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Practicing Contemplative Journaling (or How to Write Something Truly Thoughtful)

11 Feb

The Art of Contemplative Journaling (or How to Write Something Truly Thoughtful)

Have you ever wanted to sit down to write something? Not as big as a book or a novel, yet not something smaller like a recap of the day’s events. Instead, something that really interests you as you write it?

Then the concept of Contemplative Journaling will interest you. It’s the practice of writing something more than a standard journal entry, but less than a full story. It’s that lovely “in-between” area; something you can accomplish in just an hour or two and that makes for better reading and better writing.

While many ways to journal this way exist, I’m going to take you through just a few of them.

Contemplative Journaling Method #1 | Expand on Your Lists

If you read my recent post about the best formats for blog posts or journal entries, you should be pretty familiar with list-making. Lists are such fantastic little structures: great for itemizing simple things (like a grocery list) and for keeping track of what’s important (goals for 2013).

Take one of the lists you’ve already written and expand upon each item. Let’s say you decide to revisit your List of Goals for 2010 … even though it’s now three years old. Here are a few angles to create a contemplative journal entry from this.

+  Have you achieved those goals? If you have, talk about how you did it. If there are some you have not achieved, write about why not. Maybe it’s just no longer a priority.

+  Why were those your goals then? This is a great way to write about who you were then and who you are now by exploring what was important to you at the time.

+  Is there an item in that list you haven’t accomplished? Maybe it has been a goal for several years now, but you’ve just not been successful with it. Perhaps it’s time to examine why you keep thinking it’s a priority and how you’ll make it a success the next time you add it to a list.

Contemplative Journaling Method #2 | Process an Experience

While you’re reading this, think about something embarrassing that has happened to you in your life. If nothing comes to mind, think about someone who wronged you, or made you upset. Everyone has had at least one embarrassing or upsetting experience. Contemplative Journaling is a great way to process that experience. If you need to work through the experience and let go of something, this is a great exercise.

First, think of the ‘thing’ you need to let go of. Maybe it was a coworker who made a rude comment, or an inappropriate way you behaved. Objectively describe the event as it happened. Do not include ‘feelings’ in this part: no discussing how you felt or how you think they felt. Just actions.

Second, after detailing the event, move on to write about the ‘feeling’ part of the experience. Where did your feelings come into play and what were they?

Third, write the experience from the viewpoint of any other person involved. If it’s the coworker with the inappropriate comment, write the experience from his/her perspective.

(As this can be an intense exercise for some, if you need a quick break to come back to the project with fresh eyes, this is a perfect spot to pause.)

Fourth, read what you wrote and write about why you’ve held on to this. Why does this experience come up in your mind so readily? Why are you carrying it around? Does it relate to something seemingly unrelated in your past? Explore everything that comes up in your mind and write it down.

Fifth, write a statement of release. Literally write a release for the experience. “ I’ve processed this experience and I was holding on to it because of X. I no longer need to carry it with me.”

You can use this technique for all kinds of things: the loss of a pet, losing a contract on a house you’d been trying to buy, spending too much money over the holidays, canceling a night out with friends because you thought you wanted to stay in. If you have an experience that keeps ‘sticking’ then you should examine it.

Contemplative Journaling Method #3 | Be the Version of Yourself You Want to Be

This tends to be a good exercise at the beginning of a new year. It’s helpful in getting your brain to really connect the dots between where you are today and who you want to be tomorrow. Self improvement! But more fun.

Let’s say you go back to work next week after a few days off. Write about your normal workday if you went in as you are now. Below that, write about your workday, but as the person you’d like to be. Maybe you are trying to have more efficient mornings at work so you aren’t scrambling to leave on time. It might look like this:

“I show up for work 10 minutes late on Monday, set my stuff down and go to the break room for coffee. I see a coworker and we talk for about 10 minutes about the past weekend. I go upstairs, turn on my computer. I talk to my cubemate for a few minutes about the weekend. I check my email, and respond to one or two of them. Then I check Facebook. At about 10 a.m. I start my first task. I break to use the restroom. I come back and finish the task and take a lunch. After lunch, I go to my coworker’s desk to talk for a few minutes. When I get back to my desk, I see someone has left a stack of reports I need to scan, copy and file by the end of the day. I sit down to finish the work I should have completed that morning. It’s 3 p.m. and I go for a break to grab a snack. By the time I get back it’s 3:30 p.m. and I still have to copy all those documents and prepare for tomorrow’s meeting. I don’t leave until just before 7 p.m. when I should have been out the door by 5 p.m.”

