Back and Forth, To and Fro, It’s Sharing That Helps Friendship Grow


There are those who say they love getting letters but they don’t enjoy writing them. These people seem to think writing a letter is a difficult task.  Maybe they just need practice sharing their hearts with others and cultivating greater interest in their fellow men.

I certainly understand the pleasure of receiving letters, especially good letters that have something to say and say it eloquently. If letters are beautiful, if they have a lovely look, they’re even better.  But to me, the best letters of all are those that not only entertain, inform, and share the writer’s true feelings, but also show interest in me.   (We won’t even talk about the “letters” we see, often at holiday time, in which everything is about the writer and no thought is given to us, the letter’s recipients).

Rebecca West

Now Rebecca West, 20th century author, journalist, literary critic and travel writer, says there is no such thing as conversation.  She says there are only monologues, that is all.  Do you agree with her?  I don’t.  In fact, I feel a little guilty writing to you here and now because it’s all about me and my thoughts. Since I’m a letter writer first and foremost, I’d really like to know what you’re thinking too.  Maybe you’ll leave a comment, or better yet, maybe you’ll write me a letter one of these days.  But even though this particular message from me to you does happen to be more a monologue than a conversation, a letter should always be a conversation. The writer should share his thoughts but then refer to the person to whom he is writing.   He should ask questions, comment on his friend’s ideas and show he cares about his friend. It’s the give and take that makes his missive a letter and not an essay.


I’ve heard some say they have nothing interesting to say in letters and that’s why they can’t write them.  I suppose this could be true, but if this is truly the case I wonder why these people aren’t getting busy finding places to go, people to see, and new things to do for their own sake. Even if they’re captive at home for whatever reason there are still so many subjects  they could  explore, books they could read and PBS programs they could watch, enjoy, and later discuss in their letters.  We all owe it to ourselves to fill our lives with fun activities and fill our minds with stimulating ideas.  That’s what living richly is all about and sharing all this makes letter writing fun for sharing doubles the joy and divides the sorrow.


But maybe some of these people who hesitate to write letters really are quite interesting and have a lot they could be sharing.  Maybe they’re just not giving themselves enough credit, not realizing the positive impact they could have on others if they would share their personal thoughts and stories and show a sincere interest in the thoughts and stories of others.

Some letters are bursting with news, but even if a person has no news to report, that need not stop her from writing a good letter, for though it’s always nice to read what’s happening in the lives of others, the best part of a letter is the sharing of a person’s true feelings.  Sharing our feelings on any number of subjects makes our letters personal and human and its this sharing  that is the magic ingredient of true friendship.  We all have thoughts and plenty of feelings so why not make a point of sharing them?   We should, for when we share good things come back to us – Friends!

My friend, Charlotte, my “dead friend”
Let me tell you about one of my friends, one of my “dead friends”,  Her name is Charlotte Bronte.  I knew of her, but I never really knew her.  I’d  heard about what she did and where she went, interesting information for sure, but it’s not until I read Charlotte’s letters that I really began to know her, and it’s not until I began to know her that I could connect with her and consider her a friend and kindred spirit.  She now is a source of inspiration to me.

Though Charlotte lived long ago and far away, by discovering her letters, I now feel I know her better than a lot of the people I see in my world every day.  Personal thoughts and feelings shared will make people feel close. Whether we’re happy or sad, inspired or bored, comfortable or under stress, sharing our thoughts and feelings in letters, whatever they happen to be, and being interested in the thoughts and feelings of others, is really what makes letter writing socially and intellectually exciting.


Though Charlotte was a clever interesting woman and  a successful novelist, she thought her life was very dull and this often put her into  a funk, a real letter writing funk, but she kept writing letters.  Why? I can hear you now saying, “It’s because although she had no joy to share at times, sharing also divided the sorrow.”

