Emailing, tweeting, texting — 20 years ago, these things were unheard of. Now, we can’t live without them. Although the advances in technology are amazing, we can lose some things along the way, as well. In today’s world, letter writing is not just unusual; it is almost a completely forgotten art.
How long has it been?
You probably can’t remember the last time you pulled out a piece of paper and a pen, sat down and wrote a real letter to a friend or relative. Email is so easy and immediate that we use it to communicate with colleagues, clients, family members and just about everyone else we know. With the introduction of smartphones in recent years, many of us no longer communicate in well-thought-out paragraphs in pretty, handwritten script. We now correspond in short snippets full of abbreviations and text-speak.
Something special about receiving a thoughtful, personalized, handwritten letter in the mail remains, though. Even a short note on pretty, scented stationery is nostalgic.
In most big cities, stationery stores — where you’ll find paper, envelopes, notecards and quality pens — still exist (some, as part of gift shops, office supply stores or party warehouses). Alternatively, you can order online from sites like American Stationery.
Choose stationery that matches your personality. With hundreds of colors and styles out there, you can purchase something formal and elegant or fun and whimsical.
As with anything else in life, you need to make letter writing part of your regular routine for the habit to stick. Set aside an hour or two a week to write a letter to a friend or relative. It doesn’t have to be someone across the country whom you haven’t seen for years. Your spouse is sure to appreciate a handwritten love letter.
You’ll be surprised how much you have to say, once you put pen to paper. When you write a letter by hand, you must think more before you write, mainly because it’s messy and more difficult to correct. That’s why handwritten letters can be more meaningful, emotional and honest than an email.
If writing a full-page letter out of the blue seems impossible at first, start slowly with thank you cards or holiday greetings — and we don’t mean the type of holiday letters that are typed out once, photocopied dozens of times and emailed to everyone you know. A personalized holiday greeting — even just a few sentences — will be appreciated by friends and loved ones.
Pick a partner
Though a response isn’t essential, it’s a beautiful thing if you can get an actual ongoing correspondence happening. Talk to your friends and family to find someone who agrees to write back and forth. Though you may have more to say if you don’t see your letter-writing partner often, this could be just about anyone. Save every letter you receive in a special place.
When writing your letters, talk about things that really matter to you. Remember that, someday, your great grandchildren may read the letters. Complaining all the time that your husband doesn’t pick up his socks or that your co-worker slacks off doesn’t make good reading.
Writing letters can be very pleasurable. It forces you to slow down, unplug and really think about what’s happening in your life. In an increasingly disconnected world, the lost art of letter writing can be revived with a little time and effort.