Monday, July 16, 2012

From the Archives: When was the last time you wrote a letter?


"Will this fading generation... also be the last to write letters? Messages crafted by hand rather than bits of binary code? Writing that carries emotions rather than emoticons?

"...Think of letters and the mind falls on Paul of Tarsus, Abraham Lincoln, Jane Austen, Mark Twain; on love letters written during the American Civil War, or letters written to a parent by a frightened soldier at the battlefront..."--
Catherine Fields, The New York Times

(originally posted June 28, 2011)

Today is Long Letter Day, billed as "a time to stop and write that long letter to an old friend."

Which begs the question, does anybody write letters anymore? Should we? Why?

I myself can't remember the last time I wrote a letter. E-mails, sure. Texts just to say "I love you" or "I'm praying for you." But a letter?

This New York Times article by Catherine Fields, "The Fading Art of Letter-writing," opens with Fields' description of the regular letters she gets from her 75-year-old aunt in England.

Fields writes:

"A good handwritten letter is a creative act, and not just because it is a visual and tactile pleasure. It is a deliberate act of exposure, a form of vulnerability, because handwriting opens a window on the soul in a way that cyber communication can never do. You savor their arrival and later take care to place them in a box for safe keeping."

Some of the many letters my mom wrote to me when I was in Bible college in the late 70's--I saved all of them!

As a Bible college student, far away from home in the late 70's, my mother's regular letters were a lifeline. There was no e-mail, no cell phones, so these loving, chatty missives were like cherished gifts showing up in my otherwise-empty student mailbox.

My husband and I were apart for some two months prior to our marriage in 1978. Somewhere in my house are the letters we exchanged during that time--sweet, naive, romantic and probably somewhat cheesey expressions of our love. Do modern couples have this testament to their devotion?

Apparently there are those in the younger generation who are trying to revive the art of letter-writing. Letter-writing clubs like this one are springing up all over the world, where members meet just to put pen to paper to "go back to the old-fashioned way of sending their regards."

Witness blogs like ("where the written word lives on"). Blogger and written-word advocate Samara O'Shea writes:

"...there is nothing—not a text message, not an IM, not a Facebook status update—that competes with the emotional connection made through a letter. Handwritten or typed, snail-mailed or handed over—doesn’t matter. It’s the time you take to choose your words carefully and write them down that becomes a tangible testament to how much the other person means to you."


I doubt that I'll start conducting all my correspondence by snail-mail. But I do feel the urge to bring letter-writing back into my life, at least occasionally!

What about you? Do you ever write letters? Do you enjoy getting them? Do you think it's an art that needs to be preserved? Let me know!


Anonymous said...

I agree with the handwritten messages. I have saved a few handwritten letters and writings from some family members who have passed on. I treasure those pages and often just pour over their script. I feel closer to them through their writings for sure. Viewing a blog of someone who has passed away just doesn't feel the same. Although blogging is a form of leaving our legacy behind.

Linda said...

Oh yes, I am a letter writer. I have had pen pals (from former teachers, overseas pals from school, to my grandma, to women that I exchange cards and letters to at the present time) for many years. I haven't had time to write much lately and I do miss finding a card or letter in my mailbox. The last time I wrote a letter was last thursday when I had the oil changed in my car.

a joyful nusiance said...

I actually really like writing notes. I have a stash of notecards and when I feel prompted by the Lord, I write a note. I love it.

I actually just wrote to someone last week. (not said bragging)

I think that part of the problem with my generation and those younger is that we don't really know how to say how we feel. Some of the letters of old are written with such feeling and emotion. I have never gotten a letter written like that. Or sent one for that matter. I wish my vocabulary was that great.

Anonymous said...

beauty beds

Oh My! I can't remember the last time I wrote a handwritten letter. Its because that its much easier to make and send a letter through e-mail or the net. I think I'll start writing a handwritten one 'cause you inspired me. Its much more personal.

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