Well, this is true, but let Charlotte tell you in her own words exactly why she wrote letters, funk or no funk.  By reading just a bit of one of her letters you’ll begin to feel close to Charlotte as I do and you’ll understand why many say letters mingle souls. Charlotte writes:

Dear ____________________,

I feel it was almost a farce to sit down and write to you now, with nothing to say worth listening to; and, indeed, if it were not for two reasons, I should put off the business at least a fortnight hence.  The first reason is, I want another letter from you, for your letters are interesting, they have something in them; some results of experience and observation; one receives them with pleasure, and reads them with relish; and these letters I cannot expect to get, unless I reply to them.  I wish the correspondence could be managed so as to be all on one side, the second reason is derived from a remark in your last, that you felt lonely something as I was in Brussels, and that consequently you have a peculiar desire to hear from old acquaintance.  I can understand and sympathize with this.  I remember the shortest note was  a treat to me, when I was at the above-named place; therefore I write.  I have also a third reason: it is a haunting terror lest you should imagine I forget you – that my regard cools with absence.  It is not in my nature to forget your nature; though, I dare say, I should spit fire and explode sometimes if we lived together continually; and you, too, would get angry, and then we should get reconciled and jog on as before.  Do you ever get dissatisfied with your own temper when you are long fixed to one place, in one scene, subject to one monotonous species of annoyances?  I do; I am now in that unenviable frame of mind; my humour, I think, is too soon overthrown, too sore, too demonstrative and vehement.  I almost long for some of the uniform serenity you describe in Mrs. ____’s disposition; or, at least, I would fain have her power of self-control and concealment; but I would not take her artificial habits and ideas long with composure.  After all I should prefer being as I am.”

Charlotte Bronte


We know if someone is alone and lonely, receiving a letter could be a great comfort as it was for Charlotte.  Writing letters to show we care about a person, even if we have nothing particularly interesting  to say, can make a huge difference in someone’s day.  It’s not important to be a brilliant writer, nor do we need to have an exciting life in order to write good letters. It’s just necessary to care about others and be willing to share ourselves with them.


We don’t have to be alone or lonely to enjoy letters either. In the book “A Woman of Independent Means” Eizabeth Forsythe Hailey  writes, ” Though my own life is filled with activity letters encourage momentary escape into other people’s lives and I return to my own with renewed contentment.”  Whether we’re an introvert or an extrovert, as long as we care about others and are willing to share our life with them letters should be as much fun to write as to receive.


So if you’re one of those people, (or you know one) who would love to receive letters just start, or keep writing them.  Human expression is precious and  personal touch is more important today than ever for it’s in short supply these days. What the world needs now is love sweet love, and writing personal letters is one great way to spread that love and friendship around our weary world.

Letters help us Walk in the Beauty Way

A letter for me?

William James, the 19th century American philosopher once said, “As long as there are postmen life will have zest” and I completely agree. It’s not that most postmen have such good looks and winning personalities. It’s that they are the ones who deposit delightful treats in my mailbox. Letters! Big ones, small ones, letters in all colors of the rainbow, with exotic postage stamps and cute little stickers. Ah! The pleasure of a letter addressed just to me. There’s practically a radiance to it.

A rainbow in the sky
The other day I ran across a line by William Wordsworth.  He wrote,  “My heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the sky,” – a nicely turned phrase, but for me, it’s letters in my mailbox that make my heart skip a beat, leap up and dance for joy.

Good mail!
It’s a sad day when my mail consists of nothing but catalogs, bills and material addressed ‘occupant’. Luckily, such days are rare for me because when you give (and I give) good things come back to you. I write a lot of letters so I receive a lot of letters in return. How many letters do you receive everyday? How many letters do you write every day? There’s a correlation, you know.


Letters are wonderful, a physical art form and a great venue for social interaction. But besides that, when we write and receive letters we’re enriching our intellectual life for ideas expressed and discussed stimulate the mind and offer us food for thought. In letter conversations we can explore any number of subjects and in that exploration we can inspire others and be inspired ourselves. We can teach and we can learn.

Make those letters as pretty as possible
Many of my letter friends delight me by sharing the passions dear to their hearts. Some of their passions are my passions too and discussing these favorite subjects is always great fun.   But I’m equally delighted  to hear about whatever makes people light up and come to life.  Life is what it’s all about and letters are a wonderful vehicle in which to reflect upon the life we lead.

