You should write letters by hand

About a week ago I received a small parcel from Switzerland. The sports club, the treasurer of which I was for a year and a half, had sent me some gifts to thank me for my work. I found the gesture and the gifts in themselves very thoughtful, so I decided that writing and sending them a hand written thank you card was in order.

In the past years I have written a few cards or longer greetings to some close friends and have always found the whole process very pleasant. When writing a longer letter by hand, one in which you really put thought into, is a meditative experience. If one wants to avoid using any correction fluid and insists on also producing an aesthetically pleasing letter with straight lines and beautiful letters, it’s essential to fully concentrate on the task at hand. You must consciously make every stroke, cross each t and place the dots on each i with care. Try to read your e-mails on the side and you end up either missing a word, choosing the wrong one or producing a figure that remotely resembles some letter.

What I like about writing letters by hand is how it improves my ability to concentrate. In today’s world we tend to have shorter attention spans and jump constantly between things, spreading our attention to all direction without focusing on any single one. When writing a letter by hand, you must invest hours to produce a good result. The one and a half pages I wrote to my friends in Switzerland took maybe two hours to compose. Writing letter by hand also develops your thinking as you have to formulate and develop your thought to its full conclusion before putting it on paper; each error means that everything thus far must also be written anew to produce a flawless result. Of course you can write the text first on a computer where you can quickly edit your text and correct mistakes, but writing a hard copy requires a finished text to begin with.

Hand written letters are also personal since they contain the writer’s unique handwriting instead of some preset font designed by a third person. When the letter is finally finished, you have a very tangible result of your own work. Receiving hand written letters is also nice since you know that the person must mean what they say; otherwise they hardly would have invested the time.

I am not advocating that we should stop using electronic devices for producing text but I highly encourage and recommend writing the occasional letter to someone important. It takes more time but also develops your concentration and patience while also making you think what you want to say and how to say it.