When I was little, collecting the mail was exciting because I knew anything which arrived with my name on it would be for me, personally, from someone I knew. As I grew older, the letters, postcards and presents I had once received morphed into anonymous bank statements and an over-abundance of pamphlets from the various charities I had signed up to; a trip to the post office no longer held its once-magical appeal. I decided a couple of years ago to do something about this depressing state of affairs by unleashing a letter writing and gift-giving campaign on friends, with the hope they would reciprocate (thankfully, they did). As a result I now look forward to in-coming mail with that same child-like intensity I once had, for I know that any correspondence I receive will bear messages of love and affection from people who know and care about me.
Interestingly, it appears I am not alone in making a conscious decision to reinvigorate the old snail-mail writing habits of the past. Many are choosing to reject the shallow, rapid-fire exchanges encouraged by social media platforms and text messaging in favour of slower (but deeper and more real) communication methods, which require both an emotional investment and commitment of time and energy.
Really stop and think about it; when was the last time you sat down and wrote a letter, or even a postcard, to someone you love? It can take a surprisingly long time to compose pages of hand-written dialogue, especially as you have to stop and consider what you are writing each step of the way; there is no backspace button, and you won’t get an instantaneous answer to any of your questions.
I would argue, however, and I think many would agree, that the rewards of letter writing are well-worth the necessary toil of maintaining a one-sided conversation for multiple pages. So much more expression can be conveyed through the hand-written word, and when receiving a letter in return, you know a similar amount of care and effort have been expended for your benefit, and with you in mind.
As a paper conservator, it should come as no surprise to learn that I love using beautiful, interesting paper to write my letters. This doesn’t stop me, however, from using any scraps which come to hand; my messages are often scribbled on the back of receipts, squished into funny shapes on torn pieces of cardboard packaging, or squeezed into the margins of loose pages fallen from second-hand books. My envelopes are just as likely to be random, hand-made origami concoctions, usually a recipe torn from a magazine or a particularly funny article in a newspaper.
I suppose my point is that letter writing doesn’t have to be a big production; it is enough to show someone you are thinking of them, whether this means setting the time aside to sit-down and compose something meaningful and considered, or scrawling something on the go and dropping it in the first Post box you see.
Either way you will make someone’s day, which seems a much better use of time than updating the social media feed on your mobile.
Write letters, not Snapchat captions.