用意したカード（左）と書き上げた７通 JACKIE HOFFART PHOTO
Most of my close friends live far away, so I've relied mainly on electronic correspondence, like email and social media, to stay in touch. But even though technology has ostensibly made it easier, I feel less connected to them than ever before.
Letters, on the other hand, have a special kind of power, a depth that transcends words. There's something perfect about the imperfection of hand-written letters, something playful about puzzling out someone's unique script.
So this week, I decided to get back to basics and write a letter every day for a week. To keep this challenge achievable and less intimidating, I bought cute blank cards. To be fair, a card is not the same as a letter, but to me, any time you write "Dear x" and ramble on for as long as space allows, it's a letter.
Each morning I packed one blank card and its envelope in my bag, making sure I had a working pen (and a back-up pen), and set off to work. But I'm not much of a morning person, so I always left my writing until the commute home. The train seats have pull-down tray tables, making it easy to get right to work. The journey can be bumpy, but my handwriting has gotten so poor over the past few years that it probably looks like I wrote the letters on horseback.
For the first two days, Monday and Tuesday, I took a different train from my work buddies so I would have the journey all to myself to write. The first letters had been almost fully formed in my brain for a few months, so they flew out of the pen and onto the page — no problem.
On day three, I took the train with a work friend, then I went out for dinner, so I had no time to write. I made up for it on Thursday by writing two instead. I didn't finish Friday's letter on Friday, and Saturday's I skipped. So Sunday, I caught up on all three.
By Friday I noticed I was retelling the same story in each letter. Each one was different, of course, but a vague pattern emerged. It went roughly like this: I asked questions about that person's life, reflecting on some recent achievement of theirs (a baby, a new job, an engagement or marriage — it seems everyone I know falls into at least one of these categories). I wrapped up the questions with a general but heartfelt comment about how much I miss that person or wish I could hang out with him/her. Finally I launched into an update on my life.
Overall, this challenge was enjoyable. I find I'm more honest when I write by hand. (I write this column by hand for the first and second drafts, for example.) Writing by hand clarifies the mind in a way that typing can't, and I found it surprisingly easy to dive deeply into my life and the latest "news."
The hardest part was not being able to quickly look up little details, like the name of my friend's new baby, which would have been easy if I was using email. So I had to work around it.
The other hard part was the posting. Royal Mail makes a big deal about not telling you how much postage you'll need until they weigh your letter, and as I am at work during post office hours, I rarely get a chance to buy stamps or mail anything.
But I just happened to be at Heathrow Airport on the last day of my challenge, which just happens to have a post office that's open seven days a week. Lucky me — and lucky for my seven friends. I bought some extra stamps so that I won't have any excuses not to keep up with the letter-writing. I plan to keep writing maybe a letter a week from now on.
Next time: What if I ... talk to strangers
I really enjoy receiving mail and would love to hear your ideas for new challenges. I received a hand-written postcard from a reader asking why I'd like to study film. Actually, I'm still trying to decide if I want to study film at a university or college at all, or buy a new computer and the software and just teach myself. I am interested in film editing because it seems very precise (which I like), but also very creative (which I also like).