Before my grandmother passed she found letters that her parents had written to each other during their courtship in the early 1920s. My great-grandparents grew up several miles from each other, and, as rural Indiana farm kids, they communicated largely by post. One letter details a storm that had flooded the roads. The creek waters were so high my great-grandfather had to visit my great-grandmother via horseback. In another letter, she asks him to accompany her to the pie social at church.
Perhaps it is the tactile feeling of paper and the look of ink marks on a page—or maybe it’s the nostalgia of the days-gone-by functions my great-grandparents wrote about like pie socials—that make miss the days of handwritten letters. Why do people love receiving snail mail? Why do I smile and say thank you effusively when a coworker comes to my classroom to hand me a Christmas card? Letters may be inconvenient when more expedient methods of communication like email and texting are so commonplace, but I think about teaching my English students about the beauty of writing and I wonder if there isn’t something to be learned from reclaiming the art of old-fashioned, epistolary-style writing.
Writing letters can help you slow down your ever-busy daily schedule.
Letters take time to write. Penning a note to an old friend or a missive to your sweetheart takes only a few minutes, but it allows you to sit and calmly pull together your thoughts. Spending a few minutes reflecting on why you care about someone special will surely brighten your day as much as opening your letter will brighten the day of the receiver.
Writing letters can help you maintain personal relationships.
Letters are more intimate than an email or text message because they are not mediated by technology; a letter you hold in your hand from a friend was held in her hand at some point, too. You see the quirks and patterns of her handwriting and picture her sitting down to update you on her life and ask you for an update on yours.
Writing letters can help you become a more fluent and intentional writer.
The best way to improve your writing is to practice writing. Text messages are meant to be short, but a letter frees up space to say exactly what you want to say in the exact tone you want to say it.
Reflecting on the benefits of letter writing reminds me of my wedding day. My husband and I went the traditional route and chose not to see each other before the ceremony. We did, however, pen letters to one another that we read separately right before walking down the aisle. Those letters are now keepsakes that we will save for our children to read and their children thereafter. Perhaps our great-grandchildren will get nostalgic over our wedding-day letters just like my great-grandparents’ letters made me pine for the quaintness of the past.
As we approach Valentine’s Day—a day to celebrate love in its many forms—consider taking a moment to write a loved one a letter. Grab a sheet of paper, buy a store-bought card, or, even better, download and print these stationery designs and tell that someone special, I took time for you. I’m thinking of you. Bring back the lost art of letter writing that would make my great-grandparents smile.
P.S. Mix and match the three stationery designs to two different envelope liners. Once you’ve printed the combination you like best on 8.5 inch by 5.5 inch paper (be sure to adjust your printer settings), trim the top of the envelope liner to fit the shape of your envelope flap and insert. The designs fit any A2 envelope. For personal use only. Copyright Jordan Nel.