  5. We think of it, but we don’t have pen and paper close at hand. Keep some attractive note cards, pen, and stamps with you. Waiting times can be quickly turned into a note-writing opportunity. Create a writing space at home where your supplies – and a desk or lapboard – are ready when you are.
  6. We lack confidence that we’ll say the right thing. You simply cannot get hung up on this! What most people remember is not the exact words, but just the fact they received a note from you and it came from your heart.

My secret NOTES formula

N for Natural: Write as though you’re speaking to the recipient. What would you say to them if they were sitting across the table from you?

O for Open: Before you write, open your heart and mind to inner guidance. You’ll be more receptive to what you should say and how to say it.

T for Tell: Tell them why you’re writing near the beginning of your note. If it’s a sympathy note, you can say words are totally inadequate but you wanted to reach out to them. In a thank you note, tell them how much you appreciate their gift or what they did for you. In a congratulations note, tell them how pleased and proud you were to learn of their accomplishment.

E for Empathize: Put yourself in their situation as best you can, and in your mind’s eye, visualize them reading your note and think what your desired outcome is. When you identify this, the words will come more easily.

S for Share, as in a memory or example: Be as specific as you can. If you’re writing a sympathy note, share a memory of the deceased or something you admired about them. If you can’t imagine what they’re going through, just say that, and don’t try to pretend that you can:

If you’re writing a thank you note, be very specific about what you received and how you are using it or enjoying it.

Personal notes can be powerful connection tools. This simple way of making someone’s life brighter is a privilege, not an obligation. You know the pleasure of finding a personal note in your mailbox. Take time today to write someone!

Elizabeth H. Cottrell of Maurertown is a freelance writer, blogger, and author at Heartspoken.com and RiverwoodWriter.com.
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