Ah life!  We only have one life to lead, but as we meet and get to know a variety of people we can experience, like second hand smoke, a variety of passions.   Even if we don’t share these passions  we are broadened by our awareness of them.

My pen friend, Evelyna, not only shares my enthusiasm for The Art of Letter Writing, but she also shares my passion for The Art of Living. Evelyna “walks in the beauty way” as the Navajo would say.

Though modern life is busy for most of us, and sometimes stressful too, Evelyna and I are kindred spirits in that we try very hard to cultivate rituals which downplay the dreary aspects of  daily life.  We each make a point of stepping out of our work-a-day world at frequent intervals in order to rest, reflect, and focus on whatever beauty might be around us. Not everyone thinks of life as an art form in itself, but art it can be if we’re willing to become the artists of our lives. This requires effort, determination and attention to carefully cultivated rituals.  Evelyna and I enjoy sharing whatever rituals we invent.  Why?  You know.   Sharing doubles the joy.  And though the sharing of ideas is the prime glory of letters, the stationery we create for those letters does add an element of enchantment.  Consider this photo note which Evelyna whipped up for me:

This Lady of Letters is lovely in Lavender
Evelyna’  celebrated her love of lavender by creating this photograph for her letter paper.  She decorated lavender paper with a portrait of herself wearing a lavender gown.  She added a garland of flowers and ribbons in her hair and posed holding a basket of flowers and baked goods. What fun she must have had creating this cover photo. You might think only 19th century ladies would be seen this way, but Evelyna is a 21st century Romantic.  Romantics might be rare these days, but they do exist.  I know because I am a Romantic too.


Do you have any Romanticism in your blood? If you do, you would love a pen friend like Evelyna. Not only are her letters beautiful, but because they focus on the beauty of life they are very positive and uplifting.  Also, like any good letter writer, Evelyna makes a point of  showing her appreciation for her letter friends.  Finding one of her letters in my mailbox always has the power to put a smile on my face and a bounce in my step.

One of Evelyna’s lovely letters
I’d like to share a bit of one of Evelyna’s letters with you.  Reading her words will help you understand why my heart leaps up when I behold one of her letters in my mailbox. Imagine this letter was coming to you.  She writes:

“…Do you know what I most enjoy about your letters?  Reading them seems to give me some moments of quiet respite from my interminable deadlines.  Although you are every bit as busy and productive as I am, your days and activities seem to move at a much more relaxed and leisurely pace.  You seem to have more freedom within your schedule to do things you love when you want to, which seems like such a luxury to me.  While reading your letters, I find a sense of slowing down within myself, like a 78 record being played on 33 rpm.  This is good for me.  Of course, it also helps that when I see a letter from you, I don’t just tear it open and start reading it.  I set it aside while brewing a cup of Earl Grey tea in a porcelain pot.  I then sit down in another room or in my garden, open the envelope with my art noveau letter opener, then revel in what you’ve written while sipping and dreaming and reading.  You see, once again, it’s all about creating a ritual, if only for five minutes.  It’s up to us to find moments of peace and beauty in our lives, and if they aren’t readily available, we must create them for ourselves.  On that note I will close with a word of appreciation for our friendship and a wish for moments of beauty throughout your day.

Love, Evelyna”


p.s. from CarolAnn   Do you now understand why William James and I believe as long as there are postmen life will have zest?

Having a pen friend, a  kindred spirit, helps us focus on, and be true to, the way we want to live.  Articulating our ideas to each other helps us define and refine those ideas.  Sharing offers support and encouragement.

Another beautiful letter from another beautiful kindred spirit
Whether we share information on our favorite subjects or discuss and describe favorite ideas, the writing, the reading, the musing over words contained in letters, stimulates our thinking and as a result, enriches our intellectual life. What subject would you love to discuss in letters?  There’s probably someone out there with the same desire. What are you waiting for? Find that person.  Join The Letter Exchange and start sharing.