Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Joy of Letter Writing

From Cheryl's Writing Crate

Ever since I was a little girl I loved to run to the mailbox each day in hopes that I would receive a letter, a greeting card, even a catalog that was specifically addressed to me.  They didn't come often enough, but when there was a special, written letter of some kind it would make me jump up and down for joy (I kid you not!).  

A handwritten note was something exciting back then, because most kids just aren't accustomed to receiving mail, except for birthday and holiday cards.   To be honest, receiving personalized mail in this day and age is also pretty exciting--especially for adults who are used to only receiving bills and junk mail.  

I have always been enamored with sending greeting cards for every occasion under the sun.  I don't stop at birthdays and anniversaries--I love to send cards to friends who might be having a bad day, as well as congratulatory cards to people who have moved to a new house, started a new job or may have mastered a new skill like baking pastry from scratch or housebreaking their new puppy!  If there isn't a card for such a celebration, I grab a blank one and write my thoughts inside of it.

For years I had a pen pal that I met in Colorado when our first child was born, nearly 20 years ago.  For the first ten years after her birth, my new friend and I wrote one another letters at least three times per month.  I can still remember the thrill of heading to the mailbox and finding one of Amy's letters waiting inside for me.  We didn't just write short and sweet ones, either.  Sometimes we each wrote 10-page letters--full of details about everything from staying up all night while our babies were teething and how we would survive the next day operating on less than an hours sleep to our latest successes or flops with new recipes in the kitchen.  The content was important, but what really mattered was the intimate connection we felt from holding crisp pieces of paper in our hands that we had exchanged with one another about  all the happenings in our harried but precious  lives.

And now, over a decade later, snail mail is nearly non-existent.  Sure many of us still exchange greeting cards here and there, but truthfully, if you stop and think about it the days of writing and receiving letters and notes in the mail is practically a thing of the past.  Texting, e-mails, twitter, and other forms of social media have replaced the personalized art of writing to our friends and I fear it might soon be a thing of the past.

Because I've always been a fan of letter writing and exchanging cards and other written sentiments via mail, I did a little research to see how other writers felt about letter writing and I stumbled upon a wonderful article written by Mason Currey called "The Death of Letter-Writing".    Currey is the author of Daily Rituals, How Artists Work and shared some very insightful thoughts on how letter writing and e-mails just cannot be compared.

Here's a paragraph taken from the article that really got me thinking:

Is email really such a different beast? I would argue that it is. I recently compiled a book about artists’ daily rituals, and as part of my research I spoke to several contemporary writers, painters and composers about their working habits. Nearly everyone was wary of the distractive potential of email. The novelist Nicholson Baker, for instance, told me that he tries to avoid checking email too early in the day because “it just does change everything. As soon as you have a couple of emails pending, the day has a different flavor.”

If not careful, handwritten letters could easily become a lost art, that's why I'm challenging myself and you to pick up your favorite pen and pad and get busy writing a letter to someone who you'd like to communicate with.    Take this challenge even one step further and commit to writing letters to personal friends, family members, business acquaintances and even a letter to the editor or two.

Writers don't limit themselves to only writing short stories, articles, and books, they find ways to share their thoughts in as many venues as possible so why not incorporate more letters into your writing regime.  Not only will you satisfy your need to write, but think of how happy you'll make those who will be receiving your notes and letters!   Sounds like a "win win" to me.

When was the last time you wrote a letter?

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