Tuesday, September 01, 2009

what makes a good pen pal?

I admit it, I look at my blog stats. I'm not religious about it and I don't get weirded out when numbers drop (my ego is not that fragile), but I am fascinated by what brings people to the site. The best is when I discover a new blog or Web site that's linking to me.

That's how I found SoulPancake, a site created by Rainn Wilson with the aim of making "Spirituality, Creativity and Philosophy cool again…engaging the user to "Chew On Life's Big Questions."

The story of my correspondence with John Hughes has prompted them to ask,

Who (dead or alive) would you choose to be your pen pal, and what you say to them in your first letter?

I have a new pen pal who came to me as a result of the interest in the blog post and for whom I am incredibly grateful. (I'd like to take the correspondence to pen and paper at some point, but for now we're corresponding via email.) And, well, I would love to still be able to write to John. But is there anyone else?
  1. They need to be able to — and clearly love to — write; an "interesting" life does not equal good pen pal.
  2. They need to be reflective. Observations about the world around you make for good reading.
  3. They need to balance — over the course of the pen pal relationship (not necessarily in a single letter) — sharing stories from their life with inquires about mine.
  4. They need to trust that they have my confidence and I need to trust that I have theirs. There's honestly nothing better than the intimacy that comes with that sense of trust.
So, I guess it's not a single person, but someone who, like John, who can deliver on these four points.

Like my new pen pal.

How about you? Let the folks at SoulPancake know.

9 comments:

phonelady said...

I could so easily be your pen pal and if you were to ask why I would say . it is the way you took the time to write to John and how you seemed to put your soul into those letters . You did put your soul to paper if that is possible then you managed to do it . I hope you understand what I am saying here . This is an awesome blog .

Ayoub said...

I'd love to be your pen pal :D

rachel said...

I agree with your penpal criteria. Especially the first point – it doesn't matter how "interesting" someone's life is if their insights are lacking.

Or if they don't have a sense of humor. That is a necessity in my book.

I had a handful of penpals when I was a kid. I think I found them through chat rooms or online bulletin boards. Somehow, I ended up with penpals from far away places (from me, at least): South Africa, New Zealand, etc...

I miss having one. I hope I can find someone one day to exchange letters with again.

carrie said...

You have FANTASTIC penpal criteria. In the past couple of years, I have made a big effort to increase the number of letters and postcards I send out, but I am often disappointed with what (if anything) I get in return.

I'm interested in Correspondence: thoughtful discussion. It drives me crazy when correspondents don't answer questions I have asked. (Or ignore major things I have told them about my own life.)

I'm going to have to refine my own penpal criteria - thanks for sharing yours!

Hannah Miet said...

I'd like Hemingway to be my pen pal. He is one of my inspirations for picking up a pen, for an reason, in the first place.

I know this exposes me as technologically lame...but how do I check my blog stats?

Iggy said...

Oh well I've started reading this blog so I might as well comment on it!

Pen pals...there was a huge thing at school about this, back when I was 8 or 9 years old. I don't think we ever did anything about it though.

I do have people I consider pen pals, friends that live far away (easily done since I'm in a different city each week) and we mostly correspond via email. Does meeting your pen pals every year or two consider them friends? Do you stop being a pen pal if you know each other personally?

sari said...

Someone came to my blog with the search term "Is eye rolling genetic?" which cracked me up. (I think it is, it's part of the "sarcasm and lack of patience gene").

I have a penpal - one of my sisters, who recently moved to England for two years (she's a teacher). I send postcards about twice a week, it's fun and I find the more random the things I talk about, the better I feel about it.

Robbin Phillips said...

Long live the pen pal, Alison!!!

I have to tell you as President of this thing we call Brains on Fire, I love my pen pals. I have relationships with CEOs of much bigger companies, authors, famous inventors, professors. It keeps my faith in this world of ours burning bright and renews my belief that we all want and need to be connected to our kindred spirits. Good luck with the book. I'll read it.

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