“Print is predictable and impersonal, conveying information in a mechanical transaction with the reader’s eye. Handwriting, by contrast, resists the eye, reveals its meaning slowly, and is as intimate as skin”.
(Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being)
Apparently, this week (14th – 20th January) is Universal Letter Writing Week.
Surprised that such a thing exists? I’ll admit I was, at first.
Particularly in an age when even Postman Pat has to amend his jaunty theme tune to “parcels through your door...” – letters being in sorry supply these days. Added to the fact that a whopping third of today’s teenagers have supposedly never written a letter at all.
Then I thought about all those handwritten letters I’ve still got tucked away in my house somewhere, and about why I chose to keep them.
It’s because handwriting is pure, joyous soul food.
I thought about all the letters I’ve written over the years; to reams of never-met penpals all over the world, to my Nan up in Scotland, and to my childhood best friend who only lived around the corner from me.
I’ll admit it: I was one of those weird kids who actually enjoyed writing post-Christmas ‘thank you’ notes. I’ve always loved receiving letters, and I still think there’s something very special about a handwritten envelope swishing its way onto the doormat.
After all, when was the last time you printed out an email or a tweet to cherish forever?
There’s a reason why we keep people’s handwritten words closer to us; it’s because there on that innocent piece of paper, they’ve given us a piece of themselves. It’s why a few words scribbled onto a Post-it can mean far more than a lengthily impassioned text, if it’s from someone you care about.
Better still, you can get just as much pleasure from writing to someone special as they’ll get from reading your words.
Studies have shown that people who write letters by hand are happier than those who don’t, because in taking that time to think and reflect on what you want to say (rather than firing off a hasty email), you’re reminding yourself of the deeper connections you’ve made.
In fact, for anyone who thinks letter writing is a bit passé, it’s actually a fantastic mindfulness activity. Since you can’t delete ink, you’ll have to stay focused and in the moment as you write those words.
Now I’ll be honest here: I hate ecards, and those bland pre-printed greetings from Moonpig and the like. Maybe I’m being overly picky, but if you want to tell someone you love that you’re thinking about them, then there’s nothing like writing it down yourself.
So if you’re looking for an impactful gift – or even a blessed cheap one…we are in January after all – a few handwritten words can do the job beautifully.
Don’t worry if you’re one of the four in ten people who are too embarrassed about the state of their handwriting to put pen to paper. Letter writing might well be an art form, but just like most pieces of art, the true beauty of a letter is in the eye of the person reading it.
So grab a lovely fresh piece of paper and do it anyway. Pour your heart into the page, and the right person will love it.
(Confession: I didn’t write any Christmas cards last year, because I told myself I was “too busy”. So I donated my Christmas card money to charity and got on with my work instead. But something just didn’t feel right, so this year I’ll be going right back to my Baileys-accompanied, handwritten festive missives.
I'm a friendly and professional writer, reviewer and editor who works with warmth, humour and flexibility.
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