Is writing a letter something new for you? Now, if you’re my age and either a Baby Boomer or a Gen-Xer, then you’re probably thinking “New? This isn’t something new!” But I ask you…..when was the last time you wrote one? A letter, not a card, not a thank you note, but a real letter, two to three pages long. If it’s been a decade or two, then you can consider this something “new.” And for all my millennials out there….a letter is not an email or an emoji-filled text. It’s more personal and it takes a little bit of time and commitment, but I think it’s well worth the effort.
Being able to write goes back to 3200 BC and the first recorded handwritten letter is from 500 BC. But letter writing really hit its stride in the 1700s when the first of many manuals on the subject started coming out. Many famous authors and leaders have had their letters compiled into books. Letters are what kept soldiers going on the front lines and what kept loved ones going on the home front. After my father died, we found a box with all the letters that he received while he was stationed in the Pacific during World War II. All of them, whether from his wife, siblings, in-laws or friends. All were in the box in the order in which they were received.
In the old days (1970’s and before…..my old days, not ancient days!) It was much harder to communicate with people, especially if they lived in different towns—-even in the same state. There was usually only one car per family and most household phones didn’t have call waiting so you could only talk to one person at a time. And to make it worse, instate long distance charges were a real thing back then. And once you got past that and could make the call, the phone was wired to the wall which meant you usually had to sit in one central location.
During this time, writing a letter was so much more important…..and in some cases, just so much easier. Growing up, my niece and I would regularly write letters to each other. We lived about 40 minutes apart and only saw each other a couple of times during the school year. We would write about what was happening in school, our daily lives, and of course, boys. While it took some time to write a letter, the reward was receiving a letter in return. I know in this age of instant communication, it’s hard to understand the level to which letter writing was held, but it was thrilling to see a letter in the mailbox with my name on it. (Think Harry Potter getting his first letter from Hogwarts…it was that thrilling!) And, if you were getting a love letter…off the charts.
If you want to try writing a letter you’ll need a pen and some paper (not notecards, but paper—-stationary if you have it or notebook paper if you don’t.) And yes, a pen or pencil because no matter what kind of font you use, a letter off the printer is not as personal. Once you have the pen and paper, you need to know who you are writing to because you need to personalize it, this isn’t a newsletter in which you’re speaking to everybody. And then, after you’re done, you’ll need an envelope and a stamp. The content of the letter is up to you and depends on who you are writing to. If you’re used to texting this person, it’s time to write out in full sentences something that you would normally share in a text or picture. Go ahead, fill the whole page, maybe even a second page and ask about the other person, maybe a loved one, or project they are working on at that time. It’s almost like you’re having a conversation, but it’s on paper and you won’t get the responses until a week or so later.
I hope you give this letter writing a try. Even if only for one letter. If it’s your first time, I’d love to hear what you thought about the delayed gratification of receiving the answers in the mail. And if writing a letter was like picking up a well-worn book for you, I’d like to hear how it felt to write one again.
If you wish to find out more information about letters and letter writing, I can recommend the following