Here's a little background on why we wrote this book...
We love exploring as much as getting lost. Sometimes, though, we want a guide to lead us, to show us what to look for, and different paths that could lead to interesting places. That’s where this book shines. Part research, part hands-on field journal, here is a smart, reader-friendly resource for adults who want to help teens grow up healthy and happy. It combines the latest (and our own) research with creative, connecting exercises we’ve honed through youth retreats over the past eight years. Our hope for this book is to help ignite the sparks within youth across Maine, and far beyond. Read along for a sneak peek into one of our favorite chapters, "Dear Friend..."
I realize that writing a letter isn’t as immediate as texting. It’s not as cheap. Or easy. It takes more energy. Buying letter paper, envelopes, and “Forever” stamps is my first step. Then there’s the sitting down in a quiet spot with my pen, deciding what I actually want to say. Then there’s the addressing and mailing process. It takes time. But that’s okay. I want to do it anyway.
The process of “striking up a correspondence” is an adventure in self-exploration. For one thing, each step of the undertaking offers small challenges that depend upon personal choices. What type of stationery should I get? What color pen do I want to use? When can I get to the post office? Can I order stamps online (turns out, yes), and which ones do I like best? Then, the more exacting obstacles: Where do I begin? Will I have room on the page for everything I want to say? Whether I know it or not, each choice quietly builds on the last. And, in the end, I can see it: My intention for reaching out to my correspondent. It’s a contemplative practice in itself.
This is letter writing’s timeless beauty. It demands attention on logistical and spiritual levels. Our heads and our hearts are in it, together. Yet this tedious orchestration is alchemy. That’s why distanced lovers swoon and far-flung family keep holiday messages on their mantels long after the celebration passes. The words I write on paper are real. They force my hand to remove ornamentation and tell unclouded truth instead.
As a musician, I imagine that writing a letter is a lot like playing a vinyl record. Sure, you can listen to songs in faster, more convenient ways. On-demand gratification is more common than not, and new technologies feed our collective desire for ease and speed. But they miss something, too. Anticipation washes over me as I sift through piles of albums in patchouli-heavy record stores. Then I settle into the ritual: Sliding the record out of its sleeve, placing the needle on the spinning outer rim, and waiting. I can’t hurry.
Maybe that’s why I enjoy antiquated practices like these. It’s not because I’m sentimental or because I love their aesthetic, even though it’s easy to romanticize them. It’s because they feed my mind and soul. They shove me off the dock, into the deep lake of emotional recesses. But the ladder of logic and form and ritual always leads me back out. I have to interact with the world when I imagine, write, and post a letter. I move through it deliberately. And I consider my intentions, every time.
No, letter writing isn’t as cheap as texting. I can only write one of these at a time. And I can’t see moment-by-moment updates in the lives of those I love while I’m doing it. But that’s more than okay. I can’t wait to do it again.
Good Advice for Letter Writing:
Just start writing.
Think of someone you could “strike up a correspondence with.” It’s a gift.
Remember, letters don’t need to be long or chock full of deep thoughts. They’re a snapshot in time.
Write the way you talk. Think of it like chatting, but put it down on paper. Say things, share news, and ask questions.
Your goal is for your voice to be reading your letter to them in their heads.
Start small: A postcard could be a great start.