Two years ago I started my own personal tradition making handmade holiday cards. It’s like making little unique gifts for friends and family. But before I share the fun I had crafting them this year, I’d like to share some thoughts the process brought about, regarding handwritten notes in general.
Let’s talk about the art of the handwritten note. By “note”, I’m referring to letters and cards, scrap pieces of paper kids pass back and forth in class, a message in a bottle, or a sign held up outside another’s door.
How often do you give others a handwritten note? When you check your mail, how often do you have one addressed to you? If you’re like me, not often.
A handwritten note carries part of you with it. It’s hand written. What you send with that note is both physical and psychological, and as Margaret Shepherd, author of “The Art of the Handwritten Note,” describes, it is an inspiration for both the sender and receiver.
You touched the same paper they will touch, you licked the envelope they’ll tear open, your choice of medium and words reflect your thoughts, feelings, and personality, and when they receive it, they’ll see your handwriting on the page.
“Writing is like a windowpane, a windowpane into you.” -George Orwell.
Of course, I could start getting into the ins and outs of graphology and what your handwriting must say about you, but that would be opening a whole other can of worms. So, I’ll just point out that graphologist Kathi McKnight describes how you craft letters and words can indicate more than 5,000 different personality traits, and give a better read on a person. However, I don’t know about you, but I’m not a graphologist. So, as the recipient of a hand written note, I gain more meaning from the simple fact that it’s the sender’s personal script and I know it belongs uniquely to them.
Emily Dickinson said, “A letter always seemed to me like immortality because it is the mind alone without corporeal friend.” A handwritten note is timeless. There’s something sacred about communicating in the way generations did before us. We’ve all heard the stories about couples who wrote love letters or how families receive notes from their soldiers in war. It’s the reason why we have old documents on display in museums and we cherish the notes received from people who have passed away. This kind of history can’t be replaced by technology because the physical script of a handwritten note is tangible, personal, and real.
Writing by hand forces us to think methodically, thoughtfully, and carefully, without the benefits of a backspace button. It cannot be denied, technology keeps us connected in a very convenient and efficient way. But, it can also not be denied that a handwritten note carries with it the most personal, powerful expressions, whose qualities cannot be truly replicated in the world of technology.
Something hand written lives in a sense of three dimensional space and time, which is lost in the exchange to the flat, two dimensional landscape of the digital world.
We need writing that carries emotions, not emoticons. The value of the handwritten note lies in its three dimensional state, the process of doing it, it’s uniqueness, timelessness, history and sentimentality.
Put simply, it announces beyond a doubt that the reader really matters to you.
“A good handwritten letter is a creative act, and not just because it is a visual and tactile pleasure. It is a deliberate act of exposure, a form of vulnerability, because handwriting opens a window on the soul in a way that cyber communication can never do. You savor their arrival and later take care to place them in a box for safe keeping.”
-Catherine Field, The Fading Art of Letter Writing