Writing out the Winter lockdown blues

The past few weeks in lockdown have been very hard. We are on lockdown inside. The weather is poor outside. And the libraries, cafes, cinemas, bars and restaurants are all closed because of the lockdown. Giles Penman offers a possible activity to brighten our moods at this challenging time.

Christmas is well and truly in the past. We had our fun and it was great. But now we have been through a lockdown in the wintertime with its snow, rain and bone-chilling cold. And, once again, we are waiting to be let out without any end in sight to this isolation. It seems bleak and mentally challenging, I know. But I think I may have found a way out.

In the first lockdown, back in March, to break the loneliness of lockdown I started writing cards and letters to my friends and family….and never stopped. Writing cards and posting them rather than just talking sounds like it would merely emphasize the absence of the recipient rather than bring them closer. It would seem only to deepen the sense of loneliness in lockdown. But it has had completely the opposite effect for me. It has provided me with an outlet from all the stress and anxiety I feel being inside during isolation. This is because I can write to the recipients and share my experiences and activities with them as though they were there with me. I know this sounds strange. But by concentrating on my choice of words I feel as though I am really speaking directly to the recipient, conjuring them in my mind as I address my words to them. Also, in our increasingly paperless digital world, providing my recipients with something physical to open, hold and look at each day brightens their day as well as mine. 

Moreover, I draw ballpoint pen drawings in the cards accompanied by humorous jokes and comments to amuse my recipients. In this part of the letter, I imagine sharing the jokes and witticisms with the recipients and their reactions as though they were with me. And the drawings, are personalized to the recipients’ interests, for example, an Alpaca for an Alpaca-lover. They allow me to spend time producing a detailed line-drawing and believe that I am sending a small piece of myself in creative form to be with the recipient on their sitting room mantlepieces even when I cannot be there with them.

These activities, the composing, writing, and drawing, make me feel closer to the recipient even when we are apart because of the lockdown. This itself makes me very happy. And, in all of this, I do not think once about my isolation and loneliness because I realise the strong relationships I possess, the wonderful relatives and friends I have and the great times we have together. I am not alone so long as I have them with me in my imagination.   

This is the power of letter-writing. It may sound old-fashioned, I understand, in the age of instant messenger and email. But writing physical letters to friends and loved ones, telling them about your day and being a bit creative with pens and colouring pencils, can really offer a great opportunity to break through the bleak interminable loneliness of the winter lockdown. Writing letters cheered me up and reconnect meaningfully with friends and family. Maybe it could do the same for you?  

Are you writing letters during the COVID-19 outbreak? What are some of activities you are doing to stay connected at this time? Tweet us at @ResearchEx, email us at libraryblogs@warwick.ac.uk, or leave a comment below.

Giles Penman is a PhD researcher supervised by the Classics and History Departments at the University of Warwick. His research concerns the roles and audiences of ancient imagery on British civic cultural artefacts of the Great War. He has a background in Classics, Archaeology and Numismatics

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