Flourishing / Writing

The Intimate Power of a Handwritten Letter

. 3 min read . Written by Russell Smith
The Intimate Power of a Handwritten Letter

The gift of your words tells the story of your heart

A few months ago, I urged you, gentle reader, and me, to “Make a Call.” To reach out, by phone, to someone in your life, and reconnect through the potency and nuance of the human voice.

Did you do it?

How did it make you feel?

How did the call recipient respond?

Did any doors open or close?

Have you made another call?

I’d like to make a new suggestion for the new year – write a letter.

The written word contains as much subtlety and puissance as our verbal communication. (See research on the subject here, here and here.) Read the novels of Charles Dickens. Read The Three Musketeers. Read Walden. Read the essays of Emerson. Read the Declaration of Independence. Does your spirit not soar? Do you not feel nobler for having inhaled those words into your mind, your being?

We need not be a great novelist, essayist or poet for our written words to carry force. One of the most beautiful gifts we can give is our writing to a person we admire and love.

So write a letter today. To your spouse, child or friend. Tell them what they mean to you or how a moment with them has moved you, in your own words. Do not feel embarrassed in the least. Say it with your heart and with words that move you as you write them.

Be descriptive and specific. We tend to overuse generic words like “great” and “special.” Let your writing answer the question, “what about you, uniquely, is so special?” Tell them with exactitude and precision.

Write this letter by hand. Don’t type it on paper to print, and heaven help us, don’t email or text it. Your hand – the ink – the paper – all will convey and fortify the emotion of your words. The mind-hand-paper connection possesses a mysterious and magical power, as the growth of flowers and the forest do.

The kind of paper doesn’t matter. I tend to use heavy, recipe-card-sized stationery with my initials at the top. I hope the kinetic feeling of the paper and the design enhance my message. But my father sent me one of the most touching letters I’ve ever received, written on a yellow legal pad sheet. He was an attorney, and so in a way, his choice of paper was a fitting and proper slate for his note.

I prefer ink to pencil, simply for the permanency of it. Do not fret that you need a special pen for such a letter. You don’t. A Bic or a fancy schmancy fountain pen serves the purpose with equal vigor.

Hand the letter to the recipient or mail it to them. You may never hear a word about it from them. You probably will, but maybe not. Either way, the recipient will treasure that letter as they cherish no other object in life. They will keep it for the rest of life. You have given them a gift beyond measure of value.

Your written words impart refined and distinctive human emotion. They will never forget that gift, or what your letter made them feel in their hearts.

Thank you, Foster friends, for editing this essay: Lisa Dawson, Elizabeth Michael and Jude Klinger.

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Images created by Midjourney.