Adventures in Analog: handwritten correspondence
Adventures in analog: handwritten correspondence.
Old School Correspondence
A fun activity while you are at home for longer periods–and even if you are not–is to develop the habit and practice of handwritten correspondence. This is an old school method of communicating that has been used for hundreds of years. Unplug from the addictive slot machine that sometimes can describe the way we use Social Media. Getting REAL mail is a delight and a nice way to reconnect with people that may be more meaningful than a like on Facebook. It can also be converted into a ‘homeschool” activity, as handwriting takes time and is a good practice for writing skills. Since it is an analog activity, it can be converted to Family time, as you can make room in the schedule to write letters together. Connect with friends and neighbors from down the street, family members across state lines, or write to penpals and friends from far across the globe.
This kind of practice can also create a permanent keepsake for someone else. I still have the letters my grandmother wrote to me while I was in college in the ’80s and ’90s. I am grateful to have them now that she is gone, an email doesn’t have the same feeling.
Handwriting is a lost art in some ways but has been making a resurgence because of new interest in calligraphy forms. This ‘old school’ analog renaissance is similar to other handicrafts like knitting, crocheting, quilting, woodworking, metalworking, etc.. The idea for this and perhaps the need for it, is reflected in a recent blog post by Cal Newport titled The Lost Satisfaction of Manual Competence he quotes a passage from a book titled Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matt Crawford that says “The satisfactions of manifesting oneself concretely in the world through manual competence have been known to make a man quiet and easy.” While I need to pick up this book and read it in its entirety to get the full picture I think we can say that ￼in this era of quick communication it may be good for us to step away from the online world, and create something offline.
For me, this analog offline creative time is through calligraphy and business penmanship. It is encouraging to see it gaining in popularity. There are many writing forms to study, and you can get lost as many alphabets and languages have their own styles and artistic variations. But the simple practice of cursive writing in English can be embraced for written correspondence. Your letters do not need to be in cursive but do handwrite them, as they say, it may be better for your brain than typing.
Types of written correspondence
I live in South Korea, and my family is in the US. From time to time I send my family written correspondence in cursive. This has given a small motivation, for some of my nieces and nephews, to learn cursive so they can read my letters to them.
Writing letters of course takes time, but make a cup of tea or coffee and sit down and write a letter and take your time. Find some fun stationery and perhaps a pen or two that you enjoy. Use stamps, stickers, or washi tape to embellish and decorate and maybe wax seal￼ to seal it up.
Make the letter about you and what you are doing at the moment, maybe share some memories that were recently sparked about the recipient but also ask the recipient questions so hopefully, they will respond to you. Write to friends and family and then respond back to each other through the regular mail—you will have to wait for the back and forth to happen, and that is okay.
Postcards and Greeting Cards
If letter writing seems daunting, consider sending postcards or greeting cards. Postcards are not just for travel, and greeting cards are not just for birthdays and holidays. The picture element is similar to an old school Instagram or memes–they are fun and quick.
Less writing is expected on each, although there is more space on the blank greeting cards compared to postcards to write more, both are less writing than a full letter. This makes a nice way to ease into the practice of written correspondence.
Finding materials is easy enough with a Google search. You can find also find nice packs of non-travel postcards, and blank greetings cards online. There are even greeting card “monthly subscription boxes” that give you a few options (including birthdays and other occasions) every-month.
If there are only a few people on your writing list or the people you write, never write back (perhaps too busy scrolling on social media, you know who you are!) never fear there are ways to write to people–from all over the world–with the added benefit of knowing that you will also receive correspondence in return. For this, we can turn to services like Postcrossing.
Postcrossing is a postcard exchange service (it is free other that you buy the postcards and stamps to send) where you send and receive postcards with people from all over the world. What is it exactly? This is from their FAQ section:
The goal of the Postcrossing project is to enable anyone to exchange postcards with random people around the world. That’s using real mail, not email!
It goes like this: for every postcard you send, you’ll receive one back from another random member — and the more you send, the more you will receive. It’s that easy.
You can learn about far away places, different cultures or even practice foreign languages. Postcrossing turns your mailbox into a box full of surprises!
I have sent and received over 200 postcards (and climbing) if you visit me in my office (yes all the way in South Korea), you can see an example of some of them on my wall—they are great conversation starters for students who visit me.
Beginning a habit of written correspondence with letters, postcards, greeting cards, and Postcrossing is a simple habit you can start today. I hope you join me.