The Lost Art of Handwritten Notes

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One of my best friends loves to travel. The first time she went to study abroad in Europe, she sent me a postcard detailing her adventures. Since then, I’ve amassed a collection of postcards filled with handwritten snippets about her time abroad. Her latest adventure took her to the Guinness factory in Dublin, Ireland.

Throughout my teenage and into my adult years, handwritten letters have always played a role in my life. When I was in high school, and I went away to a residential high school, one of my friends unfailingly sent me care packages with handwritten letters. I still have a stack of letters from my high school sweetheart, and I have a collection of cards filled front and back with notes from my friends. There is a certain joy that comes from getting hand written letters that is incomparable to any other form of communication.

We live in a world filled with text messages, instant messages, Facebook messages and the like. It’s weird for me if at a certain point in the day, I’m not talking to someone through one of those avenues. It’s actually kind of terrible, but I also love writing letters to people. Granted, I don’t get to do it very often — usually only when someone is having a birthday or when I send thank you cards, I love picking out cards and just filling it with my thoughts. I actually don’t know why I never got into journaling, I guess it was just never the same thing to me.

All of that being said, handwritten notes are a lost art. We have moved away from the days of detailing long letters about daily life to the constant back and forth of text messages, or in some lucky cases, a phone or video call. Like I’ve said, my daily life consists of a combination of all of the above. The number of messaging apps on my phone is probably ridiculous — text messaging, groupme, google hangouts, slack… the list goes on and on. While the occasional text message is great for confirming plans and appointments or catching someone during their free time, I feel like our generation has completely taken worth away from physically mailing a letter to a person.

Call me old-fashioned, but I would always take a video/phone call over a text message and I would always always take a handwritten note or card over any other form of written communication. Ironically but probably not surprisingly, however, I text more than I call someone and definitely more than I write a note to someone.

There’s something about getting the mail and seeing your friend or loved one’s familiar handwriting peeking out of the stack of advertisements and bills, something that means more than just an electronic text that says, “Hey, how are you?”

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I have a growing collection of beautiful note cards that sit unused because I never actually take the time to literally take pen to paper and write something to someone who means a lot to me. I’m guilty of reasoning to myself that I don’t have time to write a letter, there are quicker ways to catch up with someone and my favorite excuse: I don’t have stamps.

There are pros to the very modern and contemporary, right-here-and-now text messaging compared to the slow pace, old fashioned letter writing. For example, it’s hard to ask someone for real time updates on their life and what they’re working on or going though in a letter that will take several days to arrive. We’re also creatures who desire instant gratification which can come from the immediate lighting up of a person’s phone screen signaling the receipt of a text. But we should integrate hand written letters into our daily lives as a complement to the fast paced back and forth of our daily communication.

So my goal for the rest of the year is to text less and write more. Especially as we grow up and move away from our friends and family, the need for something as simple and special as a handwritten note is more important than ever. Because I know we as humans oftentimes read things, make a resolve and then promptly forget what we’re talking about, I challenge everyone who reads this to write and send a letter today, before you forget and before you have time to think otherwise. Whether it’s leaving a handwritten note or card to your roommate, friend or coworker or it’s sending a card to your friend who lives hundreds of miles away, let’s as a millennial generation bring back the art of writing letters.

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