If you are of a certain age (like me!) you will remember a time before laptops, mobile phones, hashtags and social media. Technology has enabled a myriad of new ways of communicating but none come close to the old-fashioned letter. In the olden days, as my kids would say, writing letters and postcards was an integral part of keeping in touch with family and friends. I had several pen pals as a child and continued to write letters long after electronic mail had been invented.
The communications culture has changed beyond recognition in the last twenty years. Some for the better of course but the art of writing letters has been lost in the white noise of electronic devices. Writing a letter is something more than just sending a message to someone. It’s a process beneficial for the writer as well as the recipient. As a youngster I found the whole process of writing a letter on special stationary with matching envelopes, posting it and waiting for a reply, quite exciting. That perhaps says more about my childhood than letter-writing, but the point I’m making is that it was a more meaningful way of communicating than just sending a few sentences via text message or Facebook. By taking the time to put my thoughts down on paper, I received the reward of getting someone else’s thoughts in return.
Letters as self-therapy
Writing letters can be a helpful way to release emotions about something or someone by putting in print the words that cannot be spoken. Sometimes, the most powerful letter is the one you never send. Addressing your feelings in a letter gives you the opportunity to get stuff off your chest, even if the letter ends up crumpled in the bin. It is a safe way to vent and say things you would never be able to say directly to the person you are writing to.
Writing to yourself can be useful, as it enables you to explore your experiences and feelings from a different perspective. A favourite writing exercise of mine involves writing to your younger self. What would you like to say to that young child who was struggling with something? What advice would you give your teenage self with the benefit of a few more years’ life experience? Or you could write to your older self. What would you like to say to yourself in thirty years about how your life turned out, your fears, hopes and dreams? Articulating your future leads towards the first steps to getting where you need to go.
So why not invest in some pretty letter stationary and give it a try. Whether you decide to write to someone else or yourself, I promise you it will be time well spent.