When was the last time you wrote a postcard? Received one? For me, it hasn’t been lately or frequently enough. In today’s online world, the postcard is losing ground to cheaper, more instantaneous and farther-reaching units of communication. It now competes with text messages, tweets and the almighty Instagram. It can’t keep up.
Yet, the physical postcard will never lose its appeal. There’s nothing quite like receiving a small piece of paperboard art with a handwritten note on the other side. I’ve found that imagining the recipient’s reaction to a postcard I’ve sent is just as fun as receiving one.
Postcards are a genre, and some turn out better than others. Here are my tips for writing a more picture-perfect postcard while traveling (or even from home).
Collect physical addresses
Before traveling, make a Facebook post asking your friends to give you their home addresses if they want to receive a fun piece of mail. Ask people individually too. As responses roll in, copy/paste them into a Google document so you have access to them wherever you are.
If you want to keep the postcards a surprise, find an indirect way to get the addresses you’re targeting. Say you’re looking up directions, ask a family member, or check a wedding invite list.
Pick your postcards wisely
Postcard-browsing is one of my favorite activities while traveling. I love perusing the stacks of icons, attractions and natural landscapes. Dazzling photography. Cheesy typeface. Lots of sunsets. Look for local artists and photographers to support, and try to choose truthful images that resonate with a sense of place.
Practice your handwriting
Before you start writing on postcards, warm up your penmanship on a piece of scratch paper. Make sure you know every letter of cursive if you plan to use it. Write “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” Twice. Use a nice fine-point pen — it may enhance your handwriting.
Say only one or two things
Postcards are the tweets of old: they’re exposed to the public, and message length is limited. Do not try to write more than a couple sentences on a postcard. If you feel a letter coming on, find a full page of paper and an envelope. A postcard is not the place for it.
Got a case of postcard writers’ block? Here are a few ideas:
- Write the most surprising thing you’ve learned about the place
- Write what the place’s tourism slogan is, then write what you think it should be
- List the best and worst part of the trip so far
- Use multiple postcards for a several-part message
- Make a really bad pun
Photograph your postcard before you send it
Postcards don’t leave a copy of themselves in a ‘sent’ folder. They’re ephemera. But if you’re really happy with your postcard, take a picture of it — both sides. Down the line, you’ll be glad you did. If you’re on the receiving end, keep it around awhile. Postcards make great bookmarks and mirror decor.