The Art of Letter Writing

Saturday, August 01, 2009

I woke up thinking about writing a letter and found myself torn. Do I write the letter via e-mail or do I pull out my nice stationary that I have had stored away for a long time?

But, then my thoughts grew deeper on the matter. I realized that the art of writing letters is practically gone.

Oh sure, we still get formal business letters from companies in the mail. But when was the last time we actually received a complete letter from someone in our lives? For me, it has been an extremely long time. This, of course, stemmed to another thought, a thought about our wonderful internet and how it has changed our lives. But, to what degree? In many cases, we tend to just forward some profound message that someone from somewhere else sent to us. It isn't our own words, it isn't something we've written. Have we grown so far away in the lines of communication that we don't actually write letters to the ones we love or to our friends?

Not many people realize it, but the art of letter writing is one of the many ways that our great authors got their start in the writing world. When you think back through history, how each writer would communicate to family and friends that were far away, it was through a letter. These letters are what kept the lines of communication open. Mind you, by the time many family members would receive the letter it would be several months old and left the family in anticipation for the next. This anticipation is the same our readers get when they are reading a book, a book that has drawn them in and holds their attention. They want more, they want to know what is going to happen in the end, so they read on and on.

Now laugh if you must, but I want to start a movement, a movement to bring back this dying art. This art of communication that so many of us have walked away from because of technology. We have lost the art of communication through words that we can write rather than speak, or in the case of our younger generation, text. That almighty shortened abbreviated work that has been created on cell phones. In my opinion YUCK!!!! Yes, I own a cell phone, but I don't text. I can't stand it. I would much rather hear the person on the other end of the telephone or actually receive a full letter from them letting me know how they are doing, what they have been up to, any changes in their lives.

Technology has given us many ways to get creative with our writing today, but alas, who actually uses it? With e-mail available to almost everyone, we could create some very pretty letters to send out, virtual stationary if you will. But the stationary alone is not enough, you must fill the pages with communication. This brings us back to our writing basics, the ones that all of us have learned in grade school. Who, what, where, why and how, the many questions we could give answers to through a nice lengthy letter that we could be sending to our loved ones.

If all of us as writers could help this movement, wow, think of how it could re-sculpt our lives. Communication that was once lost, found again. Think of our children, do yours truly know their grandparents? Do they communicate with them other than the occasional telephone call or summer visit? How about that long lost Aunt that you found? So many questions in our lives could be answered. How many marriages could be saved through the art of bringing back the art of letter writing? You may laugh, but to be honest, a friend of mine actually began leaving her husband letters on his pillow in the morning. She felt she couldn't express to him in actual words for a while and began putting pen to paper. She felt ashamed that this was one of the only ways she could open up to him, it was her safe zone. But this safe zone helped open her up to him, they found and understanding and it saved their marriage. Oh, sure, this won't work for all marriages, because of different situations etc. But think of the ones that are out there that many of us feel are worth saving.

As I rattle on I begin to think of a way I can actually help start the movement of letter writing. I have decided that each day, I am going to attempt to write at least one letter to someone I know. This letter will either be sent electronically or via regular post. I want people in my life to know that they mean more to me than just as a relation. So today, I am going to start my first letter.

Dear Friend,

How long has it been since we last talked? Probably longer than we both remember. I know that we don't stay in touch much, but I feel it is time that we change this. Everyday our lives change, we change, even if we don't see it, others around us do. I want to get to know you again, I want to know what brought us together as friends. So today, I am writing this letter to you to say how happy I am to have you in your life. Thank you for being my friend.

You probably don't know much about what is going on with me these days and I am sorry, but starting today, we can turn over a new leaf. A leaf that has turned brown, we can now bring it back to life into a lush beautiful green. From now on, my goal is to write a letter to you and others in my life. To let them know how I am doing, not one that simply states an answer to a question. I want you to know that you mean more to me than a simple e-mail forward. You are more important to me than that.

I hope this message finds you well. I know you have probably gone through a lot as well in your life and it would be nice to know if in some small way I have helped you through a bad time or if I have made you laugh today.

Maybe today, we can begin a new life together, a life in the art of writing once again. Something we did when we were in school, passing notes back and forth planning what we were going to do for lunch or how cute that boy was sitting next to us today in class. Do you remember those times? Help me bring those times back. I want to know how you are.

With all my friendship and love for you!

Happy writing!


Donna Volkenannt said...

Hi Carrie,
You are so right. Letter writing is a lost art. I love receiving letters in the mail. Even e-mails from a friend are welcome. What a wonderful post and campaign!
Donna Volkenannt

Daisy said...

This touched a nerve. You are so right. I was just thinking about this and how email and texting, while keeping us in touch with everyone, has made communication more trivial. I remember the days when I'd anxiously await a letter from my cousin who was away at college, a boyfriend in the Air Force. Writing letters became a special time. I'd lock myself in my room crafting the perfect letter, perfect expression of my feelings. Now we dash off emails without much thought. Great post and campaign!

Rev. Linda said...

Amen! I wrote a column about this very subject over ten years ago when cell phones were just starting to infiltrate our lives.

As an educator, I am all for starting this movement. There is something magical about opening up a letter, holding it in your hands, reading the words. It is very sensory!

Thanks for the idea...I say lets go with it!

LuAnn said...

It has been so very long since I've written a "real" letter. I'm not sure if I'd remember how anymore!

Analisa said...

I love it. I like writing notes and letters. Even if I put a note inside a card. I was thinking of writing a letter to my pastor thanking him for his message today and this was the boost I needed.

If you know someone who is going through a hard time a written letter means so much. It is something you can keep for encouragement.

The Missive Maven said...

The movement to revive letter-writing (through the post, please - electronic does not count) already exists! I applaud any efforts to join in. There's nothing like writing or receiving a letter.
Check out:
The Letter Writers Alliance
The Missive Maven
Everyday correspondence
365 letters
Good mail day
Viva Snail mail
Just Letter Rip
A passion for letter writing
Post Letters!
We Love snail mail

...and go write a letter!

Anonymous said...

Hi - I just discovered this while searching for a letter writing movement. I think it's a wonderful idea! I love writing letters and receiving them. Something is lost when we email - even long, well-thought-out ones. They exist somewhere between talking to someone, and the written word... they are neither, and much misunderstanding comes about as a result. I actually rather despise email - and wouldn't dream of texting. And shorthand has been around for a long time, but before its use was confined to the secretary, and would be later converted into complete words and sentences. Also, there is something beautiful about an individual person's handwriting - conveys much that type cannot.

So let's write!

Anonymous said...

It is said that letter writing is nothing but an art. Even though letters have transformed into e-mails and SMSes, the art still remains, only the medium has changed. Letters can be broadly classified into formal letters and informal letters. @bose


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