I come from a family of letter writers and card senders, and over the years, I have become one myself. This means I look forward to the mail arriving each day, as there is always a chance that mixed in with the magazines, catalogs, and packages is a missive or two from a friend or family member.
I write thank-you letters, congratulations letters, condolence letters, and correspondence letters. When I moved to rural Vermont, I wrote quite a few “Would you like to be my friend?” letters, which were surprisingly successful (although I was writing to poets, who love letters, so the likelihood of response was higher).
When I’m writing a letter, I enter a meditative state where I can consider my life in a different, more pensive way. Writing by hand is slower than typing for me, which means my brain is forced to slow down and think through my sentences. When I’m writing, I like to make sure I have enough time to re-read the letter I’m responding to and write my response in full. It’s not uncommon for my letter to be many pages long, as once I begin the confessional act of letter writing, I often find it hard to put a stopper in the flow.
Communicating through handwritten letters feels more personal than email, and I often find I tend to be more truthful in my handwritten correspondence. Unlike a personal email, a handwritten letter is an object to be held, unfolded, and kept to re-read at a later date. Hearing from a friend or a family member is always a gift, but a handwritten letter is a gift doubled because of its physical presence.
Although I do have a few pen pals, and my family members are great letter writers, many of the letters I write do not result in a handwritten response, which I’m perfectly fine with. I don’t write to make others write back to me; I write for the pleasure of sharing myself with others—and to let my loved ones know I care for them and am thinking of them.
If you’d like to write more letters than you do now, you’ll want to buy yourself some stationery that makes you smile and a nice pen and stop by the post office for a book of stamps. (Stamps can also be ordered online if your post office is always extremely busy!) I find that the easier it is to write a letter, the more often I will write one. This is why I like to leave out a card or two on top of my desk, for if I have a spare half hour, there’s always someone in my life I can think of who deserves a handwritten note.
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