Stories and thoughts about family and life

The lost art of writing a letter

on March 2, 2013

A very dear friend of mine told me last summer that she was going to start writing me letters again, because she missed the feel and inspiration of it all.  I thought it was nice, but I honestly didn’t really give it much thought.  She sent me several letters (and actually still occasionally does), and I marvel at the choice of paper she makes, the fountain pen she uses (her choice–I’ve never been able to use one as beautifully as she does), and even the wax seal she places on the envelope.   It’s a wonderful touch, and it’s a great thing to get home and have something other than bills, coupons, and solicitations to buy a car or apply for a credit card in the mail.  In reality, though, she and I also text, send e-mails, chat on Facebook, and even occasionally speak by phone.  We’re non-discriminatory communicators, I suppose.

I have another friend who is unavailable right now, with no access to Facebook, and very little access to a phone.  I have recently begun corresponding by letter with this person, and I have to say, I’m enjoying it immensely.  The anticipation of knowing my letter has probably been received and a response is on its way, and the thought of remembering what’s happened during the week so I can include it in my next letter are reminding me of the lost joy of actually WRITING.  Truly, I don’t hand-write much.  I cheat and use the computer, but as I told my friend in the last two letters, I’m using various fonts to make it more entertaining and fun–this time I even “coded” part of the letter in Wingdings and then provided a translation.

It has been funny, watching our interaction between letters.  We write and ask each other questions, and then end up realizing that we’ve explained other things in the next letter which just lead to more questions.  In a world where I can create a post on Facebook or send an e-mail or text and have an almost immediate response, there has been a distinctive pleasure in the exchange of information using this lost art form.  I even chuckle at myself as I proofread my work, imagining what it will be like to read it and if my joke will come off as funny a week after the letter that prompted it.  Will my friend remember what was written that prompted my remarks?  Will I remember, when the next response is received?

I had received a nearly 9 page letter this week, which reinforced to me that sometimes your friends just need to hear you respond.  I wrote a letter equally long in response, but I had to laugh at myself as I worked through the letter almost like a project at work, ensuring I had responded to each question, issue, story in order to carry on the conversation.  I used to write letters and send cards all the time.  Growing up where I did my friends didn’t live down the street, so we had to write to stay in touch.  I used to be that friend that just knew you needed a “pick-me-up” and would send a card.  Where in the world did I lose this skill?  I notice on Facebook now as you wish your friends a Happy Birthday, you can also “send them a gift.”  Have we really moved into being such a fast and easy society that we’re going to give that up as well?

I hope not.  Excuse me, now I’ve got to get some other mail ready to go out.  Perhaps if we all still sent letters, stamps wouldn’t be so ridiculous in price, and people would still look forward to mail.


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