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Letting Feelings Dry on Paper.

By: Jen Shoop

*Photograph by Studio 1527.

Earlier this month, stationery company Crane featured me in their “From the Desk Of” series. I couldn’t believe when the brand reached out to me, as my very first set of stationery was Crane, and I have always associated it with the desirable decorousness of adulthood. My inaugural set was given to me by my mother when I was perhaps seven or eight, along with a stern beseechment: “Always write your thank you notes immediately.” To this day, I cannot stand the mounting sense of guilt that accompanies each day that passes between the receipt of a gift and the day I have put a thank you note in the mail. And so I often follow my mother’s suit, putting pen to paper the very day I’ve received something.

It was in college that I started to write letters in earnest, and fervently. I sustained an intense epistolarity with my best friend from high school, who had matriculated from Visitation to Villanova, and though we also wrote elaborate, painstakingly-detailed missives via email, it was not uncommon for letters postmarked from Charlottesville to pile up in her dorm mailbox. At one point, she assembled several months’ worth of emails, cards, and letters into a binder that she decorated and labeled THE VORTEX, a reference to our jejune philosophy of life at that time, which posited that living was akin to navigating a series of strange, often subterranean connections, and that we must remain alert to pathways and patterns in the seeming randomness. (Ah.) During my first year of college, I also received many letters and cards from other friends (Elizabeth included — she was a thoughtful pen pal who often sent collages of Abercrombie models and funny quotes clipped out of magazine articles with my name in bubbly letters in the middle) and even would-be suitors, which now feels archaic to the point of ancient. I had forgotten much of this until I came across a box of photos and letters from my college years during the move to our new home in Bethesda. I read through a three page letter from a once-dear-friend who attended Boston College and had apparently burned me a CD (now lost), and a small stack from a boy up in Vermont to whom a mutual friend had introduced me at a row house party in Georgetown. He begins these letters: “Beautiful baby –” (!) Shockingly intimate for someone I barely knew.

But then, there is never a substitute for the intimacy of a hand-written note. And perhaps I realized that in college and leaned into letter-writing for that reason. When you are young, your friends are everything, and the sensation of closeness to others during that formative period is paramount. Letters were one way to feel singularly connected to people, as though establishing a private and uninterruptible channel not likely prone to surveillance by peers. I loved the opportunity to observe in the slant of a character or the scratch-out of a word or even the smudge of ink on the back of the card some hidden insight into its author.

When Crane reached out to me and then generously sent me a set of their beautiful new stationery, I made a small commitment to myself to clip back into my former, prolific epistolarity. I was further motivated to make good on this pledge when I unearthed bundles of letters I wrote to my parents during my time studying abroad in Lyon during college that are movingly marked with marginalia in my father’s blocky all-caps hand-writing: “ELAINE — PLS RETURN.” I imagine my father reading my melodramatic, schmaltzy letters with a kind of knowing smile (“ah, Jennifer”) and then placing them on my mother’s desk before filing them away in his evidently expansive vault of memorabilia from his five children. Truly these letters are vapid affairs, but their detail and volume speak only of my unwavering dedication to my parents.

It is good, in other words, to let your feelings dry on paper and to enclose them in an envelope addressed to a loved one. I am always moved by the time someone has afforded me by sitting down to write something by hand. You cannot simply “try again” as you might using a Word processor or iMessage. You must really focus, and that focus is a form of love.

Post-Scripts.

+More on the notion of female friendship and epistolarity.

+”She would say what she thought.

+What would you study if you were going back to college tomorrow?

Shopping Break: At My Desk.

+My favorite pens: these are incredible. Super fine point but glide better than Le Pens (my runner-up). When I’m feeling ceremonious, I love this rose gold pen Mr. Magpie gave me a few years ago.

+My beloved desk chair. So chic for the price, and very functional/comfortable!

+For stowing meaningful letters: Bigso boxes. Bonus is that they look pretty on a shelf.

+For drafts and notes: Leuchtterm gridded notebooks. I adopted the European way of writing on squared or dotted paper while studying abroad and have never abandoned it, no matter how affected it seems. I love the way gridded/squared paper works with my minuscule handwriting.

+For impromptu lists: personalized notepads from Erin Wallace or Joy Creative Shop.

+Tara Andris desk calendar. I am constantly checking the date.

+Accessory trays for corraling things like paper clips, stamps, etc. in my desk drawer.

+A few other fantastic finds for an office/desk:

THIS SORTING BASKET

SLEEK PRINTER STAND

WOVEN DESK ORGANIZER

CABLE ORGANIZER

ACRYLIC LETTER TRAY

ACRYLIC HOME OFFICE ACCESSORIES

QUIRKY LITTLE BUSINESS CARD HOLDER (LOVE)

LAZY SUSAN — IMAGINE WITH A RAINBOW OF ALL YOUR FAVORITE PENS, HIGHLIGHTERS, SHARPIES, ETC!

THIS LEATHER MOUSE PAD LOOKS V RALPH LAUREN BUT COSTS $17…OR YOU CAN GET ONE EMBOSSED WITH YOUR INITIALS FOR A BIT MORE HERE

BEAUTIFUL WOOD LAPTOP STANDS AND DOCKS

DESK MAT

+In addition to Crane, you can find great personalized stationery here. I also love the watercolor style ones from Mamey Design.

+More recent desktop finds here.

+Children’s stationery here.

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14 thoughts on “Letting Feelings Dry on Paper.

