Handwritten letters are something really special. I’ve written at least one letter a week for the last 3 years and it’s not a habit I can see myself giving up anytime soon. Not only is it a lovely thing to do and share with someone you love, I genuinely believe that taking the time out to create a handwritten letter is good for you.
Here are 12 reasons I think we should all we writing more letters.
THEY’RE A LOVELY SURPRISE
Who doesn’t love receiving mail? Knowing that someone you loved has thought of you in the form of a little envelope (or a big envelope) on your doorstep is just the best feeling.
YOU CAN SAY THE THINGS THAT MATTER
Quite often when we send an email or a text we’re responding to something or asking for something. When you write a letter, you can just write the things that matter more proactively (I guess you could do that in an email, but you’re more likely to in a letter). The idea that you’re writing for the sake of writing, for sharing something special is what makes letters that little bit magical.
THEY MEAN MORE
There’s no getting away from the fact that sometimes letters just mean more. There’s something wonderful about holding a piece of paper that you know someone else was holding and thinking of you. Handwriting can convey so much more than a typed letter, you can see emotion and speed in letters. Handwritten letters are just so personal, that’s why they’re so loved.
Physical letters feel more permanent than their electronic counterparts. There’s just something them. Because they’re more likely to be cherished (I’ve kept every letter, and meaningful post it, I’ve ever received) they’re also more likely to stick around. Just think how great it’s going to be for you, or your friends, or your great great grandkids, or even your future biographer to get to go through them in however many years.
BE A PART OF TRADITION
Letters of Note is one of my favourite books I own. It is a testament to the enduring tradition of letters, a tradition which I am so happy to kind of be a part of.
THEY MAKE YOU HAPPIER
Writing letters to people you love is good for your mental health, and that’s not just me talking it’s science. At the University of Kent, Steve Toepfer tested the benefits of writing genuine letters of gratitude and found that the “more letter writing people did, the more they improved significantly on happiness and life satisfaction.”
IMPROVE YOUR MEMORY
Writing out what happened in your week, or how you were feeling about someone or something at a particular time helps it become a lasting memory. According to Dr Helen Macpherson of Deakin University “hand writing forces you to organise your thoughts that leads to deeper processing” which means that you remember what you’re writing down. So, write letters to your friends about the good times and the things you love and they’ll stay with you much longer.
IMPROVE YOUR WRITING
While you can just go stream of consciousness, if you want your recipient to get the most out of your letter you have to think about what you’re writing. Practising structuring your thoughts and getting it right the first time (it’s much harder to cut and paste on paper) really does help you become a better writer. I think if you put my letters from 3 years ago, next to the one from 3 days ago, you would definitely see a difference, even if my punctuation still sucks. Plus, you worked all those years through school to perfect your cursive, don’t let it get rusty and go to waste!
Writing a letter doesn’t have to be all about the words, it can be a great excuse to get creative. That can mean anything from including some paper ephemera from the stories you’re writing about, to including a physical photo, to illustrating your letters and envelopes. In terms of creative letter inspiration, you could do a lot worse than scrolling through Lucy Halcomb’s Instagram.
TAKE TIME TO UNPLUG
When you hand write a letter, you have to give it your focus for however long it takes you to write out what you want to say. That’s time spent not looking at a screen, but making something and thinking. In an age where we’re increasingly looking to unplug and try out digital detoxes, writing a letter is the perfect excuse to step away from the blue light.
IT’S AN EXCUSE TO BUY/USE YOUR NICE STATIONERY
Now I never really need an excuse to buy more stationery, but I never say no to having one. Some good places to start your hunt include: Paperchase, Papier, and Rifle Paper. I love my super simple but pink (!) paper and envelopes from Crown Mill too. If you want to resist the urge to expand your collection of paper and envelopes (I have so much respect for you) letter writing is the perfect time to use up the random bits you have lying around. Got a couple of sheets of coloured paper just hanging around, use it! Got some off cuts of wrapping sheet that aren’t big enough for a gift, make them into a fun envelope! Got a wealth of stickers you’ve only ever used 2 of, decorate the poop out of that letter!
EASIER THAN YOU THINK
All you really need is a pen, some paper, an envelope and a stamp. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that. You don’t have to write the next Great American novel. It doesn’t even have to take that long. You just need to write something honest, something thoughtful or even something funny, seal it up and send it.
Are you a snail mail lover? Why do you love letters?