Write Away

New Year’s Eve 2018 is here. Are you making resolutions for 2019?

When was the last time you sat down and wrote a thank you note or any note to someone. Not an email or a text but a real pen-to-paper note? I’m going to encourage you to consider taking up note writing as a resolution for 2019.

Last year a poll was taken of people’s resolutions for 2018:

I wonder how many were kept. If you read articles about how to make and keep resolutions one of the ideas often mentioned is to make the resolution more specific (i.e. instead of “lose weight” say “stop eating so many cookies”) and manageable (“stop eating cookies for one week”). Then, when you succeed reward yourself by going to a movie or buying a new book, but probably not by eating cookies.

Of course one of the most famous note writers is Jimmy Fallon and his weekly thank you notes. Here are some of them from a couple of weeks ago:

Most resolutions have to do with self-improvement. Making a resolution or commitment (some people don’t care much for the “R” word) to write notes is a community-improvement choice.

Earlier this year I decided to start writing notes to my friends and family – nothing spectacular but something that said I was thinking of them. I would find a quote I like and write that along with a short sentence or two saying hello and hoping they are well.

The results have been amazing. In fact, I have received notes back. Here are some of the comments:

“Dear Mary, Getting real mail is fun!! So here is some for you! I loved your card.”

“Quote of the day, ‘Never dull your shine for somebody else.’ Thanks for the card! Love you.”

“Hi Mary! Got your card – you probably didn’t know I send postcards weekly to grand kids – I figure it is fun to get mail.”

“Mary, This is a wonderful idea!! Quote for you’I don’t want to brag, or make anybody jealous or anything … but I can still fit into the earrings I wore in high school!’”

As you can see, sending notes to friends earn you a lot of exclamation marks!!!

John Kralik, now a judge in California but in 2007 a person in a very bad place:

“One recent December, at age 53, John Kralik found his life at a terrible, frightening low: his small law firm was failing; he was struggling through a painful second divorce; he had grown distant from his two older children and was afraid he might lose contact with his young daughter; he was living in a tiny apartment where he froze in the winter and baked in the summer; he was 40 pounds overweight; his girlfriend had just broken up with him; and overall, his dearest life dreams–including hopes of upholding idealistic legal principles and of becoming a judge–seemed to have slipped beyond his reach.

Then, during a desperate walk in the hills on New Year’s Day, John was struck by the belief that his life might become at least tolerable if, instead of focusing on what he didn’t have, he could find some way to be grateful for what he had.”

He went on to write a thank you note every day for a year. His book 365 Thank Yous: The Year A Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life describes this journey and how it changed his life.

Kralik spoke with NPR about his experience writing thank you notes and also provided 10 Tips For Writing The Perfect Thank You Note. Here is an abridged list of these tips (you can find the full list, the interview, plus the NPR article here):

  1. Focus on the other person.
  2. Think beyond material gifts.
  3. Mention the gift itself.
  4. Write a sentence or two explaining how the gift is changing or simply improving your life.
  5. If the gift isn’t right for you, don’t ask where the gift was purchased so you can exchange it.
  6. Think of ways you failed to thank the person in the past and remind the recipient how important a friend they are.
  7. Don’t make jokes unless you know the recipient has a good sense of humor, and you are sure they will get the joke in the way that it was intended.
  8. Keep the thank you short and simple.
  9. Try writing a first draft.
  10. Write a lot of thank-you notes. You’ll get better.

You can read a transcript of his interview here: NPR Transcript

As I said at the beginning of this blog if you set up a manageable goal you are more likely to succeed. 365 notes is a big goal and even a weekly note may seem huge but perhaps a good start would be to buy a box of notecards (Ingebretsen’s has many fun and unique cards to chose from) and commit to sending out as many notecards as there is in the box. Then you can buy another box and make a new commitment. Before long it will become a habit – a community-building habit that will feel good.

Happy New Year and start writing.