The rewrite might be:

“I wake up 15 minutes earlier than normal and sit in bed to read a chapter in a book. This prevents me from hitting the snooze button and gives me a bit of ‘me’ time. I make it to work 5 minutes late. I go and grab coffee and briefly talk to a coworker. I go upstairs, turn on my computer, and make a to-do list for the day, except I divide it into Morning and Afternoon tasks. I complete a small, simple task first; then I check my email and respond to a few. I work on my next task, complete it, and grab another coffee and bathroom break. I come back, finish the last task of the morning, and head to lunch. At lunch, I invite a new coworker out with me. This gets me the socialization I think I need during the day. After lunch, I work on my afternoon tasks. I leave on time.”

It might seem like a mundane thing, but most people really enjoy this. It allows you to look at yourself as you are, and then as you’d like to be. Productivity is a great thing to try first because everyone (generally) could be a bit more productive. Whether it’s at the office, or at home (hello, laundry that never gets put away) there are a ton of scenarios to write about here.

This actually teaches your brain to better recognize those bad habits so you can correct them moving forward.

More advanced prompts for this involve interactions for others: communicating with your spouse, communicating with a child, etc.

Contemplative Journaling is an excellent use of those nice journals, nice pen and your brain. If you want to sit down to really write something then this is the perfect exercise for you.

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Meet the Writer: Cole Imperi is a business owner and a proponent of the handwritten word. When not at Doth Brands, a Branding & Identity firm catering to the health, wellness & deathcare professions where Cole works as Owner and Creative Director, you might find her on her yoga mat teaching yoga or behind a laptop writing for Simplicity Embellished, a letter-writing and lifestyle blog.

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Editor’s Note: This article is part of the How to Write series. Read the others here:

How to Write: Sympathy Notes

How to Write: Ideal Business Correspondence Notes

How to Write: Friendship / Appreciation Notes

How to Write: Thank You Notes

How to Write: With a Fountain Pen

How to Write: To a New Penpal

How to Maintain Your Pen Collection

How to Write: Improving Your Cursive Skills

How to Write: A Letter of Resignation

How to Write: A Letter of Recommendation

How to Write: The Best Formula for a Blog Post People will Actually Read

How to Write: Improving Your Cursive Skills

7 Sep

How to Write: Improving Your Cursive Skills on EuropeanPaper.com/Blog

Cursive is a word that basically just means the letters are joined. So, whether your cursive is bubbly and wide or teeny and scratchy; as long as those letters are connected, you, my friend, are writing in cursive.

Having a solid cursive writing style at your fingertips is useful. Cursive is nice to bring out for special occasions, like birthday cards and letters, and once you really get it down, it can become a beautiful style of day-to-day writing.

What tends to be most frustrating about this style of writing is that things can look a bit uneven. If you look at your own natural cursive and you aren’t happy with something, can it be attributed to uneveness? In my experience as a long-time letter writer, penmanship and calligraphy instructor, and type designer, this is exactly the case. Here are my best tips for improving your cursive.

 Slow Down

Whether you are printing or writing in cursive, this tip will always ring true. Take something you’ve written in cursive and set it down next to you. On another sheet of paper, write the same exact thing but slow down when writing it. Compare the two. Is there a difference? When we slow down to write, it gives our hands time to create smoother strokes and more consistent connections. Get used to writing slower and you’ll soon be able to speed up without losing any quality in your penmanship.

 Same Angle, Same Position

When you are writing in cursive, take note of the angle of the pen and the angle of your hand. Whatever angle you start with—keep it throughout the entire piece of writing. You see, when we change the angle of writing mid-stream that’s when we have problems.

 Be Cognizant of Connections

Cursive is all about connections. If you have uneven connection points, those can be fixed by either slowing down or keeping a consistent angle. If you find yourself having to draw longer connections sometimes, you probably have changed your angle. If you find yourself with short and rough connection points, you need to slow down. These connection strokes in cursive are what make cursive cursive. They are what make this style of penmanship beautiful. They make it this way because they provide rhythm and repetition. Do you know what happens in a song where the drummer can’t keep a consistent beat? It doesn’t sound right. Same with cursive, keep that consistent stroke and connection going on.

 It Takes A Little Time

Slowing down at first will give you some ‘breathing room’ in properly developing your style of cursive. If you don’t slow down at first, it’s like building the walls of the house before the foundation. Slowing down does not mean you are not a good writer or you are not capable of writing faster, it just means you are taking time to really master something well so that in the future, when you do speed up, you’ll be prepared and will be producing something that is the same quality as what you produced at a slower speed.

Your Cursive Will Be Different Than My Cursive

If you’re like me, you were taught cursive in second grade. We all were taught based on the same model and were graded on how close we were to that model. Don’t approach your penmanship the same way.

