Monday, January 16, 2012

The Power of the Postcard

I love the internet. Really, I do...I embrace every little bit of it, except for maybe this and this. I'm especially passionate about social networking; the new avenues of communication and connection have brought me closer to friends and family, and allowed me to create new friendships with people all over the planet. There's nothing like a status update that gathers 60 hilarious posts, a friend's new album of Instagrams, or a 4 a.m. chat about the mysteries of life to make me feel close to the people I love. It's a grand and glorious thing, this internet, and I can't imagine my life without it.

In comparison, the humble postcard seems woefully inadequate. Just a scrap of paper, really. Not even important enough for an envelope. Barely room to scribble out a handwritten message with penmanship that is often rusty and unpracticed. Why would we even bother with such a primitive and limited social tool?

Yet there is something magical about the postcard. Get one in the mail and you'll have a spring in your step for the rest of the day. You'll probably hang it on your fridge and smile at it when you walk by. Chances are that every member of the family and most visitors to your home will notice it and ask about it. There's a lot of happiness squeezed onto that little scrap of paper.

Even better is sending postcards. I love to make my own and send them out in big batches. My process is simple:

1. Gather up anything made of paper that has interesting images. My favorites are brochures and fliers from art museums and galleries.

2. Send a silent message of thanks and gratitude to the makers of those images for their hard work and artistry, which you are now going to use for free.

3. Cut 8-1/2  x 11 inch sheets of card stock into quarters, creating 4-1/4 x 5-1/2 inch cards. You can tinker around with the sizes, if you like, but I usually keep it simple.

4. Create a collage on one side of each card. I usually build three layers: a background of color or small scale design, a big image that serves as the focal point of the card, and then one or two small elements - a short line of text, a small complementary image - to complete the theme and balance the composition.

5. Find people who like to receive cards. Track down their mailing addresses; add a short message. Don't worry about what to write; no matter how lame that message seems to you, your recipient is going to love it. Trust me.

6. Take them all to the post office; buy a sheet of stamps and then stand at the counter to stamp each one. Drop the whole handful into the letter slot, walk out the door, and feel the surge of happiness that comes from the power of the postcard.

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