Developing the Habit of Writing Letters & Sending (Slower) Physical Mail

Habit Writing Letters Michelle Chahine Sinno

You know the small, cute shops you seem to only go into when you travel? The ones that have nothing and everything, that have things you suddenly absolutely must have even though you never knew you needed them before?

While visiting our friends on Bainbridge Island across the Puget Sound from Seattle two weekends ago, we went into several of these stores while walking around the island, as well as nearby Poulsbo. One thing that kept jumping out at me were all the beautiful (or funny) handmade cards in these shops. I had been meaning to send a thank you note ever since my birthday last month, so I started looking for the right card. I found one, and several others that I wanted to send to people in my life.

I ended up controlling my impulses and only buying two (one by Lucilla Lavender designed and printed in the UK, and one by Wiley Valentine, a company founded by two women in California inspired by their grandmothers). It was such a pleasure yesterday morning to stop everything I was doing, take a few minutes to write (physically pen-and-paper write) each card, seal the envelope, put a stamp on it, then walk downstairs to drop it in the mailbox.

It felt like I was doing something so different, a break in the routine–almost rebelling against all the electronic, digital, wireless communication that now runs our relationships. It also felt like I was connecting with these two people on a deeper level: not a phone call or text message or Facebook post or Instagram ‘like.” I paused my day, sat down, thought of them, wrote a heartfelt note, and mailed them cards across the city and the country. It was also very calming and centering.

In our busy, work-centric modern world of multi-tasking phone calls, iMessage, Whatsapp and social media, writing a letter felt like a whole other dimension to relationships. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while, and thanks to our recent trip, I’m now inspired to physically mail someone something at least twice a month, to foster relationships that are important to me and find more meaningful ways to connect.

Now I know that many people out there may think, why bother? Why not just send an email? The art of writing letters is dead, a thing of the past– but that argument’s actually been out there for a while.

Letters of the Century Stephen J. Adler Lisa GrunwaldA couple of years ago while I was doing research for a novel I wanted to write, I read through Letters of the Century: America 1900-1999 edited by Stephen J. Adler and Lisa Grunwald. The very first letter shared in the book, dated April 5, 1900, from Joel Chandler Harris to his soon, touched on the subject of the deeper connection and honesty that can come from writing letters, as well as his view that in 1900, the art of writing letters was dead. Here’s a beautiful excerpt: (from p. 12)

Dear Evelyn,

Your letter was waiting for me when I came home, but was not the less interesting because I had seen you in the meantime. We usually say more in a letter than we do in a conversation, the reason being that, in a letter, we feel that we are shielded from indifference or enthusiasm which our remarks may meet with or arouse. We commit our thoughts, as it were, to the winds. Whereas, in conversation, we are constantly watching or noting the effect of what we are saying, and, when the relations are intimate, we shrink from being taken too seriously on one hand, and, on the other, not seriously enough.–But people no longer write letters. Lacking the leisure, and, for the most part, the ability, they dictate disputes, and scribble messages. When you are in the humor, you should take a peep at some of the letters written by people who lived long ago, especially the letters of women. There is charm about them impossible to describe, the charm of unconsciousness and the sweetness of real sincerity. But, in these days, we have not the artlessness nor the freedom of our forbears. We know too much about ourselves. Constraint covers us like a curtain. Not being very sure of our own feelings, we are in a fog about the feelings of others. And it is really too bad that it should be so. I fear I am pretty nearly the only one now living who is willing to put his thoughts freely on paper…

Sound familiar? It might not be too late for us after all.

What do you think about writing and sending physical mail? Does anyone have this habit?

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