Write_On: How many years have you participated in Write_On?
Sabrina: This is my third year participating - I'm the Hello!Lucky Write_On challenge representative!
Write_On: What does your letter-writing habit usually look like?
Sabrina: In the past it's been sporadic, but this year, it's becoming automatic and something I look forward to doing regularly. There is just something so satisfying about writing by hand and expressing my gratitude towards someone on a beautiful card or stationery. I love it! I try to write first thing in the morning or when I have a quiet moment in the afternoon. I have a running list of people I want to write letters to - old friends, teachers, advisors, bosses, work colleagues, cousins, aunts, uncles, my deceased grandparents - the list goes on. Part of my realization this year is that life is short and I want to live my life so that if I happen to get hit by a bus tomorrow, I will have left nothing left unsaid. Letters are the perfect way to do that. I tend to compose letters in my head while I'm driving my car or running errands; that way, they flow once I put pen to paper.
Write_On: How's it going? How many letters have you written? Are you trying to write daily?
Sabrina: It's going really well. So far, I've written about 20 letters. I got warmed up by writing thank you notes for birthday gifts that my twin sons received (just my luck, their birthday is at the end of March!) - the kids dictated what they wanted to say (usually something short and sweet like "thank you for the X. It is super awesome!", and I wrote it down since they're still learning to write. I've written letters to my college room mate, who I first met by letter; to a Facebook friend wishing her a belated happy birthday; to my cleaning lady and her daughter; to my kids' teacher; to The Mosaic Project, a non-profit I love; and to my college advisor letting her know how much she's influenced me. I've also been including a short handwritten note of appreciation with checks for bills! I've been writing 2-3 letters every other day. The process has inspired me to write essays about the value of letter-writing, such as this one. It has truly been life-changing!
Write_On: What do you find most difficult about writing a letter?
Sabrina: Usually it's the feeling that I "owe" someone a letter. Guilt is the biggest letter-writing blocker. When I notice that feeling, I just let it go and tell myself that no one is expecting anything - that's the beauty of writing old-fashioned letters! I also remind myself that if I write a letter out of obligation, the recipient will feel it and I might as well just send an email or text. The beauty of a letter is its authenticity and sincerity - it should be a joy to write and a joy to receive.
Write_On: What's been your favorite thing about Write_On so far?
Sabrina: My favorite thing is the way that it's caused me to re-examine and re-appreciate all the people who have made a difference in my life. Once I started following that thread by answering the question "Who should I write a letter to today?," the number of people I could think of was practically unending. There are so many people, from childhood to the present day, who I have enjoyed meeting, learned from, and appreciated. I would love to eventually write letters to all of them to make sure they realize what a profound influence they have had on the people they've touched.
Write_On: How have hand-written letters shaped your life and relationships?
Sabrina: I've had many relationships in the past where hand-written letters were pivotal. One of my first crushes in high school was someone who lived in a different city and we exchanged letters for a short time until the flame burned out. I remember to this day the smell of the paper he wrote on and the shape of his handwriting, and how exciting it was to hold and piece of paper that I knew he had held and written on. It was very intimate and romantic. I first met my college room mate by letter, and it was the beginning of a long friendship that unfolded organically and continues to this day - it's been more than 20 years. My grandmother was an amazing letter-writer - she used to type letters from her cottage on a lake in Minnesota, and I still have her letters - they remind me of her, and of the summers I spent there fishing, swimming and hanging out with my cousins. My aunt, who died of cancer a few years ago, was a wonderful artist and writer. She would include make her own cards with beautiful hand made wood block prints; I have several of them framed in my house. Through Write_On, I've been reconnecting with people who have been meant something to me, both at the time and in retrospect. I'm looking forward to deepening my relationships with old friends and acquaintances by becoming snail mail pen pals. I feel like everyone has entered my life for a reason, and exchanging letters is a great way to explore why. There is just a level of reflection, expression and creativity that a letter provides that you can't find in email and social media.
Write_On: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about letter-writing?
Sabrina: I think the biggest influence on my letter-writing practice has been scientific research on the benefits of compassion, altruism and gratitude, as discussed in books like The Compassionate Mind, Self- Compassion, and Altruism. Once I realized that compassion has benefits to individuals' health and well-being, as well as society overall, it was like a switch was flipped. Suddenly, I realized that writing letters is way to practice compassion: to send love and good vibes and to let another person know they are seen and valued. Whether it's a person I know well, or a total stranger, there is something profound about connecting on a vulnerable, intimate, human level through a handwritten letter.
Write_On: What’s the next letter you’re planning to write?
Sabrina: I'm planning to write a letter to the crossing guard at my kids' school - her beaming smile lights us up every morning!