Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

One night this week, M and I watched "The Lake House" with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. I bought it last year for Valentine's Day. Sandra Bullock's character makes a comment at one point that she thinks she's falling in love with this man that she's never met. She has only the letters that they have exchanged.

I have watched documentaries about the Civil War that had letters written at that time as part of the script. The way those words sounded when read was so powerful. I compare that with most of the written communication that takes place today, and it makes me sad. There is no passion (or emotion of any kind!) in the messages "how R U" or "Wut U doin" that appear in messages to my daughter. No one would ever fall in love as a result of messages like that.

When Mr. H and I were in college, we didn't see each other much during the summers. That was before cellphones and even before long distance calling plans. Long distance calls were reserved for after 11 p.m. and weekends. And if the call went longer than 20 minutes or so, it took a paycheck to pay Mom & Dad back for the bill. As a result, we wrote a lot of letters. I still have them, too: tied into 2 stacks in the box our wedding invitations came in. One stack is in my handwriting; the other, in his. There are a few cards in the stack, but they are blank ones, filled with our own words.

My original intent with this post was to pick something out of a few of those letters as examples of what it means to REALLY write a letter, but after going through them, it's hard to share those feelings with the world. So, I've changed tactics. I want you to do something. I want you to write a letter to someone: not send them an e-mail. Get some paper. Go to your printer and pull out a blank sheet, if you have to. Pens work just as well on that paper as printer ink. If you have an old box of stationary stuck in a drawer or up on a shelf, that's even better. Now, think of someone who needs to get a letter. If you have parents or grandparents living, consider yourself lucky and write to them. Especially grandparents. They are probably the ones who don't get e-mail, either. They would love something other than junk mail and bills in the mail box. Now get started: Dear Friend, I was thinking about you today.... Tell them what you've been doing, how the weather is, what you saw on the way to work or school. Tell them something funny that happened, something that made you mad, some old story about them that you remember. Talk to them just like they were sitting in front of you listening. If you miss them, tell them so. If you love them, tell them that, too. You'll be glad you did.

Now, put a stamp on it and send it. And chances are, in the next week or so, you'll get a nice letter in your mailbox.


  1. A great idea. Prom Queen and I had similar experiences since she went to the "W" and I to USM.

    Then when I was in the Navy, I used to write her a letter every day. But since our mail only went out about every three weeks, I would number the letters outside the envelope so she would know what order to open them.

    I'm sure she didn't save them. Nor did I save hers, but we both learned to express our feelings and emotions in a special way.

    I agree. It's a lost art today.

  2. Not completely lost! :)

    We're still trying to hang with it over at A Passion for Letter Writing

    It's great to run across more letter writers out there roaming around!