Perhaps it's the connection with special occasions like birthdays and Christmas, or maybe it's linked to the recent surge in online shopping, resulting in millions of extra deliveries. One thing is certain, if we suddenly find a message from a friend or family member, it definitely tends to light up our day. A thank you note or a postcard from a holiday is always joyfully received, but the rarest and best of all is a long newsy letter written by hand that we can read and reread at our leisure.
It's easy to see how letter writing fell out of fashion: with texts and emails being so immediate and economical, why would anyone bother to sit down with pen and paper to write something that might take days to arrive? One compelling reason is the way writing by hand alters the way we express ourselves. Many creative writers begin their stories or poetry on paper in longhand, feeling that the words flow more naturally and that the process is more organic. That feeling can also be true for letter writing, especially for people who spend their working lives communicating electronically. We take time to think about what we're going to say, especially because we're unable to easily edit our words, and it tends to come from the heart. We also write at greater length; if we're going to the trouble to buy a stamp and walk to the postbox, we want to make it worthwhile.
So what's in it for us? Well, the act of letter writing in itself can be therapeutic – a chance to review recent events in our lives, think about the joys, share the troubles and talk about things we've experienced, whether it's new recipes and restaurants or great reads and must-see movies. Sitting down for a quiet half hour with a favourite drink, a special pen and some attractive stationery can be a pleasurable regular date to make with ourselves.
The thought of the smile our letters will bring to someone else's face is a wonderful motivation and, if that weren't enough, there's the added bonus of the replies that might soon be landing on our own mats. With the much-needed break from screen time and the joy of collecting stylish stationery, the benefits of this pastime are clear.
The built-in delays of snail-mail may seem a disadvantage, but perhaps we should embrace them. In these days of sound bites and rushed responses, taking time to consider what we want to say may be more worthwhile than ever.