"It’s an opportunity to try out writing about things you already know a lot about: your own life, your own feelings, your own very specific quarantine cravings (mine is grapefruit)..."Claire Lee Shenfield for Varsity

Content Note: This article contains a brief mention of coronavirus and a discussion about lockdown and self-isolation.

Dear friend, I hope this letter finds you well in these unprecedented times! What’s better than keeping a diary to write down all your frustrations (read: elaborate plans to get rid of your family), aspirations (read: elaborate plans to get rid of your family) and riveting accounts of your days in quarantine? It would appear the answer is nothing, to those indulging in scribbling down all of the above in a glitter-covered notebook dusted off from its last use as a list of kiss chase targets.

If you are one of those, don’t take offence but merely consider this: what if you could regurgitate your mangled madnesses onto paper but not have it sit there on your bedside table, mocking you as you toss and turn at night, likely replaying over and over only the most embarrassing moments of the day that are immortalised in it?

“Letters afford the opportunity to write with reckless abandon, to an audience you know already enjoys the ridiculous things that come out of your mouth.”

What if, instead, you could have all the catharsis of writing but none of the stress of flicking through it to figure out just how many times you’ve used the words “bleach” and “fringe” and just how troubling your situation might be?

Herein lies the simple solution: dump it onto someone else in a letter. A problem shared is a problem halved. A dramatic retelling of exactly what my snacking schedule consisted of during a particular day in quarantine shared is entertainment doubled, if you ask me.

As much as it helps me fulfil my lifelong dreams of becoming Elizabeth Bennet – sitting at my writing desk at the end of a long, hard day of turning down the advances of rich men and romping indecently through fields to pen some witty correspondence – it is also a truth universally acknowledged, that a friend in possession of an address, simply must be in want of a letter. Thankfully, all of mine have been. Thankfully for them of course, no skin off my back, either way, absolutely no worries if not, I didn’t want to send you one anyway, Chloe.

It seems like almost everyone I’ve met in Cambridge, myself included, would refer to themselves as a writer: inaudibly, in their bedroom, absolutely alone, crouched over the hundredth attempt at an opening line to a one-woman show that’s never been continued, a dent in Harry Styles’s forehead in the 1D poster on the wall from the balling up and throwing off the other 99. Oddly specific you say? Absolutely not, completely relatable observational comedy there.

“Tinder’s USP is down the drain. Swiping is out, epistolary courting is back in, baby.”

Letters afford the opportunity to write with reckless abandon and no pressure, to an audience whom you know already enjoy the ridiculous things that come out of your mouth. It’s an opportunity to try out writing about things you already know a lot about: your own life, your own feelings, your own very specific quarantine cravings (mine is grapefruit, something which I’ve never once desired pre-pandemic and a craving which would have incited worry had I experienced any form of physical contact in the last month let alone anything would have made that kind of worry possible).

Needless to say, letters are also a traditionally romantic gesture and you may well have a special someone in mind for your new favourite hobby. Take advantage of the sheer amount of time you get to compose a response to a letter compared to a text or, god forbid, a phone call – and you could come out of the experience seeming monumentally cooler after a few drafts and some edits, courtesy of your most successfully flirtatious mate. Tinder’s USP is down the drain and it doesn’t make a difference if they’re less than a mile away now, does it? Swiping is out, epistolary courting is back in, baby.


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Mountain View

Documenting life in lockdown: Week One

It’s no wonder that, since this pandemic started, we’ve been turning towards longer forms of communication, taking time over how we say things more than when we say them and taking pleasure in each other’s mundanity. It makes us realise the joy in putting words together for the sake of bringing entertainment to someone else, without actually needing to have much to say in those words – much like this article some might say...

Anyway! Next time you’ve got a spare minute and I’d vouch you’ve probably got a few (unless you have TikTok in which case, fair enough you probably haven’t anymore), consider getting the creative juices and ink flowing. I’m sure that any letter you write will be gratefully received, joyfully read and continually cherished.

All the best,
Claire xxx

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