The Benefits of Correspondence

Writing letters can be used to enhance and strengthen friendships as well as improving craft.

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We live in a day and age where writing holds less value, simply due to the simplicity of it. Sending a message is as quick and simple as pushing a few buttons, completely paper-free, and as accessible as the change in your pocket. But that defeats the main point of writing: to take the time to impart thoughts in the clearest and most effective way possible. Writing is an art form, whether fiction or non-fiction, poetry or prose, it takes time and effort to craft the words.

For as long as people could write they have been using writing to communicate. Letter-writing has been a key part of many authors’ and poets’ development, helping channel thoughts concisely whilst expressing emotion and feeling, all on paper. With mobile phones – not to mention the recent dramatic increase of the cost of the postage stamp – there seems to be little need to write by hand anymore. We lead busy, multi-tasking lives and letter writing requires the luxury of time – something we tell ourselves we simply don’t have.

Writing letters not only helps develop writing craft, but more importantly can enhance and strengthen friendship. The act of finding the time to write a message to a friend conveys a message in itself: ‘You and your friendship are worth making time for.’

If you would like to explore how taking the time to correspond every now and then can help nurture your existing friendships then here are five simple steps you can follow.

1. Choose your correspondents

Who you write to is as important as what you write. Whilst fan-mail to your favourite writer may seem interesting, in truth it is easy as there is no existing personal connection. Instead, work out who your true friends are.

A true friend is a person you trust and have known for a few years. They may have already helped you during a rough patch, or you might have supported them through difficulties of their own. You and your friend make the time in your busy schedules to see each other, you feel comfortable around each other and you have already shared between yourselves a few personal details, dilemmas and advice.

You value a close friend being in your life and, once you have worked out who these special individuals are, you will likely only need one hand to count them on. Close friends could also be your spouse or partner, your sibling or cousin.

2. Start small

We all text or message or use apps because they are convenient and easy and cheap and simple, and they come with the added wonders of spell check and predictive text. But, if you’d like to send your correspondents a slightly longer message, why not wait until you are in a quiet place with a spare five minutes on your hands and write it via email? Even though you are still typing, writing an email gives you a little bit more space and creative freedom to get all your thoughts down, as well as helping in ways of spell-check. Your close friend will not mind changing format if it means receiving a message that is more in-depth and full of substance.

If you would prefer to stick to paper, you could begin by simply sending your correspondents a card. Birthdays are important ones to remember and celebrate, but since they only happen once a year it might be more opportune for you to send them a greetings card at a key festive date or any other celebration that you feel is suitable. Buying the cards and the stamps and then getting to a post-box is far more taxing than pulling out your mobile phone from your pocket and sending a quick message, but receiving an envelope through the post is indisputably superior to opening an effort-free text message. It is also important to remember to send your card a few days before you would like it to be received by your friend, with the amount of days dependant on whether you are using a first or second class stamp. If you plan by a calendar, mark the send card day down a few days before the birthday of your close friend.

Whether sending a card or an email, you can – but don’t feel you have to if you’re not comfortable doing so – add a little piece of writing inside. It could be a quote you’ve found that you feel sums up the occasion or situation adequately, or perhaps a short description of a memory you share together or a simple phrase that will allow them to reminisce on a shared joke from the past.

Once you have sent your card or email, perhaps next time try a small note. You don’t have to start with a five-page letter, but instead just convey what you want to. Let the conversation and style of correspondence grow by itself.

3. Plan your replies

However your correspondents choose to reply – whether through a message or social media post, or by sending a letter in return – make sure you think about what you want to say in response. Don’t rush, but instead think and maybe even draft a response before writing the final version.

The reason letter-writing is so fondly described by its many advocates is that it allows the time to consider what was written instead of a rapid response that may miss the detail. Letters can be read again and again, bringing new meaning and depth with each reading. Take your time and plan what you are going to say, whether in your head or on paper.

4. Pass a journal

To further enhance your correspondence, or to strengthen a friendship where you see each other on a frequent basis, you can share a journal. Buy a cheap lined notebook and pass it between each other, either in the post or, if you do see each other regularly, whenever you meet. Whoever has it writes a message to the other, and a collaborative collection of notes and journal entries can grow from both your investments.

There is no pressure for what you write to be deep and meaningful, for your words to be spelled correctly, or for the finished page to resemble a work of art. Simply write down comments about your day, share the things that made you laugh and smile, obstacles you had to overcome, and perhaps moments of awkwardness or embarrassment. You could even use it to have a little therapeutic rant which, once it is all out of you and down on paper, will allow you to feel much calmer.

If you’re stuck for how to start the journal off, you could both share a list of five goals for the next five years. These could be places you want to travel to, professional targets you wish to achieve, or things that challenge you such as parachute jumping or getting that meaningful tattoo you’ve been pondering for the last decade.

This journal isn’t something you need to open and discuss in front of each other, but rather take it home for a read and give a thoughtful, honest reply, and then share your own thoughts and experiences. Sometimes you might fill a few pages with your words, and at other times you may only write a paragraph, or a few words accompanied by a photograph or sketch. There is no need to restrict yourselves with rules as to how often you should use your journal or how, but only that you have fun with it, together.

5. Write them a story

This really doesn’t need to be as daunting or as complicated as it sounds. Imagine a place in the world that you and your friend have talked about wanting to travel to, and make that the setting of your story. Your main characters will be the two of you, as either yourselves or, if you fancy creating a wonderfully fictional story for you both to escape into, you might choose to be assassins or FBI agents, astronauts or any creature you can think up – because that’s the beauty of creating your own stories, you can be, do and go as you please.

The story you create doesn’t need to be long or have character arcs or plot lines, it could even be as simple as the two of you sitting on a beach in Hawaii, making little pits in the sugar-white sand for your sunburned feet to escape into while watching the surfers ride waves as you sip your Mai Tai. Be simple or go all out – what matters is creating a little story for your friend, starring your friend, because it will let them know how special they are. And practice makes perfect so the more of these you write, the easier they will become.

 

As human beings we all need to make and sustain nurturing friendships with suitable individuals who fill us with worth and self-confidence, and who brighten our lives with their presence. The wonderment of technology may make communication easier, but let’s not forget to find a little time for those who we appreciate and need in our lives, and let them know, through hand-written words, how much they mean to us.

‘To the soul, there is hardly anything more healing than friendship.’

Thomas Moore

Rebecca Delphine is an aspiring Young Adult author from Thanet.

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