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.”


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



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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