by Diana Raab
The practice of letter writing goes back thousands of years and has served as a way for people to communicate with one another, at least until the invention of the telegraph in the 19th century. At the home of Thomas Jefferson in Williamsburg, Virginia visitors learn about Jefferson’s inherent passion for letter writing. In fact, he ingeniously crafted a device to make copies of all his written letters. He attached two pencils to either end of a two-foot long wire. One pencil was used to write, and the other was suspended above a piece of paper, thus making a copy of his correspondence.
The best way to begin the practice of letter writing is to start with you’re the main reason you are writing the letter, and then to use the body of the letter to elaborate. It is important to just let the words flow, and not to force your thoughts onto the page. Using a natural spoken voice is a good way to get your message across. Envision yourself seated across the table from the person you are writing. Some people like using the circular method of letter writing where you start and end the letter with precisely the same point. Another fun way to begin letter writing is to write to the editor of a newspaper or magazine about a subject that is meaningful or controversial to you, sharing your reaction to an article they published on the subject.
Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of letter writing is the opportunity to communicate exactly what is on your mind. Another good way to begin the practice of letter writing is by starting with a letter of gratitude to someone who has made a kind gesture or had an important impact on your life.
Here are six reasons why writing a letter is healthy for the body, mind and spirit, plus a good way to begin the New Year:
1) Letter writing is a safe way to release pent-up emotions.
Whether the letter is written to someone you know or to an editor, the idea is to share thoughts or feelings with someone you cannot meet face to face. In fact, sometimes it is also easier getting someone’s attention with a letter. It is also a good way to gather sentiments and thoughts before actually engaging in a conversation.
2) Letter writing is healing.
Writing a letter can be a form of healing your body, mind, and spirit, whether you send it or not. Handwritten letters offer emotional benefits that have been identified by psychologists and health care professionals. It is a great way to confront unresolved feelings, fears and concerns. Also, a certain bond and connection may be established between the sender and receiver.
3) Letter writing can kick start creativity.
Some authors use letter writing as a way to warm up and get into the writing zone. Memoirists sometimes do this to connect with a deceased loved one whom they might be writing about. Fiction writer P. D. James said, “No other literary form is more revealing, more spontaneous or more individual than the letter.” Authors such as Pam Houston, Fenton Johnson and Shawn Wong frequently write letters.
Diarist Anais Nin (one of my favorites) began her first journal by writing a letter to her estranged father. Even though she never sent her letter, it became the beginning of her writing career.
4) Writing long hand keeps your brain sharp.
[box type=”success” align=”aligncenter” ]Using a pen and paper engages motor and memory skills. This is a good cognitive exercise, especially for those of us who are baby boomers.[/box]
5) Writing letters makes you a better writer, in general.
Practice makes the master. By writing letters, we tend to write more from the heart than from the head. Written letters also seem to be more personal than those written through email.
6) Writing letters is an art form and inspires creativity.
To foster creativity, try to use different types of papers and pens. If you plan on mailing your letter, then try sealing it with old fashioned sealing wax or stickers.