How I write cursive will not be how you write cursive. It can be helpful to look at other writing samples for ideas or as ways to diagnose connection problems (i.e. how others connect an ‘r’ to an ‘s’), but you should really work on developing your cursive independently. Go into it with the mindset that you are honing your own cursive; not that you are honing someone else’s cursive.

Find a Rhythm

One thing that may help you improve your cursive quickly is to find a rhythm in the way you write. Have you ever sat down to write and you noticed that words you were writing were flowing onto the page with ease? Did you notice that your hand might have fallen into a ‘rhythm’ of upstrokes and downstrokes? If you can write in a way where your upstrokes and downstrokes take the same amount of time, your writing will reflect this style. Because this tip is a bit abstract, I’m going to explain a simple exercise so that you can actually ‘hear’ your cursive. All you need is a felt tipped pen of some kind (or any pen that will give some squeak or scratch), any kind of paper and some quiet. Write in your natural cursive and ‘listen’ to your letters. Listen for your upstrokes and your downstrokes as you write. Does it sound smooth and consistent? Try writing in a way so that you ‘hear’ a rhythm in the way you write.

I’ve included an image of the ‘traditional’ model of cursive for you to take a look at. Chances are, you naturally do not write your capital Z like shown. That’s OK. Write how you write.

Traditional-Cursive-Image - How to Improve Your Cursive on EuropeanPaper.com/Blog

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Meet the Writer: Cole Imperi is a business owner and a proponent of the handwritten word. When not at Doth Brands, a Branding & Identity firm catering to the health, wellness & deathcare professions where Cole works as Owner and Creative Director, you might find her on her yoga mat teaching yoga or behind a laptop writing for Simplicity Embellished, a letter-writing and lifestyle blog.

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Editor’s Note: This article is part of the How to Write series. Read the others here:

How to Write: Sympathy Notes

How to Write: Ideal Business Correspondence Notes

How to Write: Friendship / Appreciation Notes

How to Write: Thank You Notes

How to Write: With a Fountain Pen

How to Write: To a New Penpal

How to Maintain Your Pen Collection

How to Write a Letter to a New Penpal

16 Jul

I remember my first pen pal, her name was Christele and she was a French student in a small school outside of Paris.  We were paired up by our respective schools to write to each other – for us to improve our French and for them to improve their English.  It has been over 20 years.  Not only are we still friends, we still write each other letters.  We have never spoken on the phone, seen each other in person or written an email to each other.  Our friendship is purely handwritten.

See all Stationery on EuropeanPaper.com

I can remember my trepidation writing my first letter to her.  What paper should I use, what color ink, what would I say?! The thoughts overwhelmed me.  In the end, I decided on my favorite purple letter sheet with a matching envelope and my favorite fountain pen with dark eggplant ink.

Writing to someone you have never met is daunting.  What do you say?  How do you start and end the letter, and what do you ask?

First you must decide on the tone.  To this day, I tend to write like I speak, so my tone is fairly informal.  It works for me, so I stick with that.  I write like I am in a personal conversation; I ask questions and then answer them myself.  Nothing too personal, but just enough to get to know who I am.

Always start with an introduction – your name, where you’re from, and a little bit about yourself.  It is the jumping off point, a place where you can start building your friendship.  Then go into sharing with your new friend a few of your hobbies. For example, if you like reading, what are your favorite books and what are you currently reading? What kind of music or movies do you enjoy?  Remember to ask questions, too. Even though this is a letter, you are expecting a response – ask your new penpal what their hobbies are, what life is like in their town/city/country.

Consider also including a photo of yourself (if not in the first letter, then the second).  It is good to be able to put a face to a name!  As my friendship grew with Christele, we exchanged photos of us growing up, so I have a visual record of our friendship!  She even sent me a picture of her with her entire extended family!  I have sent her pictures of me on my most important days of my life.

My first letter to Christele led to hundreds of letters back and forth.  We talked about school, then university, then life as a young adult; we wrote through boyfriends and jobs, moves, hopes and dreams.  Now we talk about our children, our careers, our futures.  On my fridge I have a picture of her with her beautiful family, because through our letters, through that first written word, we became friends.  And it is a friendship that has crossed decades, language and an ocean.

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Meet the Writer: Akhila Jagdish is a writer and editor in the process of starting her own editorial services company, The Crafted Word. She loves making lists, collecting journals, reading, drinking wine and cooking. 

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How to Write: Thank You Notes

17 May

Thank you notes do not serve the purpose of simply naming (and sometimes also describing) a gift someone sent you. More often than not though, that is exactly what we send out, if we manage to send anything at all:

“Dear Friend, thank you so much for the beautiful red silk scarf. I love it.”

Not so great, right?

This post in the How To Write series is meant to help you write thank you notes well. And we begin by understanding one subtle difference: a thank you note is different from just a thank you. They are not one and the same.

