About a month ago I came across a blog post you may have seen written by Richard Branson titled Bring Back the Pen, which spoke of his shock about an article he read* of a study done by BIC stationary showing statistics that half of today’s 13 to 19 year olds have never written a thank you letter. Branson’s was further shocked that the study reported that one in ten 13 to 19 year olds don’t own a pen.
Although we live in a technologically advancing time, I’m even astounded by these figures. How is it even possible we have got to this point?
The way we all connect and communicate has changed and is done at our fingertips on mobile devices and keyboards within moments. When I think about the statistics in the BIC Stationery’s study, and I think about Richard Branson’s thoughts in his blog post. I think about how quickly things have changed in the last 20 to 30 years.
I’m a child born in the late seventies and had a childhood through the eighties. I had pen pals that our school teachers arranged with other schools around the country. If we weren’t writing to pen-pals, we would often write notes to friends in the evening after completing homework and exchange them on the bus or at school the next day. It was fun, we shared our lives and it connected us to people in a heartfelt way.
Heck I even remember my best friend I having a special encrypted code we wrote our letters in that I nicked from an old book I bought with my pocket money at the local second hand book shop. If friends went away over school holidays handwritten post cards and letter were sent, and if you had a birthday party you had to purchase an invitation pad and fill out the blank spaces by hand. If you got something handwritten it was exciting, you knew someone cared enough to take some time to write those words for you.
When it came to these times, everything had a more personal touch and you knew that if something was handwritten that the person writing to you, had to take time out and connect to what they were doing to reply via the hand written word.
I have always loved sending and receiving notes, cards and letters with the most precious being with my Nana. I have kept many of our written exchanges over the years. I have seen her handwriting change over time as she ages and it makes me think how in the world we live today where we respond to digital messages pinging and beeping off on all manner of devices, that it’s so easy to become oblivious to the fragility of our words, our time and connections to people.
The handwritten word carries the soul of someones life through pen to paper. The soul and form of the written word can show us so much beyond the words when we are often separated by oceans. We can see the maturing of a child’s abilities, the wobbly written words of someone grappling with pain and loss, we can see the flurry of joy and anticipation of exciting times and new beginnings and we can see the shakiness of script in an aging hand all in the written word.
As we continue to move forward in this digital world, try as many might with advancements in communications there will simply never be anything else that can replace the SOUL of the handwritten word and connect us with something tangible with those we are connected to.
I agree with Richard Branson, bring back the pen, bring it into your home and your everyday and let people connect with your words and soul. Start small with a letter of love with your children perhaps and go big with time, it takes only mere moments more to grab a pen and note paper to write a few words of gratitude, share joy, send well wishes, offer sympathies. The handwritten word gives comfort to us because we know the hands of those we love have laid upon these tools of communication.
I pick up my pen today and let my words live and connect to those I love and care for in my physical absence and give them subtle traces to my soul upon the paper I write. I encourage you to pick up your pen today and to do the same and vouch to feel the written word flow out of your fingertips and to the eyes and heart of those you wish to connect to.
*For further reading Branson’s words were in response to this Daily Mail article in the UK.