When was the last time you wrote or received a handwritten letter? It’s a question I often asked before 2020 and the reply was usually “Not for a long time!” But this last year people have rediscovered (or discovered for the first time) just how mighty the humble handwritten letter is for really keeping us connected. Technology is brilliant and convenient but when we’re overloaded by it we have a tendency to short-circuit too, and the joy of being able to unplug and switch off by putting pen to paper has been a revelation for many in these digital superhighway days.
Through a lifelong love of letter writing, and a desire to connect more meaningfully, I set up The Handwritten Letter Appreciation Society in October 2017 to encourage and inspire people to keep writing letters to each other. There is a website and a manifesto and people can join if they would like to (we currently have 587 members from 26 countries), but really the aim was simple, to keep letter writing on the map for everyone. I also felt a need to reclaim it for ourselves, to put the fun back into it, to let everyone know they have a story to tell whatever their walk of life, that spelling and handwriting shouldn’t put people off writing them, that sending a letter is one of the loveliest gifts you can give, and that letter writing can restore an intimacy lost in the digital world.
Having fancy pens and paper is a real treat, but the beauty lies in the words written by you for one other person (or vice versa) which can then be held and read and re-read and treasured unlike anything else. I want letter writing to be about relationships in the here and now but how bereft history would be without those amazing insights found in old letters.
For those seeking more committed correspondents, penpal clubs are the place to go, otherwise, I would say write to whomever you like, tell them what you’ve been up to, your daydreams, your hopes, what you had for dinner, seen on TV, books read, what made you laugh, whatever you want. Ask questions too but with no expectation of a reply otherwise letter writing becomes a burden. Write postcards if a letter feels daunting but above all, give it a go. I want to say with confidence, you’ll love it!
To find out about Getting Started, ideas for inspiration, links to penpal clubs, how to join, and much more, visit thehandwrittenletterappreciationsociety.org.
Dinah Johnson (Founder of The Handwritten Letter Appreciation Society)