The Power of the Pen (Reviving the Lost Art of Letter Writing)
When was the last time you wrote a letter—by hand? When was the last time you received a handwritten letter? How did it make you feel? More connected? Greater closeness? Ever wonder why it made you feel that way?
I believe in the lost art of letter writing. When I was a boy, I enjoyed writing letters to my Uncle Joe in Seattle. He was that extraordinary uncle—and we had a bond. He was a consummate letter writer, never giving up writing to me—even if this squirrelly middle school kid had trouble finding time to write back.
In college, I remember the eager anticipation I felt every time I approached my dorm mailbox after class. I was looking for buried treasure. I slipped the key in the mailbox door, flipped it, swung the door open, yanked out the mail, and rifled through it looking for a card or letter. What a thrill to hear from someone—anyone—when I was away from home. Simple pleasures, I guess. Today, I still value receiving a handwritten card, letter, or Thank You note from a friend.
What role does letter writing play in helping us slow down in our chaotic world? Letter writing offers us something the “rush of the world” seldom does—a singular focus. We live in an age of multi-tasking. And that’s great in the business world—when the primary goal is productivity. Yet, the beauty of letter writing is it celebrates “single-tasking.” Returning to doing ONE thing at a time. ONE dedicated endeavor.
The letter writer and recipient both receive benefits: both recapture a sense of connection since the communication is direct and highly personal; letter writing reinforces the long history of a relationship; writing a letter revives a feeling of intimacy as you react to the familiar handwriting of the friend (even when it’s hard to read); letters tend to be reread and slowly digested, allowing the sentiments to sink in; and letter writing drives a deep sense of engagement due to the commitment involved in drafting the letter.
Think about it. When you write an email, you type it and click send. Period. When you write a letter, you draft a warm salutation, you pause to cultivate the content (thereby fueling memories), you create a personal sign off, address an envelope, insert the letter, seal it, stamp it, and mail it. It takes time. It’s a commitment. And this commitment is felt by the recipient.
I have in front of me a stack of letters I’ve saved for years. They are too encouraging, too inspiring, and too personal to throw away. You have your own stack. We’ve saved them for the same reason—a handwritten letter discloses a deeper layer of the heart of the writer. And that’s worth preserving.
I hope to use the lost art of letter writing in my next novel. I want to celebrate this art by reminding us of the intrinsic value of painting words on a page.
So, the next time you want to connect—really connect—with family or an old friend, why not revive the lost art of letter writing. Skip the keyboard—and unleash the personal power of the pen.