Friday, January 30, 2015

Five Reasons Why You Should Still Write Letters

Yesterday, I saw a blog post asking "Is letter writing a fading art?"

It really made me think about all the things of my childhood that are now obsolete:

Typewriters
Mimeograph machines
Vacuum tubes
Airmail
Rotary phones
Waiting for a letter in the mail.

When I was growing up, long distance telephone calls were expensive.  Adjusted for 2014 dollars, a 10 minute long distance call from New York to Los Angeles (east coast to west coast of our vast country) in 1950, two years before I was born, would have cost about $65.81.  (For those not in the United States = that's a lot of money). So, let me explain it another way for my foreign blog fans.  On this date in 1950, the minimum wage in the United States was $1.00 an hour.  If you made the minimum wage, that 10 minute phone call would have cost a lot of hours of work.

So, unless it was urgent, people wrote letters to each other.

I wrote so many letters in the first 30 or so years of my life. It was as natural as breathing for me. And, in the last 10 years, I've hardly written any.  Shame on me.

So, why should anyone care about the fine art of writing a letter?

1.  It's a way for young people to communicate with older generations.  I just got to thinking - bet my spouse's 103 year old aunt (yes, she turned 103 earlier this year) would be delighted to get a letter.  Which leads me to reason #2:

2.  It's a way to preserve history.  Can you imagine a collection of love texts bundled and tied by a lovely ribbon, to be found in a closet years later by a grandson or daughter?  I can't, either.

How about all those historic correspondences that historians depend on to get glimpses into history?

3.  It makes you stand out.  Who gets letters anymore?  Write letters, and you are sure to be noticed. Some newspapers even want to interview you.

4.  It brings out the artist in you.  When I was a teen, I decorated envelopes with cartoons, jokes, and so forth.  Last year, I got a gift from a blogger, and guess what? A decorated envelope.  Memories!  And, remember stationery?  I used to get such joy shopping for stationery.

5.  Pen pals? Anyone out there remember pen pals?  As an adult, I had a pen pal for a while who I found through a pen pal section of a country living magazine.  I sometimes wonder what happened to her.

There are even more reasons than the ones I can come up with.  I won't even blog about how cursive writing is dying out.  Soon, there will be few people even able to read it, meaning so many historical documents will be unreadable by the average man or woman.

Some things deserve to become obsolete - such as $65.81 phone calls.

Some things, such as writing letters, shouldn't become obsolete.  And I am just as guilty of enabling letter writing to die out as anyone of my generation that has abandoned the art.  Or not transmitted the art to their children. I didn't do that, either.

Do you still write letters?

23 comments:

  1. With the exception of communication with a senior (or a Luddite) who lacks computers, all of those things can- and are effected via electronic communication.
    I still write with a fountain pen- but to be honest, most folks can't discern the effects of how hard one presses with a pen or the slant- to determine the emotion behind the missive any more than they can denote the sarcasm that accompanies a tweet....
    So, while I miss the modality, I'm not sure I am just not trying to hold back time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I fell in love with fountain pens when I was in high school. I even used the ones you had to hand fill (as opposed to replaceable ink cartridges). Then, I fell out of love with them. But thank you for reminding me of that love affair. So, as to holding back time. I love email. I don't enjoy texting, but I do it. I still maintain, though, that certain arts should not be lost.

      Delete
  2. This is such a valuable post, Alana. I fear that hand-written notes will soon be obsolete, and I think that is a very sad thing! I read a book once that urged readers to write one thank-you note a day, to somebody, anybody. It only takes a minute to put down in writing our appreciation, and these days something like that is so valued, because it's so rare. Write on! and . . er. . . Right on!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Write on! (and right on). I'm so happy another commenter mentioned fountain pens. That brought back memories, too! I am a firm believer in "just because it's modern doesn't mean it's better". I love email and would never give it up, but I don't enjoy texting or chat. I can hope that letter writing becomes something like horseback riding - something that becomes enjoyable because you can, not something to be done because you must. As for the one letter or card a day - that's a thought. Maybe not every day. But some days! It's a good idea.

