How Handwritten Notes Can Revolutionize Relationships

I received a rejection letter from The New Yorker yesterday, and I'm excited about it. Why? Well, first of all it's The New Yorker. Secondly, the note was handwritten by Becky.

I realize that this note from Becky means that I probably didn't even qualify for an actual rejection letter, and that the editors never saw my query, but I don't care. I'd like to thank her for taking the time to write something personal.

I'll admit it -- I was never a note writer. I actually tried to elope with my first husband just so I wouldn't have to write thank-you notes for my wedding gifts.

Did I appreciate the gifts that were given? Of course. But I'd rather do without 5.45 sets of china than have to write ten thank you notes.

My biggest issue was that I kept opening boxes housed with kitchen utensils, and I have never cooked. I unwrapped a whisk and thought it was one part of an electric mixer. I looked and looked for the rest of that present.

I wasn't even sure what to do with a spatula until I saw the kitchen scene with Bill Murray in "Stripes."

Writing notes was especially painful for me because I have no memory of people or names. I blame it on my five concussions before the age of nine.

Due to the repeated blows to my head in childhood, I had to send personal notes as if I were related to everyone just in case I really was related to them. I'm sure there were some recipients of my thank you notes who were alarmed at the fact that I referenced my appendectomy in third grade when they were only social acquaintances.

However, I've grown since my first wedding, and thanks to Becky, I'm warming back up to the power of the handwritten note.

There is something about seeing a person's handwriting that makes his or her note more personal. Even tense situations can become a polite interaction.

Dear Cable Company:

Thank you so much for shutting down my business phone for the past 23 days due to your battle with the phone company. I have lost three clients since I coach people and conduct seminars by phone. It has been an exhausting process that caused me to cry while filling out my 24th resolution ticket. I didn't even cry at "The Notebook," so this was quite a feat. Please turn my phones back on.


I will write this note on my own personal stationary, and seal it with a kiss. Perhaps that will turn my phone line back on.

I'd like to send another note to the doctors, nurses, and staff at the hospital where my mom just stayed to recover from a stroke.

Dear Staff at Henrico Doctors' Hospital:

How can I thank a team of people who kept my mom laughing during a very fearful time? Who somehow found her special kind of ginger ale even though it wasn't in the vending machine? Who stayed on top of her condition and worked together to help her get well? Who came by her room just to explain her medications?

I can't thank you enough for caring as much for her well-being and psyche as you did for her physical issues. You are the reason I still believe in people. In a dark time, you provided the light.


Even though my handwriting is hard to read, every letter expresses something about my personality. It makes me sad that many schools no longer teach cursive writing, because every letter formed is unique to the writer. No one on earth will ever write exactly like me again. Ever.

So, I'm going to start doing cursive exercises to build up my writing arm so that I have the strength to send notes to others, including those people who make my writing life a little miserable. I will start with the Internet Troll, who is not nearly as cute as the naked, androgynous troll doll I had in my childhood.

Dear Internet Troll:

When I first started publishing, I read all of your comments. You know, the ones where you called me pathetic, or used the "c" word, or said that I was a yellow journalist -- which you thought meant I was a cowardly writer. Bless your heart.

This note is to let you know that while you have the right to say whatever you want, I think you should use your talents in a more productive way. Criticizing people on topics about which you have very little knowledge is a crowded field where it's hard to distinguish yourself. Anger is a limited emotion, and name-calling was kind of discovered in first grade. The whole sticks and stones thing.

I think that with your slightly grouchy skills, you could look for other jobs, like being head of risk management for a Fortune 500 corporation.

I do appreciate the incredible energy you put into commenting on everybody's stuff. That's a lot of work. But remember the kid who walked up and knocked over your carefully constructed sandcastle? Yeah, that kid. He grew up to be really angry, out-of-shape, and watches a lot of Judge Judy. Do you really want to be that guy?

I didn't think so. Pick yourself up and use your skills for good rather than evil. It's more courageous and, ultimately, you'll find there are a plethora of vocabulary words to which you have yet to be introduced.


I will write that note on a piece of stationery that shows a beautiful sandcastle being tended to by an angelic young person.

The next time I want to communicate with somebody, I will write them a note. I believe they'll thank me for it. Even the cable company.

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