The Art Of Letter Writing

Posted: June 1, 2011 in Uncategorized
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“My Darling,

I write to you with the hopes that one day soon, I will be able to return to you. It is quite lonely here without your touch. And your home cooking. Remember, I love you always ………..”.

I was up very late this morning. I got caught up watching a program at 2:00 in the morning on PBS called “War Letters”. It was a collection of letters that were written by American soldiers back home. And a few letters that were written by loved ones to soldiers who were at war. It spanned not just the infamous World War II, but letters that were written by our brave soldiers throughout all of history’s conflicts. Starting with the Revolutionary War.

It was really interesting to me to hear what truly went on in the minds of a soldier when they were away from home. What was so heart breaking about the program was that after the narration of the letters, there would some times be an added note that the soldier had died in battle just days later. So you knew that was the last letter they ever wrote. After a few times of that, I couldn’t watch any more.

I went to bed thinking about my own style of writing personal e-mails towards family, friends, and colleagues. I could definitely see similarities in the mentality phase of my messages, just like these soldiers. Much of my thoughts that go into the body of the messages. Some short, some lengthy. The only difference was I do not write with similar thoughts and words that were the erotic content, as most of the letters that were featured in the program were to the wives of the soldiers.

But when was the last time that I wrote a letter? I mean actually sat down at the table with pen and paper and put it in an envelope and seal it with a stamp. The answer to that question is a few months ago. I wrote a fan letter.

I remember that I was only half way down the page, and my wrist started to cramp up really bad. And at that point, I had only begun to write the body of the message after having written the beginning sentiment. My mind began to wonder about the art of letter writing.

With cell phones, and text messaging, and e-mails… it seems as if letter writing has become almost outdated and extinct. And I feel that it is a shame. Everything now is about “convenience”. Almost anything a person wants to do, they can do on a computer or cell phone. All you need is two thumbs and a clear cell phone signal.

Writing a letter though, takes almost the entire arm. The fingers to hold the pen, the wrist to keep the pen steady, and the forearm to move fluidly across the page.

I’ve gone in and out of the hobby of penpals for many years of my life. Starting back when I was in school, learning German. I remember begging my German teacher if she could connect me with some German students that would not mind writing back and forth actual letters that were sent through the post office. My address was given to a teacher somewhere in Germany, who was actually teaching her students English. Three of those students took up my address and wrote me. I wrote one in particular throughout those years in school and into college. Until the age of the Internet was becoming so popular worldwide. I finally received my last correspondence from Germany close to 1998, when I received a postcard that was from Stockholm, Sweden. They were on holiday and they wrote:

“I do not see any fun in asking questions. I am bored with asking ‘what is your favorite color?’. But I hope you are doing well.”

That was the last time I heard from them.

From that point on, I tried again to write penpals from a different source. I placed my address in a heavy metal music magazine and listed only about a handful of singers and bands that I favored at the time. I don’t remember the name of the publication any more.

But that did not turn out anything that was worth while holding on to. Nobody that wrote to me had much in common, or much to talk about in the first place. I was getting letters from girls who were only between the ages of 12-16 years of age that only complained about how they hated school and what not.

Then I joined a fan club. Found a few people to write to. One that would be absolutely faithful in writing letters. She was from just outside of Toronto, Ontario in Canada. Even through years of letter writing, it got switched over to e-mail when it had seemed that everyone & their toy poodles and pet lizards had access to the Internet.

That same year though, I received as a Christmas gift a roll of postage stamps and a box of letter-sized envelopes. A roll of 100 postage stamps back then only cost $32.00.

I had told a friend of mine that I had a goal to have two penpals from each of the fifty states of the United States. I believe that I only got six in total.

That is mostly my history of it all. I know that there are several penpal sites on the Internet where someone can write to. I tried that as well. All I got were wedding proposals from women in some third-world like country in Africa. I told myself, “Never again.” At least not from that site.

When was the last time you received a written letter in the mail? When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone and put it in the mail?

The last hand written note that I received in the mail was a postcard that was sent from Las Vegas. Its just too bad that I cannot read it because its put up on my wall with thumb tacks to admire the rather sexy photograph on the front.

But an actual letter, no… I cannot think about when the last time I received one. I receive greeting cards for my birthday from my family, so I guess that counts… sorta. Right?

Don’t you remember the special feeling of opening your mailbox and finding a letter that was addressed specifically to you? Remember how important you felt at that exact moment that someone out there in the world was thinking of you, enough to give you something so personal as a hand written letter??

Receiving e-mails are great. But I think that letter writing is far more personal and intimate than receiving anything electronically. When you receive a letter, you get to see that person’s inner being. You can tell how important it was for them to write, simply by what kind of paper they used to write on. The color of the ink from the pen that they used, and their beginning and ending sentiments. I remember even receiving letters that had perfum sprayed on the paper. And some of them daring enough to place lipstick prints at the top of each page, and again at the bottom where they signed their name. All of these neat little things tells so much about a person, just as much as the content of their letter. 

All of it has a personal and intimate touch to it. Almost to the point that I would dare to say that they’ve poured their soul into their message.

Their hand writing becomes so fascinating because you can tell when something they are writing about is exciting because they begin to write in larger letters. Particularly if they have underlined some phrase within their paragraph. Remember seeing about a thousand lines underneath it? Yeah, it was important for them to point that out.

Sometimes sentences would not even end in correct punctuation. I know that I have had a fair share of letters that would have a sentence or a paragraph that would end with them drawing a smiley face, instead of inserting a period. To me, that is just as personal as it can get.

Receiving a personally hand written letter is probably the next best thing to having that personal actually knock on your front door. Its an inviting experience to say in the least because once you bring the letter inside, they are right there with you. You smile, laugh, or cry. But you do it with them in mind. It is the closest thing to being tangible with them. Because their hands wrote the message. And they’ve carried themselves to actually have the letter mailed to you.

I personally would not mind trying my hand again at letter writing. I would not mind starting again with the hobby of penpals.

The art of letter writing does not have to be outdated. You have to want to do it. E-mails are quick and lightning fast, writing letters though are far more intimate and personal. You have to find and make the time to do it.

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