The news of the increasing domestic stamp rate and shrinking postal delivery services has been plaguing Canada Post over the past weeks. Canadians are upset at the inconveniences these changes will cause and are turning more and more to electronic means of communication. There is no denying it, based on the recent reports, snail mail’s popularity seems to be heading to an all-time low. That being said, I have to admit I like to root for the underdog. More than ever before, now is the best time to embrace the art of letter writing.
I once was told that my grandmother and I should have been sisters – my penchant for MGM movie musicals, homemade jam making and a thriving record collection singled me out as someone with an old soul. Subsequently, my love for the handwritten letter comes naturally. And what’s not to love? Whether it comes on a cheesy postcard, a lined piece of paper or beautiful stationary, a handwritten note delivered in the mail is the epitome of thoughtfulness. Despite its ability to bring great cheer and personal connection, letters are not easy to craft well, especially in the digital world we live in. Letter writing is rapidly becoming a lost art in our society which I hope we can change one envelope at a time.
Long before they were a rarity, letters were something to get excited about. Historically, letters were among the only means people had to communicate with loved ones who were far away, and so receiving word from afar was highly anticipated. Now as we see the number of handwritten letters decline, and the number of emails increase, it’s even easier to see how letters can bring great cheer. They’re often sent to celebrate a great occasion or for no reason at all, surprising the recipient. Furthermore, they’re tangible, so you can re-read them and re-experience the joy you felt when you read them the first time. Think of the many love letters that are tucked away in your grandmother’s attic – it’s much harder to archive your love-text and tweets for future generations to swoon over.
Personally, I find typing much faster than scribbling by hand; even longer if you’re looking for legibility. So when I sit down to write a letter, I know I need to carefully pick my words and take my time to clearly write my message. Throughout that process I keep my recipient top-of-mind. Letter writing shows that the author took time to craft their work, and that throughout that experience a personal connection to the recipient was being forged. Another aspect of this is the medium that you choose to send. Depending on my friend, I could select a floral card, a whimsical stationary set or a vintage postcard. The decision is not made lightly. It’s a direct reflection of the recipient. While crafting a letter you make a commitment to connect with the addressee, and because of the nature of the task, it takes longer and more thought than a digital exchange.
Even as an avid letter writer, I sometimes struggle with finding the right words to put in a note. Writing a letter isn’t easy. In a day and age when we can easily text or Facebook message our friends for a quick hello, letters have taken on a different role in our lives. They rarely receive an immediate response, so the tone and contents are different from that of an email or a tweet. To differentiate themselves, letters can tell stories, describe your feelings for someone out-of-the-blue or be a vessel to share trinkets of appreciation. Knowing that they are permanent, the stakes somehow seem higher when it comes to drafting a letter. In most situations you can find yourself wondering if writing it on paper and sending it through the mail is a worth-while decision; wouldn’t email just be easier? I try to remind myself that in the end, a letter will stand out from a sea of emails (even a sea of junk mail), and that the joy I’m sending is worth the extra effort.
Because of my love for letters, I don’t go anywhere without a stamp or two in my wallet. My close friends and family never fail to receive a thoughtful postcard when I’m travelling, and if it’s their birthday they can bet they’ll be receiving something special in the mail from me. I also love receiving cards in the mail, and have a collection that I enjoy reviewing every once in a while. Writing a letter can be difficult and can take a while to craft, but each time I take on the challenge I’m happy to report I am able to create a cheerful connection with my recipient. Upon opening the carefully picked envelope and scanning the corresponding stationary, my friends will read my note, however long or short, and know that I was thinking about them. Sure, I could have easily sent a tweet or an email, but I believe that the sheer surprise and tangibility of my letter make it more memorable and meaningful.
So as you think about the last time you put pen to paper and pulled out your address book, consider when you last visited your mailbox to find a handwritten note nestled amongst your bills and flyers. Recall that experience and how it made you feel. Now imagine sharing that feeling to someone you love. What’s stopping you? Whether it’s your nicest fountain pen or the closest BIC nearby, put pen to paper and write a letter to someone you care about. Find a stamp and show Canada Post that the letter isn’t dead. By taking the time to craft something by hand, solely for them, I can almost guarantee you’ll make their day. Chances are, it’ll be the best dollar you’ve spent lately.