Letter Writing Ideas & Benefits During Covid
16th March 2021
The first letter writing I remember as a child was thank you letters to everyone who had given me presents at Christmas and for my birthday. As a young child I found it a real bore and a task - being forced to sit and write them until they were all finished. I must sound incredibly ungrateful.
As I got older, to avoid that painful experience, I started to write the thank you letters straight away to get the task over and done with. However, I soon found that I actually enjoyed writing the letters - although that was probably to do with being a little bit older, having more of a vocabulary and more ideas of what to write and understanding gratitude a bit more.
There is nothing quite like writing a letter to someone you care about. You can pour your heart out, perhaps write things that you can't say in person. You can ramble on about the things that you have been up to. You can show gratitude, appreciation, remorse, empathy - any feeling that you are experiencing. And, the great thing about letter writing is that it has benefits for you as the writer and it will evoke feelings in the recipient.
During Covid, one of the buzz words has been 'self care'. Particularly during the various lockdowns, we have been encouraged to take time for ourselves, look after ourselves and do what makes us happy and feel good about ourselves. One way we can do this is through letter writing. Thinking about what to write, feeling it, and pouring it out with pen on paper is like a therapy and great for our own mental health and wellness.
Nowadays its much quicker to send an email or message by phone. We do it all the time and often without much thought (which in turn can lead to them being misinterpreted). However, if you can remember back to the days of snail mail (traditional postal service), there is something special about receiving cards and letters in the post. Remember the feeling of joy you got. If you are honest with yourself - it is a much different feeling than the one you get when you pick up an email. Maybe the feelings were because the letter was unexpected. Or maybe because it was much anticipated. It could also be because it was hand written - someone had taken the time and trouble to sit down and pen something especially for you. And, maybe that is the biggest thing - it is evoking a connection between the sender and the recipient - it is personal and something between just the two people. It hasn't been copied and pasted and sent out to a contact list.
Hand written letters are personal. They are often chatty, full of news and emotions. Whilst you are writing about happy experiences to share with your recipient, you are having the opportunity to relive them in your mind. Reliving memories you enjoy. This makes you feel good and is great for your personal mental wellness and you are giving the recipient the opportunity to share it with you, which in turn will lift their spirits.
Not all letters are exciting and happy and that is ok. Particularly during Covid, it might be necessary to share sad news, but that also has its benefits. Writing about a sad experience or sharing painful news will be part of your own healing process, even if it doesn't feel like it at the time. You will be helping yourself come to terms with the matter or finding closure. For the recipient, they will have the physical letter to cling on to, to look at and to re-read and will appreciate the time and effort that it has taken for the sad information to be shared with them and for being informed. They will feel worthy of your time, despite the letter conveying sadness.
Some more benefits of letter writing
Letters are a great way to stay in contact with people
Letters keep people informed about what you are doing
Letters let people know they are being thought about and remembered
Letters lift people's spirits
Letters share news
Letters can express feelings and emotions
Letters can tell stories
Letters can build relationships
Letters can heal emotional wounds
Letters can express gratitude
Letters can be a hobby (remember penpals?)
What is holding you back from writing a letter right now?
Maybe your handwriting isn't neat and tidy - is it really that important? Getting something down on paper is better than nothing. Who knows, with practise, it may even improve. The recipient is unlikely to care because it is what the letter reads which is important.
Perhaps you are worried about your spelling or don't have a great vocabulary. What better way to improve and learn than by physically doing. Again, I don't feel these things are likely to be of utmost importance to the recipient - its the content of the writing that matters.
Before I lived in the UAE, I was great at spelling as per UK English. Since living here and being in a community of over 200 nationalities, increasingly I find spelling difficult. Nowadays, I am used to reading both UK English and US English. The two have become merged and so I have to check which is the correct spelling that I want to use. I don't always get it right, but I'm not going to let it stop me writing. The recipient will still be able to understand the content and context of what I'm writing.
