The gratification of a handwritten letter

Once upon a time, before the global network of connectivity ensnared us, people used to write letters. The practice now seems antiquated and inefficient, and stamps and stationery have become relics of a prehistoric age. Why take the time to hand write a note, place it in the post box, and wait days for it to reach its target, when you can quickly compose a message and send it off with just a few taps on a screen? A text or email is swift and provides instant gratification. But that gratification is fleeting. It disappears as soon as the next message arrives.

The act of putting pen to paper is much more than just a method of communication. Handwriting a letter is meditation. It forces the mind to focus. There’s no autocorrect to quickly fix typos. No copy and paste feature to fill in the words. No menu of emojis to communicate feelings. It’s an act that demands concentration and dedication. It requires effort, and that effort is a gift to the writer.

It’s also a gift to the recipient. Unlike a text or email, a handwritten note is a tangible object. The paper, the ink, the stamp, all reflections of the personality of the sender. It’s a memento to be treasured, not quickly deleted, or slowly demoted to bottom of your inbox. It should be valued as a reminder of someone’s consideration and attention.

Most of the time I fall prey to the temptation of sending a quick text or email. And of course some communications require speed. But for certain occasions I force myself to pull out the stationary, grab the fountain pen, and focus my thoughts. Sometimes the occasion is simply to remind someone I value their friendship, or to thank them for a kindness they’ve shown me.

The blank page is always intimidating, but eventually the words begin to flow, and my thoughts become squiggles of ink slowly drying on a thick rectangle of blue card stock. It’s not the fastest or most efficient way to convey those thoughts, but it is one of the most rewarding.

Originally posted as part of the Gents Cafe Newsletter, a bite-sized read about men’s lifestyle to enjoy over a coffee or a nice cocktail. Join now!