You may (or may not) recall but back at the end of January, which seems an age ago now, I hinted that I was considering taking part in International Correspondence Writing Month or InCoWriMo. The aim of InCoWriMo is to send a hand written letter, note or card every day for the month of February. In an age where so much of our correspondence is via text, email, whatsapp, FB messenger etc etc it seemed good to take a little time out to reclaim the handwritten letter as a form of communication.
Embarking on this challenge made me think back to the end of the 1980’s, when I left home for university. Apart from a weekly telephone call via the shared phone in the halls of residence (!), letter writing was the way I made contact with my family. Receiving a letter was always exciting, and in those days students went to their pigeon holes daily in search of handwritten correspondence. I wrote weekly to my mum and dad, and received a weekly letter (written by my mum) from them too. My husbands late grandmother also wrote to me regularly and faithfully throughout my time away. I never failed to be pleased at the sight of a letter waiting for me.
I have boxes full of cards and letters my then boyfriend, now husband sent me over a period of around 7-8 years when we were studying and working in different parts of the country. We wrote to each other at least weekly which I now happen to think was rather sweet.
My dad died some years ago, and amongst my most treasured possessions are a couple of letters he wrote to me when I was away at University and one he wrote to me just after my wedding. He was not a great letter writer, in fact I don’t think he ever really signed his own name on birthday cards, so those letters are extra special.
I started the challenge knowing I was unlikely to write a letter every single day of February but I began with a list of people I wanted to send letters to. Some of those people were friends who had birthdays in February so that was easy, a birthday card with a few extra lines of correspondence in is something I often do anyway. Others on the list were family members (like my mum and mum in law) who I thought might like a letter and some were friends I hadn’t had proper contact with for a little while. I also ended up sending a few thank you cards which replaced one or two letters I could have written.
For someone who loves stationery and pens it wasn’t too difficult to choose to put pen to paper and write regularly. And although I adore my MacBook, I also love handwriting, so again in some ways the challenge wasn’t especially trying. As I predicted I didn’t write every day, but I did reasonably well and I got into the mindset of sending a letter just to catch up with someone rather than for any other purpose; and for that reason alone it was absolutely worthwhile. I also had some lovely responses from people I did write to, which re-confirmed for me the place that a handwritten letter still has in our digital world.
Handwriting a letter may seem too time consuming, but it really doesn’t need to be. It doesn’t have to be an epistle, just a few lines can be enough to let someone know you have thought about them or have news to share. I appreciate writing a letter takes a little more effort and thought and creativity than sending a text or message. That in itself shows you have thought about someone or been thought about by them, which in turn makes the hand written letter just that little bit more special.