The art of handwritten letters amidst a pandemic


When was the last time you sent a handwritten letter? Katharine Hart argues letter writing is the perfect practice for life in a pandemic. (Photo by Katharine Hart)

Katharine Hart, Contributor

Nowadays, finding moments to mentally recharge and just breathe are few and far between. It’s difficult to find activities that offer a genuine escape from the constant, draining overload of stress and worry related to the pandemic. Though there are many things we can’t control during this time, focusing on the few things we can offers a more positive outlook on the situation we’re currently in. Simple actions can draw our focus to what we do have, rather than what we don’t, and gratitude provides comfort where anticipation encourages worry. One simple action I’ve taken to find a moment in which I can “just breathe” is through the exchange of handwritten notes. Writing letters is an excellent way to find purpose in a day that could otherwise be just another hurdle to get over.

The physical connection from pen to paper is often overlooked. In a world where convenience and speed are considered more crucial than quality, quick messages such as texts or emails are now the go-to method of nonverbal communication. Though speed certainly has its advantages, we shouldn’t forget the art of more traditional forms of expression. Handwritten notes are personal—one of the aspects that matters most during times of separation.

Over the summer, I began writing letters to my grandmother, MamaPam, who lives in England. I’m tremendously fortunate to call her one of my best friends, and I’ve found not being able to see her possibly the hardest aspect of this pandemic. I wrote to her about my week, the books I’d been reading, the shows I’d been watching, and even included a short recipe for her to try. I sealed and posted it, happy that I’d been able to connect with her, even briefly, for a small moment of my day.

A few weeks later, something caught my eye while I scanned the day’s arrival of the post. Sitting on top of the pile of magazines and advertisements was a crisp white letter, with my name scribbled in MamaPam’s distinctive cursive. I excitedly tore it open and pulled out its contents.

The message I received made my day; reading about tidbits from my grandmother’s week reminded me that this pandemic is one the whole world is going through, and no one is finding it easy. It made me even happier when a few days later, she spoke to me and my mum about her church Zoom group, mentioning how, when one of the members was dominating the conversation, she chimed in with, “well, my granddaughter and I write letters to each other.” I couldn’t help but let a smile slip as she spoke with pride about our newfound hobby as penpals.

We continue to write to one another, and it’s always exciting to open her letters. I treasure each note she writes to me, and writing back to her always offers a momentary fulfilling escape. It reminds me how grateful I am for my family, and how rewarding it will be to finally see them again. One thing’s for sure: after this pandemic, I’ll never take time spent with loved ones for granted.

Next time you’re out of quarantine ideas, take a page from the Bennetts in the classic Pride and Prejudice and pick up a pen. It may just be the rewarding quarantine activity you didn’t know you needed!