Four Tips for a Proper Thank You Note

First, one should always acknowledge the specific item you received. The reason this is important is because it shows you paid attention to the specific gift the giver chose for you. This is especially important in group giving situations; like a party where someone receives a significant number of gifts. You want to thank each person for the specific gift they gave you and show that you paid attention to who gave what.

Second, it is very good practice to mention why you love the gift, or why the gift was meaningful to you. If you received a beautiful red silk scarf and you appreciate its quality, mention that aspect of it. If you received something like a gift card, something appropriate and apt to say is that you are so glad the giver gave you that option.

Third, anytime you can make the note about the giver, you should. Even in just a small way. For example, if your incredibly artistic friend whom you admire so much gave you a gift, you could write something like, “Thank you so much for the beautiful red silk scarf. I have always admired your eye for beauty and your ability to create it, too. This scarf will serve as a great reminder to me of your talent I so admire and our friendship.”

Sometimes, we receive gifts from people we aren’t exactly fond of. Sometimes, people give gifts not by choice, but by obligation. Hopefully, those instances are rare for you, but how do you thank someone who gave you a gift you don’t like? And you know they don’t like you? The answer is simple: you do the same way as above.

However, that brings me to my fourth tip: tell the truth. If you love the gift, you want to express that sentiment. If you didn’t like the gift, don’t hype it up, just say thank you in a short and sweet note. Don’t include any untruths in your note.

An example of a Thank You Note in an office setting.

Appropriate Timing

When do you send thank you notes? Anytime someone gives you a gift valued at about $5 or more is a good practice. If someone gives you something, no matter how small, and includes a tag or card, then 100% of the time should you send a written thank you note.

If you are ill and people stop by, leaving you things to make you feel better or perform some other act of care and concern, you should write a thank you note. If someone close to you passes away, you should write a note to anyone who came to the funeral or visitation, left flowers or made a donation. But as with all notes, send a thank you note anytime you intuitively feel you should or anytime you just want to.

Thank you notes are a simple and elegant thing. They serve as powerful acknowledgement of our appreciation and respect, and they allow us to take time to really, truly offer thanks to someone else.

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Meet the Writer: Cole Imperi is a business owner and a proponent of the handwritten word. When not at Doth Brands, a Branding & Identity firm catering to the health, wellness & deathcare professions where Cole works as Owner and Creative Director, you might find her on her yoga mat teaching yoga or behind a laptop writing for Simplicity Embellished, a letter-writing and lifestyle blog.

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Editor’s Note: This is the fourth article in the How to Write series. Read the others here:

How to Write: Sympathy Notes

How to Write: Ideal Business Correspondence Notes

How to Write: Friendship / Appreciation Notes

 

How to Write: Friendship / Appreciation Notes

3 May

It’s a Tuesday afternoon and the mail arrives. A few bills, some junk mail and … oh, what’s this? A small handwritten note. You open the envelope and read what’s inside:

To my friend,

Today, I was reminded in conversation with a colleague at work about our friendship. This colleague was sharing some difficult news related to recent events in her life and said she had found she had no ‘true’ friends.

I count you among my blessings. You and I have been friends since we were in our teens and while we may not talk every day or see each other all that often, I am so grateful for our friendship. I know I can call you or reach out whenever I need to and you’ll always be there.

Thanks for being a part of my life,

In friendship,

Your Friend

Wow! Imagine getting something like that in the mail. What would that mean to you, to hear from a friend out of the blue. Especially when there was no real ‘reason’ for it; no gift had been given, no favor had been done.

A Personal Challenge

Friendship and Appreciation notes are a special kind of personal correspondence and are always treasured by the recipient. They can be a challenge to write because they require the expression of honest, heartfelt emotion and sentiment when we, at least Americans, don’t normally do that.

Culturally, Americans express honest emotion in times of grief: “I am so sorry for your loss. It made me cry when I heard the news. I love you so much and I’ll do whatever I can to help.”

And in times of happiness: “Congratulations on the job! I knew you’d get a position like this–you totally deserve it. I’m so happy for you! I’m so excited for you!”

But what about just in regular times; in day-to-day life? We don’t really do that kind of thing. Herein lays the reason why Friendship/Appreciation Notes are not so common.

Get Started:

  1. Think of a friend. Whoever comes to mind first is probably a great candidate. Or, think of someone that has been on your mind lately for whatever reason, even if you haven’t spoken to them recently.
  2. Answer the questions, “Why do I appreciate them?” and “What made me think of them specifically?”
  3. Draft your note on notebook or copy paper first. A basic written formula is:
    1. Greeting
    2. Why you are writing
    3. What you want to say
    4. Closing, positive statement
    5. Sign off
  4. Once it looks how you’d like it, slowly write the final words onto a nice card or stationery.
  5. Seal and send off.

