After 20 Years on the Computer, I Wrote a Handwritten Letter

I’ll be the first to admit it — I’m a tech nerd. I’m the first one to try the latest piece of technology, which hasn’t always been a good thing. My techy past has laid waste to mountains of obsolete word processors, computers, phones, MP3 players and just about anything else that plugged into an outlet. I’ve learned over the years that the latest and the greatest isn’t always that great. Just ask my Rio Karma, which was popular for 20 minutes in the early 2000s. I could probably buy a new car with all the money I would have saved not being the first to the gadget parade.

My point is, I’m connected to my technology. My computer is everything. All my files are there. I actually back up my data. I have a mirrored drive. I have cloud storage. I am invincible. Or at least I thought I was until I wandered into the paper store at the mall.

My computer is everything.

For the first time in a long time, I experienced the tactile satisfaction of real stationery in my hands. It took me back years to when paper was a thing. There were so many choices: colored, foiled, embossed, die-cut. Right then and there, I decided I was going to handwrite a letter. I imagined what it would be like to receive an actual letter on this beautiful stationery — not just a card, but a real letter.

I bought three different boxes of stationery and headed home with renewed vigor — I was going to be the next Hemingway. I was going to write longhand letters that would resound throughout history and become revered as important works of art. I opened the box, carefully removed a sheet of the pristine paper, and picked up a pen — and something amazing happened.

Handwritten letter frustration
I couldn’t figure out what to write, and I’m never at a loss for words.

I couldn’t figure out what to write. I call it amazing because I am never at a loss for words. But here I was with pen and paper, afraid to begin writing — because if I messed up, I’d have to start again. There was no backspace to delete mistakes. I couldn’t erase the pen. I pictured myself tearing through all three boxes of expensive stationery. I froze. This suddenly seemed like a really bad idea.

I threw a side glance at my computer. After all, that was the culprit. I had become so used to the safety net of backspace, delete and paste, I never had to fully compose thoughts in my head anymore. I remembered talking to a friend about our phones and how we used to know all our friends’ phone numbers by heart. Not anymore. While technology provided so many important solutions, it had created problems of its own. As I Googled around, I found that I was not alone. Too much reliance on technology can cause certain critical-thinking patterns to become, well, lazy. I took a step back and decided that I was not going to allow a task as simple as writing a letter leave me defeated, surrounded by a mountain of the world’s most expensive balled-up stationery.

I gave myself free rein to just explore my own creativity,
and it was wonderful.

I darted to my printer and grabbed a cheap piece of scratch paper out of the tray. I outlined my initial thoughts. I scratched them out and outlined them again. I doodled cat cartoons. I scribbled things out. I jotted down childhood memories. For about 45 minutes, I gave myself free rein to just explore my own creativity, and it was wonderful. When I finished, I had enough fodder for five letters!

I took a sheet of the pristine stationery and composed my first handwritten letter in over 20 years. And while it wasn’t the masterpiece I was hoping for, I got a call from my sister after she received the letter letting me know how much she enjoyed reading it. In fact, she was even inspired to write me back.

Reading the letter
My sister loved the letter. She even wrote me back!

That was over a year ago. Today, I have a shelf of stationery in my library and writing a letter is no longer a source of angst. I don’t need scratch paper, and I can fire off a well-crafted letter in 30 minutes. The benefits have been twofold: I get to spend quiet time alone while focusing on one important person in my life. Plus, now I receive letters in the mail again instead of just bills, and that alone is worth the price of stationery.

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