What if you don't have an address to send a physical letter?
If you are reading this outside the UAE, this might sound a rather strange heading. For example, if you are living in the UK, sending a letter is relatively straightforward (or it was when I lived there), write the letter, address the envelope, affix a stamp, pop it into a letterbox and Royal Mail does the rest.
At my last address in Abu Dhabi we didn't have an address - there was no street name, just a villa number (when we first moved into the property just imagine the difficulty trying to get the electricity and water accounts set up). We felt very excited to have a 'proper' address when we moved to our current home - a villa number and a street name. Ironically, a few months back a delivery driver got quite frustrated with me one day when he couldn't locate our villa, which I found very strange, as Google maps is pretty spot on and we've never experienced problems before. When he eventually found us, by me standing in the middle of the street waving profusely, he pointed out that the villa number was wrong. Our villa number had been changed and we didn't even know about it. Anyway, I'm digressing.
In the UAE, we don't have a physical postal service like the Royal Mail in the UK. Some people will have personal PO BOXes, but many don't, and even if they do, they may not regularly check for any mail, especially if they aren't expecting any. There are a few ways to address this:
Speak to the recipient, find their address and physically hand over the letter - not quite the same impact, especially for a surprise element, and it will take effort on your part to get it there.
Last year I read about a great idea on Instagram by @AbuDhabiReview who was trying to revive penpals during lockdown. To get around the lack of a physical postal service here, the idea was to write the physical letter, photograph it and then send it electronically to the recipient. A great work-around!
Alternatively, you could courier the letter within the UAE - courier fees are relatively inexpensive in-country, but obviously you will still be bearing a cost. However, this way does enable the 'surprise' factor if that is your intention.
Beautiful stationery - notelets and greeting cards
Personally, I'm a bit of a stationery junkie. I love beautiful cards and stationery. I get enjoyment from searching for them, writing in them and then passing them onto the recipient to enjoy.
Nowadays there are myriad different materials you could compose your letter on. There's nothing wrong with A4 white printer paper, if that is what you have to hand, and waiting to purchase something else will put you off the idea of writing a letter - write the letter!
However, you might choose:
Beautiful printed papers and envelopes
Notecards and envelopes
Greeting cards and envelopes (a greeting card with a blank inside is the same as a notecard)
Notelets (an old-fashioned style of stationery where a sheet of paper is folded into quarters to make a card shape. There is a picture on the front and it is opened up to write inside. The great thing about notelets is that you can use them like a card and keep the message short and on pointe. Or, you can unfold it and really go to town and write a long, juicy letter).
For any of the above, you can make your own to really give the personal touch or your can purchase them online or in shops. The designs available to buy nowadays probably cover every topic and theme you can think of, so that isn't any excuse for not writing either.
I hope this blog has inspired you to think about the people in your life who could benefit from receiving a physical letter from you. There aren't rules, you can write whatever you like. Deciding to do it and then getting started, like most things, is the hardest part, but the benefits outweigh that. Give yourself some self love today. Bring some happiness into someone else's life and put a smile on their face.
Notelets for sale
At Gateway Art Sales LLC, we have a beautiful gift pack of notelets for sale. The pack contains 10 notelets with envelopes. There are five designs - two notelets of each design. The designs are beautiful, brightly-coloured beach huts, created by artist Justine Haycox.
We think sending these beautiful notelets, particularly to more elderly family and friends living in the UK, will be especially well received as they will likely evoke fond memories of seaside holidays back in the day. But, these designs aren't just for elderly recipients, the fun, bright colours make them ideal for younger generations too. Great all-rounder designs which could be sent to anyone to convey any type of message.
To help you get started with your letter writing click the link below for a 10% discount. At the checkout use the Coupon Code: Notelets10
Written by Jenny Hunt
Founding Partner & CEO, Gateway Art Sales LLC & FORBES' Top 100 Most Influential Women In The Middle East