Here’s a sample you could write to someone who has been a lifelong friend.

Break It Down:

Greeting:

Dear Name

Why You Are Writing:

You and I have been friends for about 20 years. I remember when we met and how quickly we became close! In these past 20 years, you’ve seen me get married, get fired from a job, find a new job, have a child, buy a house, move out-of-state, and a whole lot in between. You have truly been a constant in my life; in fact, we’ve been friends for more than ½ the time I’ve been alive.

What You Want To Say:

I just wanted to write to thank you for your friendship and for sticking by me the whole time. You are someone I not only enjoy spending time with, but someone I greatly admire.

Closing, Positive Statement

See you at the annual Turkey Bowl Game this Thanksgiving

Sign Off

Your Name

Friendship/Appreciation notes can be hard to write because we’re not used to thanking people for being your friend. In reality, what you’re doing is acknowledging the friendship and thereby, acknowledging the friend. Acknowledgement like this is a powerful thing. Write a note to a friend this week. They will cherish it, and feel happy knowing they have a friend like you that would take the time to write them.

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Meet the Writer: Cole Imperi is a business owner and a proponent of the handwritten word. When not at Doth Brands, a Branding & Identity firm catering to the health, wellness & deathcare professions where Cole works as Owner and Creative Director, you might find her on her yoga mat teaching yoga or behind a laptop writing for Simplicity Embellished, a letter-writing and lifestyle blog.

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Editor’s Note: This is the third article in the How to Write series. Read the others here:

How to Write: Sympathy Notes

How to Write: Ideal Business Correspondence Notes

 

How to Put Stationery Leftovers to Good Use

12 Apr

It never fails: You near the end of a box of your favorite stationery only to discover that you’re left with several pages but no envelopes. Or a stack of extra envelopes and no notecards. Throwing out the extras seems wasteful, especially if you love the stationery. So what can you do with your stationery leftovers?

Vision Board

Combine those leftover pieces of stationery with inspiring images torn out of magazines and catalogs. Gather up all your favorite scraps, a big sheet of craft paper, some glue, and markers. Collaging is a great creative outlet and can be done just for fun or with a theme in mind. Identifying a focus for your vision board and putting it down on paper will literally help you envision achieving a specific goal or what you hope for the future.

Kids’ Crafts

Collect all your stationery leftovers in a folder for your kids to use in their arts and crafts. To avoid itty bitty pieces of scrap paper everywhere, challenge them to make something specific. For example, folding envelopes into a bouquet of flowers, create a mail art letter to Grandma, or allow their imaginations to run wild with sculpting a new toy out of paper.

Donate to Schools

Did you know many teachers spend their own money to stock their classrooms with art supplies? Help a teacher while helping local kids be creative. Take your scrap stash or pile of envelopes to an appreciative teacher. If you don’t personally know a teacher, call the elementary school near you and ask for the name of their art teacher. He or she will know exactly how to put those scraps to use!

Journal Makeover

Spice up your Moleskine by taping colorful or printed stationery scraps onto the border of your journal or calendar pages. If you have a large amount of scraps to use, grab a blank journal and start an art-specific journal to house your inspirations and make it your ideal creative outlet. Don’t stop there – use stamps, fun tape, and anything else you’ve got to jazz it up.

Easy DIY Wall Art

If you love the design of your stationery, upcycle it into easy wall art. Simply frame the notecard or page and hang. Depending on the design, you can also cut out portions to frame. Or, trim a single design into thirds, frame each third separately, and hang them together as a group. If you don’t want to shell out for a new frame, use spray mount to adhere the scraps to a piece of posterboard or even construction paper. For the super eco-crafty, super glue scraps of wood or PVC to make your own reclaimed frame.

Mix-and-match

If you have leftover envelopes from one set and stationery from another, try to fold the stationery in a clever way to fit the envelopes. For instance, instead of folding stationery in thirds by width, fold it in thirds lengthwise to fit a narrower envelope. Or if you want to get really creative, try out some basic origami shapes.

Messages

Trim leftovers down to the size of a standard sticky note, or roughly 3 by 3 inches. Place the stack near the telephone, and use them for taking and delivering messages – so much prettier than a dry erase board! Use the same scraps as idea scratch paper or to scrawl a love note that you can slip into your partner’s coat pocket or in between the pages of a book he or she is reading. Adjust the trim size to long and thin, and write inspirational quotes to put on your fridge or bulletin board.

