So when was the last time you wrote a letter or indeed sent out anything handwritten that wasn’t a birthday or Christmas card?
It’s alright. I’m not berating you – it wasn’t really until I started producing my own stationery that I began to think about the lost art of letter writing.
Although I’m at an age when we used to write letters as teenagers (and I still have Dr B’s letters to me from our very, very early days), in the age of email, twitter, facebook, snapchat and a load of other ways of connecting, the letter seems so quaint and old fashioned. You can dash off a message in minutes now, safe in the knowledge that your recipient will get it straight away and probably respond in quick time too. And you can Skype too – I bloody love Skyping!
While the joy of contacting people (friends, family, famous people) spontaneously and immediately is a wonderful, wonderful thing there is something to be said for the letter and a handwritten message. Let me give you a recent example…
When I left my job at the end of last year I had some beautiful emails and tweets from people I’d worked with that I was really touched by. As well as my big leaving card I also received three handwritten notes. Last week, while having a bit of a drawer declutter I came across the trio and reread them, I felt the love all over again while not really looking for it. The physicality of the messages made the sentiments expressed permanent and real, months after the event.
This sense of permanence is very special. We take selfies and write blogs to mark points in our lives nowadays but letters have been doing this for centuries. You only have to visit the website Letters of Note to see this for yourself.
Now Letters of Note comes with a warning – visit it and you will lose HOURS. I discovered the site some years ago and it is a treasure trove of correspondence that will make you laugh, cry, think, get angry and marvel at the beauty of the human spirit. It is my one of my favourite things on the internet.
Choice picks include author John Steinbeck advising his young son on love, Bertrand Russell elegantly refuting Oswald Moseley, Iggy Pop giving a fan going through a tough time some encouragement the fab battle of the bitches spat and George Harrison providing tips on how to wash a car.
After reading these letters and many more (honestly I could spend all day on that site), you see how wonderful a hand-scribed or typed missive is. It becomes an artefact, a physical record of a moment in time (you’ll see the writing, the typewriter ink and the paper it’s on – it’s all amazingly evocative). It was getting into Letters of Note that made me design writing sets for people to give their letters a bit of panache. I mean, if it is going to be around for a long time, you want it on nice paper don’t you?
This is a truly analogue medium in a digital age. But the humble letter or handwritten note is one that speaks to our hearts, shows someone you’ve taken some time and given them some thought. For the price of some paper or card, an envelope and stamp you can give someone a item to treasure and love for years, one that may outlive you both.