Friday, August 01, 2008

Write Letters?

by G.Parker

I realized, upon reflection, that letter writing has become a lost art. You don't hear too many people writing letters anymore -- it's usually email.

When I was in college and after I graduated, I loved to write letters. I had a close friend that was the same way and we would spend our afternoons just writing letters. I was always jealous because she had pen pals all around the world -- I just had friends in other states.

We used to go to stationary stores and collect all kinds of fun paper to write on, and special pens to go with them. We bought stickers by the yard -- we loved the stickers! I haven't seen a store like that in years, now they're all about scrapbooking.

Unfortunately, my mission changed a lot of that. I didn't have the time or desire to write 50 people every p-day, and so my letter writing became very perfunctory, and only those who wrote me consistently got written back. When I was writing my husband on his mission, I kind of got in the hang of it again, but it was only to one person -- it was easy.

I guess that would also explain the downward shift of handwriting and penmanship. I have two children out of seven who write clearly. Only one of them still has writing that is readable without great effort. No one seems to think penmanship is important after elementary school, which I find sad.

While I love the computer and word processing for the ability it gives me to get my ideas down quickly, there are still moments when I miss being curled up with a clean notebook and pen, writing as fast as my hand could go. My sister used to challenge me to write as small as possible, and I actually fit 1000 words on one side of a lined paper page at one point (all for a chewy candy). I don't remember why this was such a challenge to me, but it did keep me writing.

Writing letters is a lot like writing a story. You have a beginning, a middle and an end. There is even an anxious reader -- usually -- I mean we don't generally write to people that have no desire to read what we have written, do we?

Of course, if our letters are full of mundane and boring thoughts, such as what was eaten for breakfast for a week, or how many times we played the Wii and won, then they're probably going to want to toss them and it's not likely they'll write back -- which is one of the points of our writing to them.

I find it interesting how letter writing is one of the few forms of communication that still takes deliberation and thought. It also takes practice.

I've been writing my son in Basic Training. The first letter was difficult -- I couldn't really think of what to say. The second one was much easier, and this week I haven't seemed to be able to stop. My husband noticed and thinks it's kind of funny. He wonders what I find to write about.

What is so strange about this is my history. I haven't written letters in years. My brother in California is lucky to get a birthday card. I never wrote any of my husband's nephews on their missions. I didn't even write my own lone nephew who just returned from Argentina. But suddenly I can write to my son, and I seem to have an unending supply of things to write about.

Perhaps that's one of the reasons writers suggest keeping journals -- it gets the juices flowing, even if it's not something "productive" yet.

I also find it interesting that I would rather write these letters by hand than on the computer. What is the reason behind this behavior? Possibly the connection one gets between the pen and paper, thought and page.

I'm just glad to be writing and sharing thoughts with my son while he's away from home. Perhaps it will keep us close and he will be able to relate to me when he gets home -- who knows.

This type of writing is almost therapeutic -- there's no pressure to write a good story, no thought of recording perfecting -- just communication with a loved one.

Now there's probably no excuse not to write my dad on his mission...oh no, I think the list is growing!


Unknown said...

I still write a weekly letter home to England. My elderly mother shies away from all things electronic.

By the way, it's contest time again on my blog. Come on over and take a peek. Great book prize.

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