It is a magic moment when the first words appear on paper. This millisecond is the moment of birth. The first desperate breath of the letter, word, sentence, book, an idea.
While writing on a computer or even a typewriter, this moment is almost invisible, less intimate, and more mechanic. Handwriting, that’s a whole different story.
When I was about eight-nine years old, I met a girl. She came to our farm to spend a summer. Veronica was a year older, but we found a common language that we used to communicate with during hot days filled with the smell of wheat and heat.
When the first autumn rain filled the hard and shrunken earth, we said goodbye to each other. None of us had a mobile phone. In our village, the internet was just some modern invention that would take a few years to reach this remote area.
Despite all of the adversities, we decided to stay in touch. Even though we were kids, we both have been sending letters to each other for years. I don’t know why and how, but at some moment we stopped and lost contact.
Maybe it was because of new school friends, maybe because of the speeding up of communication technology, maybe the letters got lost. I don’t even remember who sent the last letter, her or me.
She wasn’t the only pen pal I’ve had. When I was visiting my parents, I found a box full of postcards and letters. They were so different.
Some of them on special letter paper (that was one of my favourite gifts to get: a pack with envelopes and pieces of paper, beautifully decorated), some on casual sheets, pulled out from a copybook, with bent corners and turned edges.
The ones from Victoria I could recognize right away. She had beautiful handwriting that contrasted with other letters from the box.
These were hard to interpret, and it took me a while to decode who sent them. Yet, they had one thing in common: the ability to bring back memories.
In an instant, the smell of the hot summer days was back. A taste of tears mixed with the scent of old paper. The memory of first love and of sudden heartbreak were enclosed in those labyrinths of meaning.
I felt bad that I no longer receive letters, nor send them, and I am not the only one. There are so many reasons why it is worth it to sit down, take a piece of paper, and start writing, even if the letter is to yourself or you are never going to send it.
Reasons to Write Letters
By writing letters, you pay attention to the words
How fast can you write on your keyboard? If you are Millennial, Gen Z, or you work on a computer, probably fast. In that case, too fast.
Machine writing makes us produce content quicker, but it also leaves us less time to think. We don’t have a chance to think through the next sentence.
While handwriting, our brain can follow our body. Thanks to that, the sentences you create can be more meaningful and bestow more details.
Letters bring and settle memories
When you write and have time to think before producing words, you can reach into your brain to recall memories. Perhaps you want to describe your new job or tell someone about how you feel after your last meeting with a friend.
While writing a letter, you can focus on your emotions and recall memories. When you write down the ideas and feelings that you have, you might see a new angle to your situation or simply put your memories in some order.
Sharing what you saw or experienced in a letter makes you more mindful of the world around you. To write a letter is to tell a story.
You want the receiver to understand what you mean and feel. When you have to describe something, whether a situation, a person, or even a feeling, you become more mindful of the things that surround you. Details become everything.
You might receive an answer
I remember the thrill of waiting for a response to the letter I sent. It kept me excited whenever I saw a postal carrier approaching our cottage, and trust me, that feeling is just great.
When you send a letter, you might receive an answer. Perhaps some people would reply to you by sending a message via phone, but maybe someone will decide to communicate with you more traditionally, adding a spark of joy to your everyday life.
The message you send might be more meaningful
I am endlessly grateful that I can communicate with people I love within seconds. No matter where I am, I can send an SMS or use WhatsApp and get a response very quickly. Yet, this swift communication sometimes rips the messages of meaning.
Usually, I prefer talking with my friends or family in person, instead of sending texts or even doing face time. Everything is too instant, and even if I have a lot to say, I simply feel that I lack the words.
By choosing a letter over “instant messaging”, you might give more meaning to the words you share. They are gathered more carefully, you decide on what deserves to be included in your letter and in which part of it.
An exciting event is even more thrilling when you can write about it and share it with your loved one in a slow manner, instead of sending tonnes of messages right when something is happening.
You can share the beauty in a more intimate way
Does a picture show reality better than words? Maybe in some cases, but not always. Even with such technology as is available today, you are not able to share the smells, the way you felt while experiencing the moment, etc.
I could send a picture of a hill with blossoming cherries to my partner on WhatsApp. Would he get an idea of what I see? Sure, but it wouldn’t be a full image of my experience, not even close.
I would rather write to him about the smell of the air, the feeling of the sun, and the wind on my skin, about how the white flowers dance in the air reminding me of the snow and the winter we spent there, snuggled under a blanket.
You can make someone positively surprised
People don’t expect a letter, so you can give a great surprise to your dear one. Sending a letter is a nice thing to do, especially now, when many people feel isolated and lonely because of the pandemic.
The message from you won’t be another bing in their phone. It will be something the person can touch and experience, even more than once.
I can bet that anyone would be happy to find a personalized item among bills and junk.
You show a person that you care
Writing a letter takes more time and a bit more effort. Yet, it is a great way to show a person close to your heart that you care about them. It’s like giving a present bought in a store or offering a handmade goodie. The surprise is bigger and the person can see that you found some time to make them happy.
The reply is not instant, so you have time to think
Remember all those messages that you’ve sent while being emotional? Yes, I would rather forget them too. Instant technology makes people react immediately. With a letter, even if you start writing your answer right away, you have time to cool down and think about what you would like to say and understand your feelings. With the right words, you might avoid hurting someone or even find a way to say how much you love them.
I walked around the flat after my partner left to live in a different country, missing him, and browsing flights that could take me to him soon.
Then I felt an urgent need to share with him some of my thoughts and feelings, but I knew that if I started writing a message on my phone or computer, it wouldn’t be what I wanted, so I took a piece of paper and wrote a long letter.
After that, in a pile of letters, I found an envelope with an old address for Victoria. I am not sure where she lives, who she is, and what she does now.
However, I took another piece of paper to write to her about how beautiful the village where we met is, plastered with spring trees covered with white and pink flowers.