Last summer, a writing professor asked me if I wanted to know the key to her success. Her articles and essays appear in a list of impressive publications, including Brain, Child; Orion; and The Washington Post. Of course, I was dying to find out. Was it her sparkling wit, discipline, fastidious proofreading, or some kind of superhuman resistance to rejection? Or maybe it was a brilliant critique circle? Or a special roast of Peruvian coffee?
“Thank you notes,” she said.
Of course, this writer is also creative, disciplined, and persistent, but she swears that thank you notes – like the ones your mom forced you to write to grandma as a kid – are what’s helped her succeed in a hyper-competitive field.
“Doesn’t matter whether it’s through e-mail, on pink scented paper, or via pigeon—a note of genuine gratitude deepens a working relationship with editors,” she explains on her blog.
The same writer makes a point of sending a note of appreciation once a week to another writer whose work she enjoys, saying it helps her form connections with other people in her field.
I’ve taken her advice to heart with editors, and I have no doubt that sending a simple thank you card – whether after a job interview, publication, or event – helps you stand out. I ran into an editor last summer, who told me mine is the only thank you letter he’s ever received from a writer.
I don’t send a thank you letter to a writer every week, but I love the idea. Ever since I heard it, I’m more likely to comment on blogs or send quick emails of appreciation. I’ve also made it a point to send thank yous for gifts my family receives. They’re so simple, and I’ve found that the practice of writing them breeds gratitude, an emotion psychologists insist makes us happy.
Of course, the best thing about saying thank you is not what it does for the sender, but for the recipient. It’s always great to hear that someone’s genuinely grateful for your efforts.
If you’ve grown out of practice of writing thank yous, it’s easy. Load up on cards and stamps, so you always have them on hand, and write whatever comes to mind. If you’re stuck, brainstorm on what you want to say before you put pen to paper, or check out these resources for tips on composing all kinds of thank you letters:
- How to Write a Thank-You Note – The Morning News
- Thank You Note Samples
- Thank You Letters for Job Searchers – About.com