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 Meet the Writer:Maggie Marton is a freelance writer who lives in Bloomington, Indiana, with her husband and their three darling dogs. View more of Maggie’s work at MaggieMarton.com

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How to Write: Sympathy Notes

5 Apr

Sympathy Notes really get a lot of scrutiny from the recipient. The words inside a sympathy note carry a lot of weight; it’s like they are magnified. These notes are sent when someone we know and care about has experienced pain. The pain of loss. Whether that is the loss of a parent, a pet or otherwise, loss is still loss. It is feeling empty when before you were whole.

What words are ever appropriate at a time like that, right? I don’t know about you, but every time I sit down to write one of these notes, I always think that there are really no words that exist that will actually bring comfort.

And then I remember, that statement is true. A sympathy note is not actually intended to make the situation better because it really can’t make the situation better. Instead, a sympathy note is a way to say ‘Hi, I’m here, and I’m thinking of you.’ It’s a reminder that the recipient has many people in his or her life to help fill in that empty spot.

There are lots of things you can say in a sympathy note, most of which are probably fine. However, there are a few things you should avoid saying in a sympathy note and I’ll tell you why.

Just Call

“If there’s anything I can do, let me know,” or “If there’s anything I can do, just call.”

Those are both very nice sentiments and anyone who says them means well. However, what you are really saying is: “I’ll help, but you have to call me first.” When someone is grieving, the last thing they need is another ball in their court, so to speak. And honestly, they’re not going to call. It’s better to say something like “I’m going to call you next week to check on you” or “I’m going to email you next week to check in with you, in case you need anything.”

When I discovered this tip, I was a little shocked. I said this all the time to people. I’d even post it on Facebook. And I was not the only one. Someone might post that they were sick, and there’d be eight Facebook comments of people saying “If you need something, just call!” It’s just another way of not really saying anything at all.

A Better Place

“They’re better off now,” or “They’re happy now,” or even “They’re in a better place.”

Even if the person you are writing to has said one of the above statements to you, it’s still best not to say it yourself. Honestly, maybe they’re not better off. Perhaps things happened you’re not aware of. The issue with this statement is that it’s not really a comfort to the person that was left behind. The person who died is still dead. They’re still dead whether they’re better off or not. And, the person receiving your sympathy note is probably not better off, definitely not happy now, and likely not in a better place. How can a dead person be better off than the living person you are writing to?

“I Understand”

Be careful when you say you understand or you know how the person feels (particularly when you’ve never been through the same situation). Let me give you an example. When a friend loses a parent, I will usually include a statement like this:

“While I can’t understand what it’s like to lose a parent, I can understand what it’s like to be loved by a parent. I know how much your father loved you. I remember in high school how he’d pick us up after track practice and he’d always kiss you on your cheek, give you a hug, and ask you how your day was when we’d get in the car. I vividly remember how much love your Dad had for you.”

Everything I said was completely and totally true. I didn’t say I knew or I understood when I really don’t know and I really don’t understand. Plus, I was positive. I wasn’t talking about death, I was talking about life.  Be considerate of this when you sit down to write a sympathy note.

Take the Time

Most anything written in a sympathy note has good intentions behind it. However, if you are going to take the time to write one, really pay attention to what you are saying versus what you are meaning. They can be different. If you want to actually do something for the bereaved, say what it is and commit to it. Don’t put anything back on the bereaved. Don’t comment on where the deceased has gone or how the deceased may be doing. Focus on the person you are writing to, the person who is still alive and dealing with the aftermath.

Death is a funny thing. It happens to all of us, and will happen to everyone we know. Yet, many of us struggle with how to act or what to say when it happens. If you stay positive and commit to doing something for the bereaved you’ll stand a better chance of sending a note that is meaningful, memorable and a true comfort.

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Meet the Writer: Cole Imperi is a business owner and a proponent of the handwritten word. When not at Doth Brands, a Branding & Identity firm catering to the health, wellness & deathcare professions where Cole works as Owner and Creative Director, you might find her on her yoga mat teaching yoga or behind a laptop writing for Simplicity Embellished, a letter-writing and lifestyle blog.

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Why Stationery is Important + Free Printable

29 Feb

Whether you write a quick note or a full-blown letter to a loved one or friend, any paper product will do. Truly. However, if you take the time to consider what you are writing on and with, you’ll see that you are creating an experience for the recipient. You are also creating an experience for yourself. The act of writing a letter was (and still should be) a way to connect with the recipient and to allow the recipient to connect with you. When you opt for stationery that has been customized, you are opting for a deeper experience.

Personal stationery became popular in the Victorian era and we still have remnants of this tradition today. It is most common in business situations; however, a revival of personal, customized stationery seems to be taking place, at least in the USA.

Stationery selection is really an art form. When you are writing a letter to someone, whether it be a thank you note or a letter for pleasure, one should select the stationery based upon the recipient and the purpose of your writing. The stationery should also be a reflection of who you are as well.

