When was the last time you wrote to someone? Not the thank you note that you rushed out to get that job ticked off after Christmas, or the equally hurried one sent a month after your birthday prompted by the guilty feeling you ought to have done this earlier.
Or is it just me?
Neither of those is really writing a letter.
Writing a letter used to be an art. Historians pour over letters written by ancients; these are not rushed little-considered notes. I doubt historians will be interested in my brief scribble to the friend I rarely see but write to each New Year to express gratitude for a present I didn’t really want. Letters of old are works of art; thought about and considered.
Writing, thoughtfully done, is a slow process.
After Christmas this year I made a mental commitment to write to people. Not too many I hasten to add, as the energy required for one thoughtful letter would be a big ask. I am okay for two paragraphs, then I just dry up.
A good letter is a reflective process. It requires that one slows down, think and consider carefully what to include. The act of putting pen to paper forces me to think over the last few months, consider the ups and downs and decide what I will share with the recipient. It does more though than simply force me to naval gaze. Writing thoughtfully to someone, makes me consider the person I am writing to. What would they want to know about? Would they be interested in my children? How can I tell them about the latest joys or challenges of my work? Have I been on holiday since I last spoke or saw the reader? What is that smell coming from the drain outside? (Distracted again)
These questions and others then encourage me to remember the last few months and perhaps, I may gain new insight or if nothing else just benefit from the slowing down that looking back inevitably forces. These questions force me to think about someone else.
It gets better. A letter can also look forward. Thinking of the future, I consider what is coming up in my life, where I might be going or what changes of course the path ahead may offer. This again becomes a listening process, if carried out slowly. Listening to the possibilities of the future. It may be that this moment of foresight brings new light to a present question that hangs or joy as you anticipate that holiday or opportunity.
This is all a bit me, me, me…
Okay, but as I write I think about the person I am writing to. What do the next few months hold for them? I wonder. Would they want to know anything else? What could I ask them (that may prompt a response if the recipient is over 65 so beware as then you may have a pen pal)
And so I finish my letter, not necessarily lengthy, that could just be waffle, but considered and concise. I a have given my literacy energies to someone else and I have greater awareness of another. Letter writing is a bringer of lentement.