Penpals. The secret to becoming a better writer.
Someone asked me the other day how to most effectively cultivate their comfort and familiarity with their written voice, so they would be able to tap into inspiration more easily.
I told them my trick, and I thought it would be nice to share it. The answer is simple – pen pals!! I have had various penpals ever since i was a little girl.
My first penpal I met in the ocean in Maine. We both had turned blue as a strategy to stay in the ocean for hours. We body boarded and talked about all our mutual interests, and continued sending snail mail back and forth until high school, when we drifted apart.
Once email was invented, I was all set! I would write long page long emails to anyone and everyone, expounding on silly puns, turning a simple sentence into a whole paragraph diatribe of tangential metaphorical musings, then eventually weaving it back into the original subject.
I’m sure some of my recipients didn’t even bother to read my entire rant, but many did, and most importantly – I did! I would read back over my letters and edit them, and learn about myself by what I wrote to others.
The trick is to ultimately write for yourself. For the pleasure it brings. For the self-discovery of letting your inner You pour out of your fingers, and then reflecting back on it, to see what you have to tell yourself. (It helps as stimulus to have a third party to write For … this expands us out of the way we write when we are journaling, which is often more systematic and less creative.)
I fell in love with a man, once, due to our daily letters back and forth. We were together for a year, and he travelled a lot, but It was perfect because we wrote each other every day, and i got to share my love with him, AND have an excuse to gush words!
I have made and maintained deep friendships thanks to our mutually compatible writing styles.
One time I even signed up for Match.com for 3 days simply because i wanted to find people to write with, and out of all the people I only connected with One person. I told him I was just looking for a writing buddy. He was a Buddhist, and the most safe, brotherly, brilliant awesome writing buddy ever. We became good friends in person, and we still are homies.
Penpalling is something you can’t force. It’s like chemistry. You either ping pong off of each other with similar interests and styles and advice and thoughts, or you don’t. Sometimes you go through phases of writing and then not writing. Either way, it stimulates you to express yourself. And that is the secret to self development.
It was great being a creative writing major in college, but really the only thing that worked about that was that it facilitated forcing me to write. A lot. And learn a few strategies. And learn rules to then break.
THe lesson is – Just. Do. It.
Find what stimulates you to do what you want to do. And do that. Good stuff!