Once I was asked just that question by a reporter and she was taken aback by my immediate response of “Nonsense!” There appears to be an assumption that there is no longer a need for hand-written and personalized thank-you notes, and I wanted to assure you, there are always occasions, events, and other times when gracious words and thoughts are sincerely appreciated.
My own sons, when they were little, got stuck when it came time to write their notes. They experienced the same frustration of basically knowing what they wanted to say, but didn’t know how to say it or where to start. And, just like almost everyone else who has stared at blank page, they were intimidated by the dreaded writer’s block.
However, when you approach a thank-you note as a mini-adventure in creative writing, a whole new attitude begins to evolve. All that’s needed is three to five sentences, and make it more FUN; I encouraged them to use generous doses of imagination and good humor.
Later, as I volunteered at their elementary school, and others throughout Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, both the students and the teachers applauded my philosophy, easy tips, and techniques to turn their “Oh, do I have to” complaints into surprising “I can do that” enthusiasm.
Just think about it. As with any art or profession, there are certain necessary tools. Where would Georgia O’Keefe be without her paints and canvases? Or Josiah Wedgwood, without his clay and sculpting tools? Or Jim Henson, without his furry materials and a performance studio?
Gathering Your Writing Tools BEFORE You Need Them
Now is time to get your:
Scratch paper for your first drafts (or you can use your computer).
Stationery or note cards with a favorite design or you can create your own using a computer program with photographs or graphic elements.
Stamps. (The US Postal Service has a great selection of commemorative stamps available through http://www.usps.com/all/ (under “Buy Stamps” click through to “Panes” to see the sheets of stamps). Or do a search online using “Create Your Own Postage Stamps” for companies that will help you design your own stamps.)
A pen of a pleasing and contrasting color suitable for your stationery.
A calendar (for planning and deadline commitments).
A dictionary (don’t depend on your computer’s spelling program).
A thesaurus (there is more than one way to say “gift”).
But My Handwriting is Terrible
How many times have you read a thank-you note and noticed how the handwriting changes throughout? I describe this fluctuation as a battle between the left brain and right brain. Once you become aware of your first thoughts, as you take out your good stationery with every intention of “dashing off” a note, you may find that they are not the beautiful, creative musings of gratitude. They are, in reality, “Oops, if I make a mistake, I’ve ruined a perfectly good piece of stationery,” followed by a visualization of crumbled paper frustrations.
That good piece of stationery is a left brain object of perfection, which doesn’t allow for easy stream of consciousness creativity. The first draft is perfect for the right brain’s creative dance of thoughts and ideas. Here you can make changes, correct your spelling and grammar, and find those words to capture your sentiment perfectly.
But I Don’t Know What to Say
I believe we are all natural storytellers, and by that extension, writers with stories to tell.
As a writer you need to work with a foundation
of facts, so answer these basic questions:
Who gave you the gift?
What is the gift?
Why did you receive the gift?
When did you receive the gift?
How will you use the gift?
Then, use your five senses to add adjectives to the mix. Draw on your relationship to the person who gave you the gift. Now, you have more than enough information to write a fantastic note. Once the draft is done to your satisfaction, you can RELAX; because all that is left to do is copy what you’ve written onto your good stationery.
By being prepared to write your thank-you notes, and by following the confidence-building ideas above, you will find that with each note it gets easier to express your gratitude to others.
One Last Thought About Penmanship
Your handwriting is an extension of your personality and what you have written, an extension of your voice ― together they are a magical connection that is within your power to create and share.
Note: This article also contains copyrighted material from Cat Wagman’s book, Why … THANK YOU! ― How to Have FUN Writing Fantastic Notes and More. http://www.thankyouthankyou.com/
Cat Wagman is President of Working Words, Inc., a Florida based company, that takes the work out of writing by providing copywriting, editing, and consulting services. She is also available for speaking engagements and creative writing workshops. Contact: WorkingWordsFL@yahoo.com or 984-629-8772.