The message arrived March of 2013. It was not a text. It did not land in my email complete with bold letters to indicate that it was New! and it did not arrive with that blaring red alarm called a Facebook notification. No, I found it nestled in my mailbox, you know, the physical kind: they linger in the foyer of your apartment building or stand courageously at the foot of your driveway. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I had received a paper letter complete with a handwritten address, a moderately funky stamp, and a return address that told me — hey, someone is thinking of me!
The arrival of a written letter is rare and fleeting these days. They arrive almost as if they were delivered by some time travel movie plot device instead of an actual person. If you think I’m wrong in saying that receiving a letter is out of the norm, ask yourself:
When was the last time you received a letter from someone you know?
Most likely, you can’t remember. It’s ok, not many people are writing letters anymore. The US Post Office is this close to suspending Saturday delivery and needed a Hail Mary from Congress to keep it for a bit longer. Around the country historic post-offices are being shuttered and sold off for commercial real estate. And while I swear I’m not a USPS plant, I treasure every letter that I receive and I get my rocks off sending them. So here are three great reasons why you should explore the world of letter writing.
1. The Thrill of the Process
One of the reasons letter writing is withering away is because it takes time. Unlike email, text, instagram, vine, uber, grouper, facebook, tindr, and whatever online communication you can dream up, the process of a letter writing requires an investment. Think of writing a letter as making a really delicious plate of drunk nachos (shoutout to drunk nachos!). You need to gather your ingredients: pen, paper, envelope, and of course, a stamp. Finding all these things can be kind of fun. Are you going to “borrow” the envelope from your office if you don’t have it lying around? What will be on the stamp you use? Blue or black ink? These are questions that you need to think about.
2. The Power of Reflection
If you had almost unlimited written space to tell someone anything, what you would say? It’s a pretty crazy question, actually. Some of the letters I’ve written to old friends have involved wild descriptions of the epic parties of yonder year or more deeply personal reflections on the future. Unlike emails which, if we’re being honest, people rarely read all the way through, if you’re sending off a letter, the receiver is going to read it until the end. I guarantee it. Would you skim through a letter from a friend or relative that they took the time to write? Probably not. If you would, well, you suck. I’m not going to tell you what to write, that’s for you to decide, and no, you don’t have to do it in cursive.
3. The Force of Legacy
People have been writing letters to each other for thousands of years. By busting out the pad and paper, you’re taking part in that history. No one ever reminisces about romantic emails or epic texts. In the movies, no one says “I texted you every day for year!” Letters live on throughout history. My Dad still has a letter that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote him where he explains a plot point in The Hobbit! That’s history right there.
Ever since that letter in March arrived in my mailbox, I’ve been writing a letter almost every week. I love it! And I realize I sound like either an old fashioned geezer or the lamest undercover post office employee ever, but I’m serious about this. Get your Stevie Wonder on and sign seal and deliver that bad boy! Don’t underestimate the power of a written letter. If you don’t believe me, tweet at me (@thislalife) and I’ll find a way to write you a letter. While I’m not sure what I’ll say to a stranger, I know it will make you smile and maybe even want to write a letter to somebody else.