Adventures in Letter Writing No. 84: Back To Basics

How can it be five years since The Handwritten Letter Appreciation Society started? I remember Thursday 26th October 2017 like it was yesterday here at the dining table with all the A3 pages of content spread out in front of the computer as friend, Jo, helped me set about building a website. Months before I’d been hatching the idea for it, talking to friends about it, gauging their reaction, and scribbling layout designs and menu and manifesto and all the things I wanted it to have, ready for that day. I’m still forever grateful to Jo for giving up her time to show me the basics and getting me to a stage that I could go off and start spreading the word. I love, too, that the mission of THLAS hasn’t changed since that very first blog post.

So, five years on and here we are with such a wonderful community, and friendships made, and letter writing really beginning to feel like it’s making its mark on the map of people’s lives again. And so many adventures had inbetween, and people joining from around the world, and appearing on radio and in newspapers and magazines, and getting out to venues and festivals again to promote handwritten letters.

At the time of writing THLAS has 949 members in 32 countries, 4,045 followers on Twitter, 1,849 followers on Facebook, and 1,155 followers on Instagram, together with a huge sense of gratitude and delight for every single one of them. Plus, the joy of knowing hundreds of letters have made their way around the world over the years, can’t really be measured.

But how to celebrate turning 5? I’ve honestly been spending my gardening hours dreaming up hare-brain ways we could mark the occasion, but do you ever have those times when none of them feel just right? I wonder if the weight of the last two and a half years has taken its toll a bit and knocked some of the stuffing out of the idea of celebrating, and then I just get in a tizz about going all out and what is the reason for that anyway. A big old circular thought process that gets me back to square one which is “Well, why don’t we just go back to basics and remember our quiet revolution in the art of intimacy?” The simple idea of inspiring and encouraging people to write a handwritten letter to someone they know or love (or both) and although that doesn’t have all the whistles and bells of a big campaign, that really is at the heart of The Handwritten Letter Appreciation Society.

I worry people feel frustrated at me for not being more entrepreneurial and setting up THLAS as a charity or a way to make money, and maybe one day I will regret that, but that was never the intention of the Society. I’ve never been very comfortable taking money off people which means 1) I rarely do, and 2) who has any spare money to give away these days, anyway? I just love the idea of influencing one person to write a letter to a friend, or family member, old foe maybe, or even famous folk. The beautiful thing of putting pen to paper that can only be understood by experience.

So, I don’t know, I think this year it might just be a low-key affair of saying to people the best way to celebrate the Society’s 5th Birthday is to write a letter to someone you love or admire or like or haven’t seen in a long time. We wouldn’t even need to share whether we have or not. We could inhabit that strange place of only writer and recipient knowing and that would be OK. In fact, more than OK, perfect.


P.S. Having said all that, these are some of the hare-brained pipedreams I had…

  1. Tea, cake and chat with Axel Scheffler (Member No. 855).
  2. A 5th Birthday shout-out on that big screen at Piccadilly Circus.
  3. A parkour person woggle-hopping (leap-frogging) a postbox (still).
  4. A ride-out in a Royal Mail Postbus like the one at The Postal Museum (if there was a working one somewhere).

P.P.S. You can find us at Wareham Library on Friday 28th October for some free drop-in letter writing if you wanted to join us to celebrate.

Photo by Bruno Martins on Unsplash

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