We spend an average of 2 hours and 40 minutes on our mobile phones every day. We receive an average of 90 emails a day and spend an average of 94 text messages a day. Electronic communication and social networking seem to bring us closer to our friends and relatives, but have we lost the personal touch? We broadcast updates about our lives to everyone who follows us, but do we still take the time to connect with people in a meaningful way? For many people, the old-fashioned letter is receiving a kind of a renaissance. More and more is being written about how much better it is to take up a pen, find a nice piece of stationery, and sit down and write. Letters create a connection that modern impersonal forms of communication will never approach.
Catherine Field, writing in the New York Times recently said:
“A good handwritten letter is a creative act, and not just because it is a visual and tactile pleasure. It is a deliberate act of exposure, a form of vulnerability, because handwriting opens a window on the soul in a way that cyber communication can never do. You savor their arrival and later take care to place them in a box for safe keeping.”
If you were born well before the mid-nineties, when email really took off, you probably have a shoebox collection of letters stashed somewhere. Letters are REAL, they are an expression of yourself projected in writing that is tangible and enduring, conveying true feelings and storing memories for future generations.
The actual act of handwriting a letter is actually good for you. Numerous studies have shown that writing by hand improves memory, limits distraction, and actually sparks creativity.[i] Process, patience, persistence… these are words lost today. Letter writing is one of the few crafts where we can actively develop these skills in ourselves. We’re in a distracted world, and relationships are taken for granted. Letter writing helps us prioritise what actually matters in life: Who we spend it with.
There’s something about writing a letter that allows you to put down your true thoughts, sincere sympathies, ardent love, and deepest feelings that somehow social media updates and email just don’t. They build connection by showing that you really care, having taken the time to sit down and write – and carry a little bit of yourself in a sincere and enduring way. Handwritten letters have a charm of their own. You can take time to think about what you want to say. You can keep letters to read again and again. You can admire the handwriting; share dreams and thoughts. Responding by letter is very different from the immediacy of a text message or an email. The recipient will know that you’re thinking about them in a personal way, and the best thing is – you’ll probably get a letter in return! What a great feeling to open the post box and find a handwritten letter waiting for you.
Letter-writing is great for kids too, and thankfully they still teach how to write letters at school. But we can help encourage this. With so many friends living overseas these days – why not find one who has a kind of similar age to your own and see if they want to be pen pals. There is something special about putting letters into the post box and then having letters delivered by the postman… the brightly coloured stamps, seeing your name on the envelope and knowing that inside is a long-awaited letter from a friend or member of the family.
So what are you waiting for, it will take you all of two seconds to think of someone you haven’t spoken to for a while, get their address, pick up your favourite pen and some nice paper and write! You can be original, the letter is a representation of your true self. And you can indulge yourself, flourish your language, and express yourself – all of your aspirations, joys, and disappointments. It’s guaranteed to make you feel good, and you’ll make the recipient’s day too.