by Elizabeth H. Cottrell
I am so grateful to Karen for inviting me to be a guest on her blog. She is friend, encourager, editor, brainstormer, and occasional rear-end kicker, and my life is richer for her being in it.
I confess I have a morbid curiosity for what makes serial killers tick. What were they like as children? When did the seeds of their obsession begin? Who is responsible for it?
When someone asks me, “Your book is called WHAT?” I can sense a similar curiosity for how on earth I chose this, of all things, to write about: HEARTSPOKEN: How to Write Notes that Connect, Comfort, Encourage, and Inspire.
So, I began to wonder myself how far back those seeds of passion for note writing began, and here’s the behind-the-scenes story:
I’m sure it began with my love for getting letters in the mail when I was a girl living in rural isolation on our family’s cattle farm in Virginia in the 1950s. The combination of distance and my mother’s time spent caring for my four younger siblings made it challenging to get friends over very often, and the three younger brothers next to me in age didn’t quite fill my definition of appropriate playmates. Thankfully, my grandparents were letter writers, and to this day, decades later, I still have a stash of their letters carefully stored in my desk. One of my favorite jobs was to walk—or ride my bike—to the end of our long driveway each day and check the mailbox in hopes of finding mail.
The next signs of this peculiar passion showed up in the crook of a Mimosa tree (which we called “the powder puff tree”) in the side yard of our country home when I was probably between eight and ten years old. The next best thing to a treehouse was the large side limb of that tree which angled up at about 30 degrees and then branched again to form a natural seat where I could perch with my feet dangling. I loved climbing up and fancied I was invisible there, hiding in a secret place. When I was able to have friends over, we rigged up a basket on a rope to haul secret messages up and down from that seat. At some point, I decided I wanted to put stamps on the messages like real mail. I created perforated squares by laying a piece of paper over an old window screen and used a pencil to draw the edges of stamp-sized squares and rectangles. We used tape or white glue to attach them to our top-secret missives.
Fast forward five decades, and this is how I tell the “conversion story” in my book:
A letter from a stranger was the lightning bolt that changed my appreciation for the potential of personal notes forever; from that day on, I saw them as a force for good in the world.
I’ve always written notes, because that’s what we were taught to do when I was growing up in the 1950s. I learned the skill from my mother and both my grandmothers. They all wrote beautiful notes. It was expected. It was good manners.
But the day I received that letter, I suddenly realized it was so much more.
The letter was from a woman devastated by the loss of her son:
“I truly appreciated the encouraging letter you sent my son’s fiancée after my son took his own life. She shared it with me, and it came during one of the most difficult and testing times of my life. I know I have read your note over 25 times; it was a lifeline which kept my spirits up.”
What on earth had I written that could have meant so much to this woman? Her son’s fiancé was a neighbor of mine and only a casual acquaintance. I only remember, upon hearing the news of this man’s tragic death, that I wanted desperately to reach out to her and let her know she was not alone. To this day, I have no idea what I wrote, but I know it came from my heart and carried a genuine desire to comfort her.
On reading the mother’s anguished missive, I remember experiencing a moment of instant clarity: a note crafted with thoughtfulness and compassion can have impact and create a ripple effect. I’ve been a believer in the power of note writing ever since.
I never aspired to write an etiquette book or a simple “how-to” book. My book’s goal is to help you find your own voice that I know already exists nestled in your heart. Once you learn to tap into it, you will never again worry about what to say or fear you will say the wrong thing. You will realize you have a free, powerful connection tool that can be used to nourish the most important relationships in your life, both personal and professional.
“Consider the flipping of a light switch. You can’t see the electricity. You may not understand how it works. But when power starts flowing through the open wire, it is nothing short of miraculous. I want to show you how to find and flip that switch in your own note writing. Once you learn how to make your notes heartspoken, they are no longer an obligation—they’re a privilege and a joy.”
So now you know how it all started.
If you’re at all curious, or you just want to get some of the free tips, tricks, and downloads I send to those on my email list, add your first name and email here: Heartspoken book. There’s no obligation to buy the book and you may unsubscribe at any time.
Elizabeth’s circuitous career has taken her from published leprosy researcher to stay-at-home mother, to community activist and leader serving on nonprofit and corporate boards, to ham radio operator, to freelance writer/editor and blogger at Heartspoken.com. Above all, she is a connector and encourager whose expertise and passion for note writing is coming at just the right time to a world made keenly aware by pandemic that we humans are hardwired for connection. Click the FOLLOW button on her amazon profile: Amazon author profile.
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