What I Wish I Knew Before Starting Pen Palling

Dear Reader,

         I’ve been pen palling since November of 2014, and even in these first four and a half months I’ve learned A LOT. While some things have been surprising, other things I expected but didn’t really understand until they happened. Maybe some of you can relate.

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#1 Postage Adds Up

         At first, .49 cents a letter doesn’t seem like much, but when you are sending 5+ letters a week, with some of them being over the 1 oz .49 cent limit (or over the ¼ inch thickness limit), international mail, or the occasional parcel, your postage can add up quick. Since November, I’ve probably spent over $50 on postage all together. Now, I work full time and can afford to spend that much on a hobby, but if you are younger and don’t have a job, or only work part time, that might limit the number of pals you can realistically have, even if you have the time to write to more.

         I also recommend getting familiar with postage rules very early on in your mailing hobby. If you can get a scale, that will help a lot, and will save you some money. Since the only day I can physically get to the post office during ‘open’ hours without taking time off from work is on Saturday, and my letters have become more intricate (and heavier!), I’ve been using my oz. scale more and more frequently. If you are in the US, I highly recommend checking out the USPS website, especially for international mail rates.

 

#2 Mail Slumps

Empty Mailbox

         This one I knew was bound to happen at some point or another, but it did surprise me that it wasn’t a day to day thing, but more of a week to week and even month to month occurrence. Some weeks you are bound to have mail pouring in, and the next….nothing at all.

         For the solid first month of my pen palling, I was sending out letters on a daily basis, whether it was happy mail, swaps, or pen pal letters. That meant a pretty steady stream of incoming mail from those who answer letters immidiately, which was awesome! But then all of a sudden I would check my mail and there would be nothing there – what a disappointing feeling! The first time this happened, it was a little over a two week period where I only received three or four letters. Little did I know, that the next week, my mailbox would be flooded with incoming mail from my pals! There are ebbs and flows in everything in life, pen palling is no exception!

 

#3 Be Patient

         This was the hardest one for me in the beginning, and it goes hand in hand with #2. Sometimes it takes awhile for pals to reply. That’s okay! People have their own system and their own pace. If you find yourself waiting longer than you’d like between letters, maybe it’s time to start looking for a few more pals. You never know what someone else is going through that might change their circumstances or prevent them from writing back as quickly as you’d like, so try to be understanding.

         The reason I say being patient was hard for me is because when I get into something, I go ALL IN. I was wanting to write letters 24/7, so while I was waiting for my first few pals to reply, I continued my search for more and more pals. Now that my initial fervor has passed, I’ve slowed down my reply time a bit and mostly write on the weekends. I don’t even check my post box every day anymore!

 

#4 Friendships

         Probably the biggest surprise I got through letter writing is how quickly you can bond with someone you’ve never met! I have several pals I felt intimately connected with after the first letter. I honestly wasn’t expecting to make such good friends through pen palling – I first began this hobby as a way to exchange paper craft goodies with people who had things I couldn’t get where I live, and I quickly realized that I am a long letter writer at heart. Because of that sort of journey into pen palling, I have pals who are more on the ‘arty’ side of the spectrum, and others who write 10+ page letters. I enjoy them all, and I like having the variety. I’m so glad I’ve found these girls, and I know that I’ve made some lifelong friends already.

 What were the things that have surprised you the most about pen palling?

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4 thoughts on “What I Wish I Knew Before Starting Pen Palling

  1. I’ve wondered the same thing myself. Maybe there is an Emma pile in the back of my post office that they let sit awhile and then they’re like ‘oh yeah, we should probably put this in her box.’ That’s what it seems like sometimes. Always tempting to get more pals too!

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  2. I’ve fortunately not had any of my outgoing letters get lost (that I currently know of), but I just recently found that a letter sent to me was lost. Then again you hear crazy stories of letters showing up months and months later. It’s crazy! Definitely no fun!

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  3. I agree with Mandy on the lost mail. First of all it’s the WORST! All that time and effort and for what? But then how long do you wait before it’s officially lost? Anything less than a month is jumping the gun..but anything over 2 months seems a little extreme of a wait for letter mail.

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  4. Mail slumps are the worst. It makes me feel like I need more pen pals to keep the incoming mail regular. Then, like you said, suddenly my mailbox is overflowing! It makes me wonder if my mail sits in a warehouse for a bit somewhere along the way.

    Another part I’ve had to deal with is when/how to decide that a letter is lost rather than just taking the scenic route.

    Liked by 1 person

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