Choose your stationery in relation to the importance of your note. If you are sending an important letter; choose classic, important stationery. Traditionally, avoid using day-to-day paper (like notebook paper or computer paper) because it is everywhere, it is cheap and it is associated with other tasks, like homework and printing out reports and documents. You do not want your recipient to associate your special letter with homework or a work project!

Choose your stationery with the same amount of care you give to the words you put on the page.

To get you started, I’ve included a downloadable PDF of stationery you can customize! Click the following link for a letterhead made specially for you to download and use –> EPC-Stationery-Pomegranate-Editable

Free printable with a pomegranate from EuropeanPaper.com

Click to enlarge.

The image that appears on the upper right corner of the letterhead is a Grenadier Punica (aka Pomegranate) and was illustrated in the early 1800s. Fruits were a common addition to personal stationery and they would often appear in borders or as full-blown illustrations. The pomegranate represents fruitfulness and growth. This is a great choice for congratulatory letters or letters bearing good news.

The printable stationery set is customizable if you so choose. The file prints two sheets to one, 8.5” x 11” piece of paper. Fold it in half and cut it right down the middle. Each half-sheet folded in half fits perfectly into an A2 envelope.

To customize your stationery with your name and address, just open the PDF and click on the areas that have text. If you don’t want any text, just delete it and click save, then print. If you want to customize it with your name and contact information, simply click on the text and type what you want, save it and print it! The font and color of the font are already programmed in so it matches the image perfectly.

I’ll have another download for you in a few weeks. Let us know what you think of this resource and if you’d like more!

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Meet the Writer: Cole Imperi is a business owner and a proponent of the handwritten word. When not at Doth Brands, a Branding & Identity firm catering to the health, wellness & deathcare professions where Cole works as Owner and Creative Director, you might find her on her yoga mat teaching yoga or behind a laptop writing for Simplicity Embellished, a letter-writing and lifestyle blog.

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10 Letter Writing Tips

31 Jan

Writing a letter might seem like an art that no one follows anymore, like speaking Latin or doing the jitterbug (and where else can you find a comparison between those activities but here at EPC?), but there are many enthusiasts still out there. You’ll recognize us if you look closely. We sit in coffee shops with pens and paper in front of us instead of laptops. We walk into office supply stores and head over to the fountain pen ink refills instead of the printer ink refills.  We know how much an extra ounce costs, the price of an international stamp, and how much we can squeeze into a first class priority box before it explodes.

G. Lalo Verge de France Correspondence Sets on EuropeanPaper.com

G. Lalo Verge de France Correspondence Sets

Yes, I am one of them (and proud of it!), and I write hundreds of letters every year. My free time is spent with pen in hand talking with friends near and far. When I walk out to the mailbox every day, I know more than bills and advertisements are waiting for me.

Of course, to GET letters, you have to SEND letters. So, here are the 10 best letter writing tips I know, based on hundreds of letters written (and received) every year. These tips refer to both personal and professional correspondence.  The first six tips are must-do’s; the second four are options to consider.

  1. When you are going to write a letter, make sure you have enough time to do so. A rushed letter feels like a rushed letter, and typically, handwriting takes longer than you remember. If you aren’t sure you can find a free half hour or hour, combine your writing with other activities like watching a movie, waiting for the dryer to finish or sipping that morning cup of java.
  2. As you begin writing, refer to your last visit, conversation or letter with that person. Mention where you were, something that was said, or another statement that reconnects the two of you.
  3. Date the letter. I know that might not seem very important, but when the person reads the letter, re-reads it, and keeps it for ages, that date is very important. I recently dug through some old boxes and found all of the letters my mother wrote me while I was in college. She is no longer living, so these letters are truly precious to me. I organized them in the order she wrote them and put them in folders. The dates were essential.
  4. Write legibly. I know, I know. Duh, right? But you wouldn’t believe how many people have almost illegible handwriting. They either try to be fancy or they simply haven’t dusted off their penmanship skills in a long time.  If you have trouble with cursive, print. If that doesn’t work well, type. Make it easy on your reader.
  5. Ask the person questions.  A letter that just tells a person all about you-you-you and then says goodbye at the end is not much fun to read and often very difficult to respond to. Ask the person questions, such as: How is work? How are the children? Where have you traveled? What are you reading lately? They can be as simple or complex as you want to make them, but obviously keep your reader in mind regarding the type of personal questions you may ask. This will inspire the person to want to sit down and write back to you.
  6. Follow the simple rules of good writing. Always double-check that you spelled their name correctly and make sure you have the right address for the envelope. You aren’t being graded here, so you don’t need topic sentences and appropriate transitional phrases between paragraphs (yes, I used to be an English teacher!), but make sure you aren’t writing in such a manner that others can’t understand what you’re saying.

