On writing letters.

How many letters have you written? (Emails don’t count on this one.) How many have you actually written, with a pen? (Makes you think twice if you know you can’t erase!)

Letter-writing is a quickly disappearing art. I enjoy writing letters and I do it on a daily or weekly basis, but most teens would never think of sending someone written message unless directed by their parents to send a thank-you note. But most would give it a try if they knew what they were missing.

Think about this: when you write someone a letter, your hand-written work arrives in her mailbox. She’ll see her own name in the address, unfold the pages you folded, see the date you wrote, and recognize your handwriting. It’s exciting to read a letter because she can see that you spent time thinking about what  she might like to hear — you must care about corresponding with her. Your friends enjoy hearing about the bake sale for your brother’s Boy Scout troop, what you gave your mom for Mother’s Day, the restaurant you dined at on vacation, books you read for school, pictures you took at the hockey rink, and shops you found in Boston — all topics my friends have, in fact, written to me about.

When you write someone a letter, your emotions jump off the page at them. Love letters aren’t famous for nothing! It’s the same with letters written to a friend or family member. Because you have to think carefully about every sentence, you say exactly what you mean. It takes energy to write all those lines, so fewer words go to waste. Your vocabulary expands because variety is appealing on the written page. Letters can include offbeat touches of style including sketches, designs, doodles, newspaper clippings, comics, pages, photo booth strips, ads, winning tickets, sheet music, and souvenirs. If you keep correspondence interesting, you will both eagerly anticipate replies.

When you accumulate a collection of letters from someone else, you have in your hands part of that person’s history. Who knows, you might have letters written to you by a future Nobel Prize winner. You also have a piece of –you guessed it– Rockwell’s America. (see this post: https://seeingbeauty.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/rockwells-america/) Whomever you write to has some of your life in her hands, too. After a few years, you both have a volumes-long collection of the other person’s thoughts, dreams, and aspirations.

Writing letters strengthens long-distance friendships. I have an out-of-town friend who has exchanged letters with me for the past eight years. If I had to guess, I would say we have exchanged about 200 letters. As you might imagine, we know each other very well, and on the rare occasions when we see each other, we pick up right where the letters leave off. I have another friend who sends me postcards from her world travels. The collection of notes spans dozens of countries from North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. The first, dated 26 October, 2004, was from London; the most recent was from Hampshire, Jane Austen’s home. Over time, these friends and others have left me with boxes full to the brim of letters — and most have a reply lying in a box in someone else’s room.

Writing letters is a rewarding form of communication as well as an excellent pastime. I strongly recommend you give it a try if you have not done so before. Do not stop writing just because texting is en vogue. Letters are classy, stylish, personal, and authentic amidst a sea of overly digitized human interaction.

To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart. — Phyllis Theroux

Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company. — Lord Byron


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