Everyone has had, or has wanted, a pen-friend at some point in their life right?
In this day and age, people seem to think that folk aren’t interested in exchanging good old fashioned letters or postcards anymore, which is totally wrong. We live in a world that has been taken over by technology; the very prospect of actually sitting down and hand writing a letter to someone and sending it off is so much more thrilling (and personal) than typing up an email or tagging your friends in a meme on Facebook just to grab their attention. I digress. What if I were to tell you that people are actively, and consistently, handwriting letters to one another in 2018? I know. Mind-blowing. Each time I tell someone about the number of pen-pals I have they are genuinely surprised and eager to know how to join in.
I won’t go in to all of the details of that now, I just want to chat to you all about the sheer beauty of snail mail, and how wonderful it feels to have a brightly-coloured sticker-filled joyous letter popping through the letterbox instead of the usual bill or same old takeaway menu lying on your floor. What a pleasure it is to receive some snail mail through the door, let me tell you!
I’ve always had pen friends. I’ve wrote to friends who moved away, or who I used to hang around with when I stayed at my ‘Gran’s bit’ (if you know, you know) and I also used to try and use the internet to gain safe connections with like-minded people to whom I could write. When my ‘pen-friends’ stopped writing to me, I took it upon myself to start my own pen pal community on Twitter, where I have a large following and my own community, and I reached out to ask if anyone wanted to write to me. The response was overwhelming. People actually want to hand write letters!? I set about organising a safe and secure scheme for bloggers, from all over the place, to start exchanging letters/postcards to one another and it’s been a huge success. Who would have thought it?
Writing snail mail is honestly one of my greatest joys. As a predominant-writing student, blogger and lifestyle editor of this very paper – everything is generally done online. I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s the quickest and most efficient way to get stuff done. But taking time out, to sit down with coloured pens, stickers and all of the arts and crafty things that you never get to play around with anymore and actually hand-writing a letter…it’s just so special and therapeutic!
The excitement of taking it to the post box, sending it away on it’s own journey, knowing that you put precious time, effort and thought in to writing it. Knowing it’s a piece of you, it’s personal, and your receiver is going to smile upon opening it, that they will treasure it and be able to keep it and read it as many times as they want. It’s such a fabulous feeling!
Last year, BBC Radio Scotland discovered my snail mail scheme, and asked me to feature on the radio on a documentary thought up by Paul English, freelance journalist, broadcaster and presenter. The popular BBC Radio Scotland documentary was called ‘Lost Letters’. Paul was reuniting with pen-pals that he had wrote to regularly in his childhood, over 30 years ago; he had recently found these letters in his attic and wanted to get in touch with the senders to see if they remembered writing the letters. The documentary was well-liked by the public and certainly got people talking and engaging on social media! It just goes to show that snail mail has not gone extinct (just yet)!
This Valentine’s Day, why not reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to for a while. Maybe someone you met on holiday years ago, an old friend who moved away, a friend of the family who you always looked forward to seeing at functions – and start a correspondence with them via hand written letters. Or, why not write a letter to yourself?
Writing yourself a letter is a great way to reflect, wind down and focus on yourself. I do it every year just before the bells: I set myself goals, write myself a letter listing everything I want to achieve and excel in, and I open it the following year just before midnight. You should give it a go; you might surprise yourself.
By Charlene McElhinney