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The Lost Art of Letter Writing

Posted By Cathy Bennett

I have recently become part of a pay it forward group, where the pay it forwarder is paired up with someone who is less fortunate than themselves and are struggling with day to day life or are lonely and miss contact with other people.

Everything is strictly anonymous and it is entirely up to you how often you communicate with this person or if you want to send a little something in the post to cheer them up.

Personally I jumped at the opportunity to be part of this, there are so many people out there who are lonely and crave contact with other people but often do not know how or have a disability that holds them back from doing so.

Letters used to be a staple of communication. Sending news, keeping war-separated lovers connected, sharing a tasty bit of gossip with friends, but it has become a dying form of communication.

Can you remember the last time you wrote a letter to someone?

The great thing about this group is that everything is done via snail mail,no social media or email of any kind, just good old fashioned pen to paper hand written letters.

Catherine Field from the New York Times summed up perfectly how I feel about letters:

“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 savour their arrival and later take care to place them in a box for safe keeping.”

So as I sit and ponder what to write for my first letter, I got thinking is there an art to writing a good letter, just like if you were to write a story, does it need to have a beginning, middle and end?

Here are my findings:

  1. Stationery is important – This is where you can really show your personality, which as I am writing anonymous is a good way of adding a bit of me to it.
  2. Get a good pen – Sounds simple but there is something to be said for a good pen, I am sure we all have that perfect pen that feels comfy in our hands. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but one that writes nicely and feels comfy is the one for you.
  3. Make time to write – Good letters are written when you have the time to sit and think and let your brain run free, so make sure you make time to sit down and write.
  4. Style of Writing – Try and make your writing easy to read and if possible elegant.

Why bring back letter writing?

  1. Handwriting is personal – There is nothing quite like the personal touch of a handwritten letter. It shows you care, it shows warmth.
  2. Letter writing takes time – A text or an e-mail is usually rushed and not well thought out. Although it is a convenient way to communicate it is not thoughtful lie letter writing. Physically writing out a page of words takes more time than hastily typing an e-mail.
  3. They bring joy – Lets be honest, most of the letters we all receive are bills or junk. But, the joy when you review a letter from a friend or an unexpected card, wondering who took the time to send you something so simple yet special.
  4. Leave a memory – Can you think of a single e-mail that would be worth printing out and storing away? Do you bother storing your text messages? A letter or card will last a lifetime and can be passed onto future generations.

I have kept every single card and note that my husband has ever given me so that we can sit through and read them when we are older with happy memories and for our children and their children to read. Creating a legacy.

Because here’s something I’ve noticed: people really do like having something to hold. Nothing quite beats physicality of the handwritten letter. I am not saying don’t email, that has its place it is immediate, a conversation can be had, a plan made within a matter of minutes, there are no barriers of distance or time, it is convenient.

But sometimes we want to slow things down, be nostalgic and this is where hand written letters can have their day!

So now, as I prepare my writing desk with colourful paper ready to put pen to paper, I challenge all our clients to take some time today to write a letter by hand to a friend or family member and make them smile!

#payingitforward

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