Along with my
great affinity for obsession with pens and all accessories that go with pens (including inks, paper, journals, wax seals), I love to write.
No big secret there. I’ve talked often about writing (NaNoWriMo anyone?). I journal (occasionally). Hey, I have to justify buying new journals somehow. And of course, I write blog posts. (Or at least I do when I’m not being a big slacker).
But there’s something magical about writing an old-fashioned, handwritten letter.
Letter writing dates back to ancient times. According to the ancient historian Hellanicus, the first recorded handwritten letter was from Persian Queen Atossa 500 B.C. In the earliest years, letters were typically written on leaves of plants or bark of trees and sent via courier (usually with the recipient having to pay the cost).
From the early days of American exploration, letters became increasingly more essential as the first explorers landed on the eastern shores and gradually adventured west.
As a country of immigrants, early settlers often left family members behind. Letters became a bridge to those left behind. During times of war, letters have connected loved ones and provided crucial information. Because of letters, historians have been able to more thoroughly document American life.
Letters have played such an important part of American life, we have an entire museum dedicated to it.
Today, sadly letter writing has significantly declined as electronic methods of communication monopolize. But studies have shown that the act of writing by hand promotes both physical and mental benefits, such as hone fine motor skills, learn to express and generate ideas, and reduce stress. (See this article, this one, and this one as examples.)
Plus, haven’t we all had the experience of remembering something because we wrote it down versus just trying to remember it or even typing it?
In addition to all the perks of handwriting, there’s something magical about letters. The magic goes both ways—those who writes the letter and those who receive the letter. C’mon, who doesn’t love getting actual mail? In a time when mail is usually bills or junk, getting an actual letter from a friend can make your day. And isn’t it awesome when you’re that friend?
Letters don’t have to be pages and pages long. A one-page letter with a couple of paragraphs to say hello and wish the person a happy day. I might include a little bit of what I’m currently reading or some small adventure I’ve recently had or want to have. Then I usually close with a small thanks to the person for being my friend, maybe a short statement expressing why I enjoy having them in my life.
And it doesn’t matter if you suck at penmanship. There are no rules to letter writing. (Okay, well my 10th grade English teacher would disagree, but in this case, I give you permission to throw the rules out and just write.) Use print letters instead of cursive. Do all caps. Use a pencil. Use a fountain pen. Use the pen you stole from the last hotel you stayed at. Whatever is easiest for you, do that.
See? Easy peasy. A letter is a small gesture that benefits you and is guaranteed to bring a smile to someone.
So my 2019 challenge to you is to write 1 letter each month. You don’t have to write to someone alive or even real. Write to your favorite author. Write to a fictional character. Write to your mom. Whoever you want.
But write 1 letter every month this year. And experience the magic for yourself.