Some time ago I wrote about my small collection of typewriters (here), and the fact is that the machines themselves have made me began to write more letters to friends, a hobby that I’m particularly enjoying lately. I don’t know if it’s part of this new trend of liking things of the past –hats, beards, spending less time online, etc.– but I find myself constantly seeing people on social networks writing on paper, either on journals, planners and, of course, writing letters to pen pals, and it’s making me be part of the trend.
I have always loved to send cards in Christmas and birthdays, or postcards when I am on holidays, and I have also received this discontinuous mail from other people, especially from my friends of my University years and the book bloggers I’ve got to know from all over my country, and now from abroad as well. It has slowly turned now into a habit: I write letters often, and the big difference is that I expect – and I usually get – a response from my correspondents. I love it!
So here I am, talking to the hidden correspondent you have inside, encouraging him to take a piece of paper and tell a friend how was your day, or just picking a card to say you were thinking of them.
Five reasons to write more letters
1. Letters make the person who receives them happy. Imagine: you are waking up today and, in another part of the world (why not?), someone’s day has been brightened thanks to you. And you don’t even have to write an eight-page letter; it’s fine if you begin by sending a greeting card or a postcard. Isn’t that awesome?
2. It is a way to disconnect. Not only do you have to write letters away from the computer or TV, disconnecting from the online world, but it also makes you stay away of the daily routine and stress as well.
The act of writing a letter requires calm and concentration, so you mentally spare a length of time in your schedule to devote to writing, thinking about the recipient and what you want to tell them. It is so intimate that I also like to light a candle and maybe listen to music while writing; I usually write my letters on Sunday evenings as a way to relax before starting the next week.
3. It improves your language skills. This is very different from writing an email because you have to actually think what you want to say before writing it down, or you’ll have to cross out half of your letter (no no no!).
My best friend confessed that she first writes a draft and then the real letter, to make sure she doesn’t make mistakes; that’s how elusive our self-confidence has become! Here is where I see the real value of sitting down, thinking about what you want to say and how, saying it in your head, and finally writing it on paper: it is a process that requires effort, like some kind of training and, with time, words began to flow in your head and it becomes easier.
If you think about it, as adults we only write things down on paper and without drafts when we take exams of some sort, if we take them, so our brains have lost some of their languages abilities since school/university, and it’s up to us bring them back again.
Needless to say, when you write letters in another language your language skills improve as well and, believe me, this sometimes is kind of a painful process, but totally worth it!
4. It is a creative activity. The act of writing itself is creative, but the culture around letter writing has evolved profoundly, as I have the opportunity of see every day on social networks.
- There are people who put special effort in choosing their stationery and use their best calligraphy in order to write long letters that are a joy to behold (like Lizzelle’s letters).
- Other people have transferred the art of scrapbooking to their letters, creating a totally new concept of mail: they don’t send letters, but create cards, books and other paper inventions to put together with their letters. Take a glimpse of this video (among thousands).
- Finally, decorating envelopes has become a mandatory task in order to send cute mail, and there is also a wide range of examples, so to pick just one, look at this.
I am a newbie in this burst of creativity around the letter writing community, so what I try to do is copy the masters, try this washi-tape or that calligraphy, see if a typed letter looks good in this kind of paper, etc. I’m not any good, but I enjoy trying! (you can see some of my attempts on my Instagram)
5. It helps you to let go of the addiction to immediacy, because there is no room for rush when it comes to write a letter. There are unwritten rules about the maximum amount of time to wait for a reply to an email, whatsapp, tweet, etc., and in none of them is acceptable to delay your response more than a few hours.
That doesn’t work with letters. There are simply no rules: for a start, you don’t even know when your recipient receives the letter and, second, you don’t expect them to leave whatever they are doing and write you back right after reading it. Letters take time, time to reach their destinations and time to be created; and you want for your correspondent to find a serene moment to sit down, think about you, and devote herself to communicate with you. Because this, my dear, is the beauty and comfort of correspondence: when two people who are far away keep their appreciation for each other alive in the distance and time.
So tell me, do you write letters? If not, do you feel more inspired to do so now?