Meet Hannah Brencher. She’s the professional love letter writer behind The World Needs More Love Letters—a social media driven movement aimed to lift broken spirits and instill self-confidence. Today, she and her team of writers have left scripted love letters around the world—spanning six continents! We had the chance to meet the awesoME girl behind this incredible organization. Here’s her story.
MyEveryzine: How did you get into love letter writing?
Hannah Brencher: The story behind More Love Letters began about two years ago, shortly after I graduated from college and moved to New York City. I was a full-time volunteer, living on the third floor of an immigration center, trying to figure out the starting thread for all these unkempt writer dreams in my head and crying far too much on the subway. I actually started writing love letters to people I would see on the train as a way to rid off some of the waterworks. What started as a hobby of sorts resulted in the leaving of dozens and dozens of love letters across New York City for others to find and be encouraged by.
As it usually unfolds, when social media joins in, people began requesting love letters from me. The people were from all across the world with all shapes and forms of heartbreak. It was during the writing of those first couple hundred letters that I started to think something bigger was brewing.
ME: Who was your inspiration?
HB: Letter writing has always been a big part of my life. I attribute that to my mother—a diehard unbeliever in all things social media. She’s got the social down good, but no such skill in the media parts—Facebook, Twitter, email, etc. So she wrote me letters all throughout childhood and into college and adulthood. I’ve always had it in my bones because of her. Did I think I would become such a figure for it? Never.
ME: When did you think, ‘OK, I want to share this with the world,’ and turn your letter writing into More Love Letters? What were your first steps?
HB: I honestly wasn’t given much of a choice. A reporter from the Wall Street Journal reached out to me and interviewed me about how I find balance between handwriting and social media. I honestly didn’t want every reader of the WSJ thinking they could ask me for a love letter: I would never stop writing then.
The week before the article ran, I fleshed out the bigger picture, built a website and just went with it. I honestly thought the website would die out in a month or two... but this proved it had momentum overnight.
ME: When did you realize More Love Letters was becoming this big social media driven organization?
HB: From the very start I knew that, in order for it to work, More Love Letters would need to be very, very social. There was never a question in my mind that it wouldn’t be social media driven in order to fuel the offline practice.
ME: What has been the response so far?
HB: More Love Letters has grown bigger and brighter than I could have ever imagined. People love it. I’ve yet to find someone who opposes it. And it has gained so much amazing publicity—none of which I actually pitched for—and so it leads me to believe that I am really onto something good here. And I am just thankful that it is a mission I am proud and humbled to stand behind and not something I half-heartedly believe in.
ME: Do you send out a weekly email with love letter requests or do you go about it differently?
HB: Being an actual writer on the team means you take on a few extra letter requests every month. I had writers for the team apply and do sample letters before actually giving them real letter requests. They receive requests on a monthly basis.
ME: Is there a story that sticks out the most in your mind that reinforces your work?
HB: I gather these kinds of stories every single day. It is such a blessing to me. One that definitely resonates is one of the very first stories that trickled into the inbox. It was the first two weeks of More Love Letters existence, and it was really the point of, ok…can this work? A girl from Florida sent us an email saying she had found one our love letters on her bathroom sink at the university she attended. She went on to explain that she had been having a really rough day and that letter changed everything for her. That was when I realized I was in this for the long haul.
ME: How did you make the decision it was time to devote 100% of your time to More Love Letters?
HB: I was reaching a point of burnout, to be honest. I was beginning to be stressed and overwhelmed over both my full-time job and More Love Letters. And that was when I had to step back and reevaluate. I knew I didn’t want to grow resentment for either of my roles, so I made the decision to find a way to pour myself into More Love Letters and find the actual time to give it wings and make it fly.
ME: Did you ever feel discouraged or fearful? How did you overcome that and follow through?
HB: Who doesn’t? I think that happens to everyone who has a really wonderful project under his or her belt. Honestly, I think the big fear came at the beginning, of not knowing how the people who actually knew me or had grown up with me would react to the project. This thing has healed so many relationships and brought me back in touch with so many people. The fear doesn’t hang on too tightly anymore. A little is a good thing, but I don’t let it keep me from doing the good work on a daily basis ad moving towards innovation and bigger heights with More Love Letters.
ME: Any future plans for More Love Letters you can share? What can we expect?
HB: More Love Letters will have great big changes ahead. I cannot reveal it all, but there will be definitely more options for letter writing, and bigger and brighter campaigns that really reach out and rattle people.
ME: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
HB: Good, good question that I honestly cannot answer. This is a path I could have never predicted even a year ago, so I just have to let the bigger plan take all of me. I hope to have written some books and really be an advocate for meaningful communications in such an overwhelmingly digital world, but we shall see. I am open to anything and everything.
ME: Are you always looking for love letter writers? How can people get involved?
HB: Anyone can hop on the site and join the subscriber list. You’ll be all hooked up with the letter requests and all the More Love Letters news.
ME: Do you have any advice for people who are trying to find their passion, and for people who want to turn it into something more?
HB: My advice would be not to belittle your passions. That is the first thing we do. We cut them down. We deem them not worthy and it is just not true. If you have a great and daring idea, then flesh it out…make it fly. Don’t keep talking about it—see what it would look like to really make it work in the real world.
Oh, and another big thing, don’t place so much pressure on yourself to start something new. The greatest innovations often come from us stumbling into them from experience. Go outside and live. The great ideas get all untangled from the living the life that feels real and authentic to us.
ME: You’re a finalist for the TED2013 Global Talent Search. Tell us about that.
HB: TED was my first opportunity to speak openly about what my life has looked like in the past two years. I’ve stumbled into a social movement that began with a single love letter and I’ve grappled to find the words to tie it together for a very long time. I feel like my story is really at just the beginning, but it was an amazing opportunity to be able to share the start of it with a wider audience.
Check out Hannah's TED talk here. Trust ME, you don't want to miss it.