a vanishing art form?

in an effort to connect us more fully to eachother, in some ways, technology has done just the opposite. 

letters hand-written or plunked out on a typwriter evoke a certain intimacy and connectedness with words and with eachother that I wish our society hadn’t lost. the technological inventions of the past few years that provide faster, more efficient modes of communication (email, text-messaging, internet-messaging, cell phones, etc.)  are amazing ways of more effectively using our time, but i get so sad when i think of what we’ve lost in the process of our efforts to connect with people in faster, cheaper and all-too-often less personal ways.

i have also fallen into the routine of allowing casual communication methods to dominate the way i keep up with friends and family. it’s so hard to be truly personal now.

for me, this is hard because i love words. i love connecting to other people through a letter in a thought-out, wholly-intentional, formal way. english has consistently been my favorite subject in school, and i have always loved to write and to read.  i even studied print journalism in college, writing for the university paper for a couple years. i guess this passion has always been in me.

attached to each gift i give is a hand-written letter, most often containing some sort of personal reflection. each time i have a chance to sit down and write a friend living far away a letter, i do. i like to leave notes around the house for roommates or family members. i always send hand-written thank you notes. and i LOVE getting letters in the mail too! i live for finding new letterpress or stationery shops, collecting fun note cards and getting personalized stationery as presents. i would much rather send a friend a hand-written note with a stamp attached rather than shoot them a free email.  

 many people like me that are passionate about words, personal communication and snail mail letters are also passionate about the utensils – paper and pens and typwriters – that create those letters.

i have always desired to keep up this failing art form in my own small ways, but it’s not easy.

you see, letter-writing has important benefits beyond the deeper connection is provides to its sender and receiver… it helps us uphold a certain number of skills that are getting lost in the computerized, spell-checked world of the internet and word-processing programs. we now shorten words and reject formal headings and structures. the artful penmanship once commonplace among letter-writers is slipping away.

 if you look closely, the importance of letters bleeds throughout much of our history. letters were used in literature; some of the earliest novels were collections of letters. letters between members of society – from important historical figures to ordinary citizens – have unlocked and explained many past events.

while hoping that i don’t sound too sappy and reminiscent, i truly wish we all wrote more.

there is something reflective and cleansing about writing and receiving a letter. i really believe that we are forced to process information in a different, more creative, deeper way when we sit down to write a letter. it helps us smooth away the rough edges of life and figure out problems and sort through ideas. writing can be beautiful.

“Just as hot-out-of-the-oven bread gives wondrous pleasure to anyone lucky enough to be within nose-shot of that kitchen, so finding a plump, hand-lettered envelope after opening the mailbox and rifling through the junk is an equally exquisite pleasure. Like bread, letters are a tactile pleasure unduplicatable by the ring of the telephone or the blinding neon of a computer.”
 – Jacque McIntosh, a retired Tahlequah Public School teacher, who thoroughly appreciates receiving a hand-written letter.
“Just to get a letter in the mail makes you think ‘Wow!’” said McIntosh. “You’re so appreciative a person took time out of their day to write to you. We’re so mobile now, it’s difficult to find the time to write a thoughtful letter.”

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get inspired to write a letter:

     MyTypewriter: a site dedicated to typewriter fanatics, with a lovely section on the history and importance of the written word

     Iomoi: an online store with an array of colorful, cheery and fun stationery and note cards that beg to be written on

     Letter-Writing: an essay about the lost art of writing letters and why so many of us long for this personal connection with others

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One Response

  1. Those who find “the lost art of writing letters” impeded by poor handwriting may like some resources for improving theirs: visit the Handwriting Repair web-site at http://learn.to/handwrite

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