Creativity Through the Art of Letter Writing

When I think about a creative lifestyle, I consider how I’m spending my time, not just on art-making, but adding in activities that help me feel inspired in between studio and writing days. Last week, I talked about how journaling is an important practice for me, and that got me thinking about letter writing, or, more specifically, the lack of it. Ask yourself:

When is the last time I wrote a letter?

If you’re like me, then you really had to think about it. If you were born when the post-Internet years, it’s possible you’ve never written a letter. At best, maybe you’ve scrawled out a thank you card to a family member.

It makes total sense, since email, texting, and Snapchat have taken over our lives because of their speed and efficiency. Oftentimes, we don’t think much about what we say, using shorthand and emojis to get our meaning across quickly. In between the cracks, there’s a lot that goes unsaid. Not only are not saying the important things we’d likely never say in person, but we’re slowly losing the ability to reveal our true selves to the people we care about the most.

The point of creativity is expressing ourselves through what we make, what we wear, how we decorate our living space, what we read, and most importantly, through the experiences we choose to have. One of those experiences can be a renewed interest in connecting with people through handwritten communication—on paper with actual ink. Not only is it much more permanent, allowing you to leave a mark that can’t be matched by a digital message, but science says it’s good for us, too. In the Huffington Post article “9 Reasons Not to Abandon the Art of the Handwritten Letter,” author Alena Hall says:

Research has shown that the general act of writing by hand can promote quite a few physical and mental benefits, from improving learning abilities to fostering a more positive outlook on life. And when it comes to writing that is used as a form of communication between two people, namely letters and postcards, the impact of such messages lasts far longer than any alternative version offered in our high-tech world. From the careful intentions of the sender to the value experienced by the receiver, no true match exists for this old-time, traditional means of conversation.

Besides being good for us, there’s also something incredibly creative about handwriting. Like a fingerprint, it’s unique to you, and you alone. And when you recognize a loved one’s writing, you see them and hear their voice. You get a glimpse of them even when they aren’t there. It’s this glimpse that makes us comfortable enough open up about what’s lurking in our hearts and minds.

While the lost art of letter writing is unlikely to make a comeback, we don’t have to go along with the tide. Here are a few ideas to live more creatively through letter writing:

Postcards: They’ve got art, they’ve got a small space for a personal message, and they cost less to mail…what’s not to love about postcards? They’re not just for summer vacation either—buy a stack and send them to your friends to let them know you’re thinking about them.

Journal Swap: If mailing letters isn’t your thing, try connecting with your significant other or best friend through journal swapping. You only need a notebook, a pen, and a few minutes of time to share what’s going on with you. Pass it on and wait to receive a letter back to you. Think of it like expanding on your text message thread…except you can delve deeper into the conversation and have an awesome analog record of your amazing relationship.

Create a Personal Letter Journal: Letter writing can be a solo act too. Part of a journaling practice might be writing letters to your past or future self, or it can be a letter that you write to someone you know, but never intend to send.

Everyone is busy these days, but taking up a letter writing practice can be an inspiring way to add creativity to your life. If you’d like to get started, here are some of my favorite resources:

Postcards: I love these postcard books from Ban.dō, as well as their pens and pencils.

Journals and Notebooks: Rifle Paper Co. has some of the loveliest notebooks and journals in various sizes and styles.

Pretty Postage: Stamps don’t just feature flags anymore. If you check out the USPS website, you’ll see a ton of options, including Disney villains, Andrew Wyeth paintings, sharks, Wonder Woman, Star Trek, botanicals, and Janis Joplin commemorative stamps, just to name a few. You can also create custom postage stamps with a personal photo.

Happy writing!