When was the last time you sent a letter? Unless you’re a rare old soul that pens missives on a regular basis, it’s probably been a while. Time marches on and with it, the death of all manner of things – carrier pigeons, landlines, paper. This Christmas, Royal Mail reported that parcels replaced letters for the first time ever in postage popularity. Why send reams of paper to someone that take days to arrive, when you can just slide into their DM’s and next-day ship a gift set?
In honour of Love Letters, our latest collaboration with wordsmith and designer Christopher Thompson Royds, we’re taking a stand for the lost art of letter-writing. Here’s why you should dig out a pen and surprise a loved one with pages of prose.
Conviction (and no backsies)
Nowadays, we can edit, delete, rewrite and go back on all of our digital declarations. In a zero commitment world, we never really have to declare anything with total conviction. And while that takes the pressure off, it also means we lose the strength of emotion that resolute action provokes. Putting something down on paper is a weightier gesture, especially at a time when nobody does it anymore.
The two-way hit of joy is better than a thousand DMs
Social media algorithms deliver micro hits of happy hormones to our brains to keep us scrolling. We’ve become reliant on little and often as a result – the rush of a notification fades almost instantly, and you find yourself craving another before the first has even faded to black.
Sending letters means you might get one back. Picture opening your mailbox and finding something other than council tax bills in there. Receiving a letter means someone has written something down so only you can enjoy it. The hit of happy hormones that creates knocks retweets out the park.
Mindfulness is hot right now, for good reason. Our attention spans are shorter than ever, so it’s up to us to retrain our brains to not get bored within 30 seconds of picking up a task. Writing down your thoughts for an audience takes concentration. Writing your thoughts down so they actually make sense takes even more concentration. But, like all things, regular practice makes perfect. Especially when you’re making someone you care about happy as a byproduct.
It takes time – and we’ve got plenty of it
We’ve learned all we need to know about sourdough now. We’re tired of ‘pub’ quizzes on Zoom. Nobody wants to see another picture of your plants or your pets. It’s time for a new lockdown craze, and letter-writing is ripe for the picking.
What do you have to be afraid of?
Most of us don’t write on paper on a daily basis. Narrative structure, handwriting, and a lack of autocorrect or backspace may seem like more trouble than they’re worth. But not every letter you write has to be the work of literary genius. And your recipient won’t notice if you’re missing an apostrophe with that sloppy, first timer penmanship anyway. If we’ve learned anything in lockdown, it’s that trying new things and challenging ourselves is worth it. Even though that first loaf of sourdough was a yeasty disaster, it taught you what to do better next time. And while writing a letter may not offer the same immediate benefits as a fresh-baked loaf, the long term rewards will far outweigh the first-timer fear.
So get off your computer or phone, write something down and stick it in a post box – you never know what you might get back.