When I was five years old I picked up the best habit I’ve got, from my mother: hand written correspondence. She loved writing cards and, as it is said, children do what we do, not what we say.
That was 36 years ago, when puppy and butterfly stickers were as much a part of the cards I wrote as words were. In the decades since, I’ve accepted that letter writing is an art, a powerful art, and one that has benefited my life in profound ways.
Here are the top three reasons why letter writing is powerful.
ONE: It makes relationships stronger.
Relationships are the core of life, and letter writing is an art of relationship.
When you’re struggling or just feeling down in life, you depend on relationships to help bring you back up. When you’ve got something to celebrate, you want to share it with people who’ll be genuinely happy to hear the news.
Relationships are what makes life rich. Though popular culture defines intimacy as solely for romance, intimacy is actually the sharing of human experience. Think of it as “into-me-see.” When you share your human experience with someone, however tender it might be, you invest in relationship. Your life becomes richer and so does the life of the person you’ve shared it with.
Your handwritten letter is a gift for the whoever you send it to. It feels like a real treasure. Totally different than a piece of junk mail with pizza ads and carpet cleaning coupons. When you invest in someone — a friend, family member, peer, mentor, God/Spirit/Source, a neighbor, or even yourself — by taking the time to write to them by hand, you feed the thing that matters most in life: relationships.
TWO: It makes you more present.
Look to the wisest among us; the quality of their presence makes them Jedi. Still, attentive, grounded, mindful, awake… present. Right. Here. Now. Where all the power is.
You’ve met people like this, right? Maybe they’ve been meditating for 26 years. Maybe they almost died twice. Either way, they are present.
Especially when most of us walk around tethered to our “smartphones,” we could use a heavy dose of mindfulness training, don’t you think? Well the good news is that small steps are often big steps, and letter writing is a powerful act of presence.
Who do you want to write to? Not tomorrow, not next Tuesday. Right now. What do you want to share about your day, your dreams or your doubts? Not in 2033. Now. What is true for you, right now?
I bet you can type pretty fast, but handwritten letters take time. They slow life down, so you can sit in the present moment, where you are, with your stress or daze or disappointment. Right now. Both journaling and letter writing can be therapeutic, and handwritten correspondence can be a blend of both.
THREE: For pleasure.
For you. Mmmm, that pen feels good on that paper. The way its ink settles into the page, the way it rolls like liquid or sticks to twist my cursive t’s into the next sentence. Letter writing is tactile. It offers sensual pleasure that isn’t found on the screen.
For who you write to. When you find a paper envelope with your name handwritten on the front, doesn’t it feel good? People tell me it feels very, very good. Somebody loves you and they wrote you a letter, for cryin’ out loud.
For the postpeople. Once I’ve placed an enveloped in the mailbox, raised the red flag for Ruben the mailman, and turned back toward the house, I have dipped my day in pleasure — and perhaps his, too. Day in, day out, our mailwomen and men walk rain or shine to hand deliver our mail to us. And it’s cheap: 47 cents a letter as I write. Isn’t it nice to think your envelope, addressed by hand, could make their day just a little sweeter?
Delight in the mail box. Less junk mail, more love mail.
Be part of the revolution. Join us for a fall 2016 in-person letter writing workshop in Northern California, led by Leaning into Light Founder Jessica Rios, whose lifelong art is letter writing. Or sign up for our recorded 30-minute phone workshop anytime.
Listen to our featured free recording for May, an interview with Grace Boda on The Geography of Being Open... here.
(And once I re-route from the fact that a leaky water bottle ruined my laptop, I'll post our piece for June!)
Jessica Rios, Founder of Leaning into Light, is a mother, coach, lifelong letter writer, Patreon Creator -- and eternally a fan of Fred Rogers. This deeply personal blog and our free recorded interviews are devoted to one of her greatest passions: illuminating the beauty of the human spirit.