Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Letter Writer, Revisited

It's been a little over a year since I started writing letters as part of the Letter Writer's Alliance, and I've recently organized all the (good) mail I've received in the last year or so.

That's a lot of letters, people. In fact, that's 38 letters (which doesn't account for all the letters I received in high school and college - just the past year and 3 months). And I thought it's high time I write a few reflections on letters and letter writing in general as well as a bit about why the heck I write so many damn letters (this is a question posed to me quite often).

Go check out this post before reading if you want some of the relevant back story.

Why do I write so many letters?

A few reasons. I've discussed this with my pen friends and we've come up with a few answers.

Delayed Gratification: 
This is one of the top reasons given. You've sent a letter the slow way. You don't have a person's e-mail address or phone number or Facebook. Their mailbox is the only way you can get in touch with them, and that's scary. They won't receive your letter tomorrow. They might get it sometime this week. But then they have to write back. This can take time: they'll want to formulate a thoughtful, thorough response, life may get in the way, and then they have to put it in the mail and it will take a few more days to get back to you.

I draft all of my letters before I put them onto
pretty stationery. I like making my letters look pretty and
read in such a way that is coherent and eloquent. It takes a lot
longer but it's definitely worth it.

It's a delicious kind of anticipation, knowing that any twist of fate could result in your letter getting lost or damaged along the way. Trusting a truly flawed "government" agency such as the United States Postal Service is terrifying to be sure (and boy are they flawed...) but the uncertainty involved is part of the fun. And when a letter does arrive, it's so satisfying when you recall the wait and time involved in it reaching you.

Timeless Communication:
As I listed before: You don't have your penpal's e-mail address or phone number or Facebook account handy. Most of the time, mailbox-to-mailbox is all you have. It's old fashioned, yes, and most of the time that's the whole point.

Time and Effort:
It takes time to hand-write a letter. We put out extra effort using nice stationery or decorating our envelopes. We use our best handwriting and pay almost $0.50 for a stamp. We formulate thoughtful, coherent responses and convert the mindless monotony of our day to day lives into eloquent stories to tell our friends and that takes thought, creativity, and care. We express joy, disappointment, anticipation, confusion, and the whole spectrum of human emotion to our pen-and-paper companions. I'm proud to show someone I care about her and her boring daily life by sharing my own and responding to hers with compassion and thoughtfulness and some pretty paper. An e-mail full of emoticons cannot convey the kind of time, thought, and care put into a well-worded, well-presented letter.

It's Fun:
Most days, I check my mailbox and it's bills, junk mail, more bills, and shopping adverts. When I'm thumbing through them and find something different, something beautiful that has my name on it in a familiar handwriting, it makes my day. Knowing someone took the time and care to write to me makes it so very special. I look forward to hearing what's up with my girlfriends in Illinois, Washington, Missouri and Vermont. I have such a great relationship with my cousin going to college in Irvine and look forward to spending time with her at family events.

Mostly, I'm a big believer in the notion that the handwritten word is not just a means of communicating and recording thoughts - though that is important - but it is also a unique extension of the soul, a small stamp of oneself onto history. 

Perhaps in the nearish future I'll post about typewriters versus ink pens and how I've used both successfully to write letters, and I may also write more about my silly habit of drafting letters before mailing them. We'll see how it goes.

Here's the link to the Letter Writer's Alliance. They have a blog and a shop and a great deal of epistolary enthusiasm


Anyhoo, I gotta get to writing back to my "favorite" cousin *wink wink, nod nod*

Write More Letters!


*Author's Note: All of the images used in this post are my property, copyright 2014 and whatnot to Whitney Miller. You are welcome to use them if you give me credit and link back to this post. Thank you kindly.*

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