  1. I love this post so much! So cool that you were featured by Crane — also the pinnacle of paper goods to me in my childhood (I always loved seeing which Christmas cards were from Crane, as they struck me as a cut above — !!) I love the prompt to get back into letter-writing, which is something I did so much when I was in high school and college, and even here & there during my days in New York — but which has fallen off my radar lately. I also had parents that reinforced the necessity to write thank-you notes in a prompt manner, so I have stuck to that, but I would love to send and receive longer letters again. Something to try soon 🙂

    I’m glad Cynthia brought up your diligence in responding to comments, because that’s always something that has struck me about you as well. It truly does set you apart!

    xx

    1. Thank you SO much MK. I’m so glad someone else has the same memories of Crane from childhood — just the ultimate!

      xx

  2. I studied in Lyon too!! My alma mater (UT-Austin) has a program at Lyon III Jean Moulin, and I was incredibly fortunate to spend the summer between my sophomore and junior year there. I absolutely loved it and am itching to go back.

    I also agree with you and Cynthia re: not receiving a thank you note after I’ve given a gift. I love sending birthday cards to my long-distance friends and it hurts when they don’t acknowledge it. Then again, my parents drilled into us the importance of writing thank you notes for every gift we received, and I think it’s possible that thank you notes weren’t emphasized the same way in some of my friends’ families growing up.

    1. Oh la la! J’etudiee a L’Universite Lumiere de Lyon II. Maintenant, c’est presque incomprehensible que j’ai pris les courses en francais a cote des etudiants francais!

      I appreciate the grace you’re affording others on the note-writing front. Agree!

      xx

  3. Love this! I adore handwriting letters, and started my letter writing practice quite young, in elementary school. Several of my cousins would spend most of our summers together, then write each other letters throughout the school year. I have kept up a running correspondence with one in particular ever since- through college and now well into adulthood. To this day, whenever we have meaningful things to tell each other, we put them in print rather than shooting off a quick text or email. I have sustained so many relationships this way- high school boyfriend, grandfather, grandmother, friends, cousins. From summer camp, from dorm rooms, from on the road in Estonia, Namibia, Hong Kong, and more. Sometimes it’s a several-page long note, sometimes it’s a quick postcard, but I treasure sitting down and putting all my effort and attention towards the task of writing, if even for one short “wish you were here” missive. And getting one in return never fails to excite me. I have always loved checking the mail!

    1. I love this so much — even just your listing of all the places you’ve written from pulls at the heartstrings.

      xx

  4. I agree with Cynthia’s earlier comment. Your thoughtfulness in responding to each and every comment is so rare in these days of writing/blogging/influencing and it definitely sets you apart. I can’t remember the exact instance, but I remember taking note of how gracefully you always responded to any negative or critical comments you received.

    Your musings on handwritten letters and notes hit home with me. I’m trying to work on it, but I can sometimes be perceived as a little aloof. I’ve found that, sometimes, I can be much more eloquent with a pen and paper than I am with my words. This has been helpful to know because I now love to write handwritten notes to friends or family members for birthdays, holidays, graduations, and the like. Every recipient is always so touched, and being able to convey my feelings acutely without fumbling through a conversation is a relief to me.

    Like you, I also keep a lot of written correspondence I’ve received, and I particularly have kept anything from male suitors in what I like to call an “ex box.” It’s tucked away in my closet, but I like knowing that it’s there. It’s a way for me to honor the past relationships that made me who I am without dwelling on the past too much. I’m also a very nostalgic person, though, so I realize this might be strange to others!

    1. Hi there! First, thank you so much for the lovely compliments. I truly enjoy the conversations here in the comments — a daily gift!

      Second, I love that you’ve found a mode of self-expression in the form of letter-writing! Like you, I find it much easier to express my genuine thoughts and feelings on paper.

      Finally, love your box of former flames! Beautiful way to hang onto those relationships but to also create a designated “space” for them / compartmentalize them.

      xx

  5. Your response to every blog comment is a daily testament to your thoughtfulness, love and dedication to your readers. I love that you (and you alone, as I follow no other blog that responds as you do) care to respond to your readers. Thank you for this gallant effort.

    I hate when I don’t get a thank you card or note of even email or text for something I’ve done or gifted. I have to stop and remind myself that I did it because I wanted to and not for a thank you. But it does hurt a little and I do mark it in my memory. Yuck!

    1. Thank you so much for the sweet note – I feel the same way whenever a comment appears on a post! So touched and flattered that someone has taken the time to leave a note, share an observation, etc.

      I know what you mean about thank you notes that never materialize — it is a peculiar kind of hurt, and it always makes me wonder “did it not arrive?” “did they not like it?” etc. I am confident most of the time it is an oversight or perhaps they assume no thank you is needed, but it still leaves me pondering!

      xx

    2. Adding my kudos to you for your diligence and thoughtfulness in responding to blog comments! I, too, have never encountered another blogger who responds to everyone. You make the comments a fun place to be!

      I admit I’m not the best at thank you notes, except for big events like showers, wedding, etc. Something to work on! I do at least shoot a text off in acknowledgment. At the same time, if I don’t get a response to a gift I’ve sent, it helps to remember that once we give someone a gift it’s not our business what they do with it. This doesn’t excuse rudeness, but might help release the giver from hard feelings?

  6. I love your memories of letter writing, and I share many similar. My husband and I were just discussing the difference between a thoughtful note and a merely-signed card, too – what I really love is to read a few sentences about how someone feels or what they’re thinking. <3

    1. I totally agree! Tangent: my mom is really good about writing specific, detailed sentences about how she is using a gift she’s received, or why she particularly appreciates it. It is so lovely!! I can almost visualize her using whatever gift it is I’d given her!

      xx

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