Those were the “must-do’s” of letter writing. Here are four more tips to consider implementing as you write more.

  1. Click the image to buy this product on EuropeanPaper.com

    Mudlark Eco Hayden Leigh Memento Boxed Note Cards

    Use attractive paper and cards for your letter. The European Paper Company carries many lovely options, including boxed notecards, a wide selection of eco stationery, and much more. Sure, lined notebook paper is nice, but it can be dull. A letter on fine stationery is often much appreciated, but if all you have is lined notebook paper dress it up a bit to make it special.

  2. Include fun little tuck-ins. Getting a letter is fun – getting a letter with surprises tucked inside it is even better. It can be photos, newspaper clippings, comics, bookmarks – whatever you want. These little extras can make letter writing even more enjoyable.
  3. Respond to letters quickly, but not TOO quickly. If your letter is in response to one sent to you, don’t let it sit around for more than two to four weeks before answering it. If too much time goes by, the person may forget what he wrote or think you have decided not to respond at all.  If I haven’t heard from someone in more than a month, I also send a quick postcard making sure all is well with them. On the flip side, it might sound crazy, but I wouldn’t recommend responding to someone the day or day after you get a letter. That might be so quick that it makes the receiver feel pressured.
  4. Finally, if all of this sounds wonderful but you’re stumped on who to write to, do some homework and check out organizations. If you don’t have family and friends that would be interested in writing letters, go to the The Letter Writer’s Alliance and The Letter Exchange online. They both offer wonderful connections to other crazy letter writers like me. EPC also lists web sites for letter writers to connect (check out the blogroll in the right column of this blog). Believe me—we are out there and waiting by our mailboxes. Write!

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 Meet the Writer: Tamra Orr is a full time writer and has written more than 300 books for readers of all ages. She is also mom to four and writes an average of 50 letters or more a month.

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Beautiful Paper, Perfect Pen … Now What?

10 Nov

The timing couldn’t be better. You have a free hour to spend as you please. On the desk in front of you is some of the most beautiful paper you have ever had. It might be a sheet of Amalfi watermark stationery or a tablet of G. Lalo Verge De France. In your hand is your tried and trusted fountain pen. You are ready to spend your hour writing.

G. Lalo Fine Stationery on EuropeanPaper.com

G. Lalo Fine Stationery

But—writing what?

Chances are you have some type of correspondence waiting to be written—most people do. Think about it for a moment. Perhaps you owe a few thank you notes to some people? Maybe a reply letter to a distant friend or relative? Perhaps you’d like to write a love letter to someone special? In these modern days of texting, instant messaging, emailing and Twittering, a handwritten letter is still a treasure many people appreciate.

The post office is struggling at the moment, but there are thousands of devoted people around the planet who are doing their best to keep it going, and you can be one of them. Many people sit down and spend an hour—or two or three—writing to someone in another city, state, or country. They share their thoughts and dreams, their daily activities, their opinions and philosophies, and much more—all just a sample of what you, too, can write. While many people pen letters to friends and family who have moved away, a number are also corresponding with friends they have only met through the mailbox.

Here are a few tips to help you put pen to paper:

Before you start composing, give your words some thought. What would you like to express to this person? If you are not sure how to phrase it, try jump starting those creative juices by taking a walk outside (nature can be amazingly inspirational!). As you walk or after you return, jot down a short list of points you want to cover in your letter so that you don’t get to the end and realize you forgot something important.

For a fairly brief letter, perhaps one to thank someone for doing something kind, consider drawing a swirl or border on your border to personalize it. You can also add a wax initial stamp to the bottom. Also, If you have trouble writing straight on unlined paper, you can often find a line guide in high-end paper, or you can create your own on the computer and place it behind your paper as a guide to follow.

G. Lalo Correspondence Sets on EuropeanPaper.com

Example of deckle-edged G. Lalo Correspondence Sets.

If you are using a fountain pen, make sure you have adequate amounts of ink on hand. If you have multiple pens with different types of ink, consider writing in one color and adding that swirl or border in another tone. Check that your ink has dried before carefully folding your letter into the envelope. You might want to embellish the envelope with the same swirl or border to create unity between container and contents.

Remember that while you want your correspondence to look lovely and delight whoever receives it, this is not English 101. You will not be graded on your perfect punctuation or vibrant vocabulary. Simply speak from your heart and let the words flow from your hand through the pen to the paper. After all, beautiful paper is like a sailing ship sitting in a harbor. It wasn’t meant to just sit there. Instead, add your words to it and then send it off on a journey.

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 Meet the Writer: Tamra Orr is a full time writer and has written more than 300 books for readers of all ages. She is also mom to four and writes an average of 50 letters or more a month.

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