How writing helped Abbie Williams, founder of Letters of Hope, to heal 

By Sarah Cannata

While I am interested in the research about the benefits of writing, my path with writing as a healing tool began way before I knew about the science. My lived experience tells me that writing is a powerful healing tool. What I have become increasingly interested in recently is how other people incorporate writing into their life for healing purposes. I interviewed Abbie Williams, Founder of Letters of Hope about the role writing has played in her life, and the impact her charity has had on others. Here’s what Abbie shared.

You mentioned Letters of Hope was born from your own lived experience of mental health. Can you share how you feel writing has helped you on your own healing journey?

There is something about putting pen to paper that really forces you to devote your full attention to the present moment. I have found something very healing about being put into a state of focus and writing things down. It allows any anxieties or worries to melt away in the background. It’s really quite lovely.

Abbie Williams, Founder of Letters of Hope

I think that founding Letters of Hope and being able to help others in such a unique way has been a very rewarding experience. It’s given me a huge sense of purpose and essentially has become what keeps me motivated and keeps me going through my mental health recovery journey.

I also really enjoy the feeling of putting something tangible and permanent out there into the Universe. It feels special.

What do you feel is the difference between receiving a handwritten and a typed letter?

Something that I once saw as a downfall to handwriting letters is [that] when a mistake is made you can’t simply erase it. My perspective on that has changed greatly. I personally love receiving a letter and seeing that someone has changed a word, or changed pens because their pen ran out! It brings a healthy reminder that we are all human and we are all faced with making mistakes and changing circumstances. There’s something very beautiful about that.

When we type, I think we have more time to think (perhaps overthink) about what we are saying. We might ponder what we have said, change it, and develop different versions of it. As we do that, our original words are erased. When we hand write a letter, it’s coming from the heart and from the most authentic version of ourselves, and I think that’s why a lot of people feel more connected to handwriting than they do typing.

From your work in the charity, how have you seen writing helping people on a daily basis (both in terms of those who receive the letters and those writing them)?

It’s really inspirational to see the impact that handwritten letters have each and every day. For Letters of Hope recipients, I can see the positive impact it has on a person when they receive a letter that they know someone has taken time out of their day to write. It feels very special to know someone has created this tangible thing just for you!

For myself and for our volunteer letter writers, I know we all find the process of writing letters to others very healing. It brings us into the present, it helps us to feel connected to the recipient despite the fact we have never met them. For older generations, they find love in what feels like a dying art. For younger generations who have rarely handwritten much, it feels special to move away from technology for a little while. Many volunteers talk about the words ‘flowing’ when they put pen to paper.

Do you have a daily writing practice? If so, what does that look like?

I keep a physical diary and each day I like to write down what I am grateful for as well as what I have achieved from a wellbeing perspective that day. Some days, I write a Letter of Hope and leave it on the path or a bench when I go for a walk. I like the idea of a stranger finding it when they might need some comfort.

When I have something sentimental to say, I like to put pen to paper. I often write letters to my grandparents and I’ll also write nice notes to my partner when I’m feeling grateful for him. I feel like it comes from the heart more!

How have you incorporated writing to heal into your life? Feel free to reach out and share your story.

Love the idea of having a regular writing practice but have no idea where to start?

Storytelling for the Soul’s Write Your Way to Healing Quick Start Guide is designed to teach busy people like you how to use embodied writing as a healing tool. In just 5 easy-to-follow steps, this PDF arms you with the basics for writing your way to healing and includes writing prompts to get you started. Set aside 10 minutes a day (or whatever you can manage) to write. Download the free PDF.

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