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3 Beautiful Gifts of a Hand-Written Letter

With less ability to spend time together in person, putting pen to paper is a time-tested way to show your loved ones they’re in your heart and on your mind.

Writing a letter

“The act of writing itself is like an act of love,” wrote the 19th century Belgian poet Georges Rodenbach.

He continued, “There is contact. There is exchange too. We no longer know whether the words come out of the ink onto the page, or whether they emerge from the page itself where they were sleeping, the ink merely giving them colour.”

With most of us continuing to spend time close to home this summer, and as the coronavirus continues to interrupt summer visits near and far, this mystical understanding of the hand-written letter is apt and uplifting.

I think of letter-writing as a form of gift-giving. When we put pen to paper, we offer our friends and family members invitations into our minds and into our hearts at this particular moment in time.

1) Letters Allow Us to Take Our Time

We live in an age of instant communication. Text messages, emails—all are intended to be read immediately and responded to in short order. A hand-written letter has to navigate the postal system, arrive at its destination and be opened at a moment when the recipient has time to pay attention to what’s written. Letters require more space to create than electronic communiqués—and their leisurely rewards are well worthy of the extra effort.

2) Letters Are A Unique Type of Conversation

When we write letters, we are writing to someone we know—maybe even know very well. Unlike journaling or other forms of personal reflective writing, letters are conversations with specific readers, begun when you have time to begin it, and continued when your recipient has time to respond. Writing a letter allows you to share a particular part of yourself with someone you care about, and to check in with them about the things you most want to know in reply. It is for this reason Ricardo Piglia, the Argentinian writer, calls written correspondence “the utopian form of conversation.”

3) Letters Are a Record of Our Relationships

Anyone with an active email account knows how quickly messages can get lost among spam, work correspondence, appointment reminders, subscriptions and other materials. Unless you are very disciplined and organized in your email management (in which case, congratulations!), letter-writing offers a far easier way to keep a record of shared moments both intimate and chatty, newsy and profound, for our future selves to read and remember. 

Are you a letter writer? What does writing (or receiving) a hand-written note mean to you?

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