I wrote some handwritten letters this week.
I’m not sure if they’ve arrived at their destination yet. There is no set of grey ticks anywhere to tell me they’ve been delivered. There is no set of blue ticks to subsequently let me know that they’ve been opened and read.
And there’s something quite delicious and mysterious in the not knowing. I don’t know if the recipients will respond in kind. It would be nice if they did, but I won’t mind if they don’t. Because that’s not the point. I didn’t write the letters in the same way that I write emails. If I’m honest, I think I wrote the letters to remind myself that, while I enjoy the many varied interactions I have with people on social media, away from the screen, each interaction I have is as unique and through-provoking as the person I am sharing it with.
That is special.
Away from the screen, I can connect with a person and remind myself (and hopefully them too) that the connection we share is unique to us and that they are not just one of the many.
This week I also received a handwritten note. It was a thank-you note and while I am sure it was written with genuine affection and thought, I later discovered that someone else had received a note from the same person and it was almost identical. There were no extra frilly bits to remind either of us that we were unique. Any potential fizz I had first tasted in receiving that note now felt flat.
The thing is, when people say that letter writing is a lost art, I don’t think it is just the simple pleasure of seeing handwriting on a page that they are pining for; it is the lost art of communication. Many people think that communicating is simply telling or broadcasting.
It’s the art of remembering that the person you are writing to has their own thoughts and feelings; their own expectations of you and their own interpretation of what you write. It’s not enough to simply tell something and expect your reader or listener to be an empty vessel, ready and waiting to be filled up with whatever words you feel ready to put into them. That is not how communication works. It’s a two-way thing. The person on the receiving end needs to feel involved as well.
(This is a big subject for me, and I’m sure I’ll be writing more about it, but another deadline beckons, so I’ll get back to you later!)
These thoughts were inspired by a piece by Jon McGregor in The Guardian