I was recently asked to contribute to an article for the Lifestyle section of the Independent newspaper for World Letter Writing Day which was very exciting. The questions asked were the two below and it was great to sit down in my Letter Writing Shed and give them some attention. I thought it would be nice to share my answers.
Just a couple of sentences were used in the piece in the end but I was delighted to be asked for my opinion for a national newspaper. Click HERE to see the full article.
Why would you recommend letter writing compared to more instant forms of communicating?
Instant forms of communication are brilliant without a doubt but it can never replace the feeling of seeing a proper handwritten letter on your doormat, or the sensation of putting one you’ve written into a postbox knowing a little piece of you in the form of words on a page will physically arrive at its destination in a day or two and wondering about the reaction of its intended recipient. The beauty of something tangible, that’s actually travelled from a friend or loved one’s hands to yours (or vice versa), and that is for your eyes only, is so precious and something we should all be lucky enough to experience, hence our Society’s “handwritten letter revival” started in October 2017.
Letters are about the here and now, the joy in the moment of seeing someone’s handwriting on a page solely for you, but they can also transport you through time, back decades, like your own museum exhibit, to a place perhaps long forgotten. Instant is great and convenient (“Can you get more milk, please?” “Where are you?”) but the handwritten letter is something so much more, and lasting. A little gift of you. Likes and shares are a thrill but can also be exhausting and I’ve often thought requires a lot of resilience. Social media is great fun but tends to make your friends an audience whereas a letter is a one to one connection we don’t have so much of these days and which I feel we’re missing out on. Through letter writing we’re hoping to encourage “a quiet revolution in the art of intimacy”. Also with a letter from a friend, resilience is rarely needed.
In the digital dominated age, why do you think letter writing appeals to people and do you feel that people are returning to it?
Christian Lous Lange said “Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master”. Maybe we’ve got to a time where we crave something more real in our forms of communication. People could be forgiven for thinking it’s only those of a certain age that pre-date the internet that have a nostalgic love of letter writing but from a straw poll many in their teens, 20s and 30s are finding something meaningful and rewarding in the lost art. We are bombarded by digital streams for much of our lives, so letter writing as Nick Bantock says “is an excellent way of slowing down this lunatic helterskelter universe long enough to gather one’s thoughts”. It gives us some much needed time out and although slower it feels more authentic.
Before Coronavirus people had started to write letters more but lockdown really brought it back to the fore, right across the world. It feels bittersweet that a pandemic was the thing to shine a light on writing letters again but perhaps it is a silver-lining amongst all the sadness; the discovery, or rediscovery, of the power of the humble, yet mighty, handwritten letter in keeping us connected while physically isolated.
People definitely have been returning to it. It’s whether once life ramps up again, will they continue? Hopefully the occasional letter or two on their doormat, or the joy of writing to friends and relatives on paper again, will keep them inspired, and confirm just how special handwritten letters are. The thing is probably not to analyse it too much but to give it a go. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.