      Delete
  3. I loved your post on letter writing. Oh, how I remember those expensive and complicated long distance phone calls, too where we had to ask the operator to phone the person. Times have changed for the better in some ways, in others not so much.

    I also am saddened that letter writing is becoming a lost art. I'm trying to revive it again and like to send cards and letters to my friends. Also I have to brave a freezing and windy walk in winter along the busy highway to get to the good ol Canada Post mail outlet where I get my mail. Receiving junk mail and bills just doesn't make it worth the trip but if I get a handwritten letter, it makes my day so special. I was an avid letter writer as a kid and had loads of penpals. Now I do more email and Facebook but I still love letter writing. Thanks for reminding me to do more of it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That walk in winter is no fun! Growing up, my mailbox was inside my apartment house. I was so fortunate, and didn't realize it. I remember well those thrills of getting a letter and I will hope, for you, more worthwhile walks to the mail outlet. Thank you for commenting!

      Delete
  4. I love this post and agree with you! The email is quicker and more convenient, but it loses something. Maybe I should start back up with the lost art of letter writing, try to make some of my friends pen pals. For some reason, having something handwritten is more thrilling than email. You know what... I'm going to make this my New Year's resolution. I'm going to pick two people to be penpals with this year! Thanks for inspiring me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I got to thinking - anyone who picks me as a pen pal will have to put up with my handwriting, which is awful. I look at penmanship on old documents and letters (for example, Civil War era letters) and the beauty of the penmanship is amazing. True confession, in my last years of letter writing, a lot of them were typed (on a typewriter. Remember typewriters?) But just think - maybe now, in my 60's, I could work on my handwriting!

      Delete
  5. We don't write letter any more either. It has been replaced by FaceTime. But, we still have our kids write thank-you notes after the holidays/birthdays.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Face Time is a wonderful way to keep in touch. It's wonderful that you insist on handwritten thank you notes. It may seem like a chore to them now, but they (and the next generation) will thank you.

      Delete
  6. Beautiful points - and I know that my Aunts are not really into the Internet - and I still do like the pen and paper for my own thoughts. There is something more genuine about writing it out - and not typing it down -

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I so agree, Donna, there is something about writing things down that touches the creative centers of the brain. That's just my opinion. I've noticed, when I have to attend conference calls or webinars at work, I retain so much more if I take handwritten notes.

      Delete
  7. Very valid points. It's one of the reasons that I do Christmas cards every year. I want to give the gift of getting something in the mail.

    Writing is a lost art and that is a shame. I remember pen pals and some of my greatest memories are getting letters from my family while I was away in college.

    I think it is time to get back into writing some letters.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I know exactly what you mean. Writing letters seems so foreign. Interestingly enough when my daughter was born there were a select group of relatives (yes the ones age 70 and above) who I wrote letters to and included pictures. I know it was a joy for them to receive those letters.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Your post made me smile. I had so many pen pals and writing letters was my passion. I still "correspond" with 5 of them through facebook. Your post has inspired me to write the good old fashioned way again. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I was just like you growing up when it came to writing letters! My cousin and I wrote every ten days or so and she, oh my goodness, SHE decorated her envelopes! The postman had to tell her to stop it since he had trouble discerning the address from her decorations! I also had a penpal too from a magazine! I wrote my grandmother and all kinds of people over a lifetime of traveling. I still do. I LOVE to receive letters in the mail! Sometimes I even send my mother or brother a card in the mail if I think they need a pick-me-up. Someone said that was a waste of my money but it is worth it to me to see their faces! It's discouraging only to receive bills in the mail! I keep up with my foreign friends via facebook, however. I guess that has replaced letter writing for me there.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Did you know next month (Feb) is Month of Letters...It quite simple everyday you send someone a card, letter, or little something. I'm in....http://lettermo.com/ Coffee is on

    ReplyDelete
  12. Did you ever write on your envelope "D-Liver D-Letter D-Sooner D-Better"??

    I used to have about 20 pen pals around the world. You don't hear about those any more, either!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm afraid I don't write letters anymore. We did send out New Year's cards this year, and I enjoyed handling the paper and the whole process.

    My father died last year and I know my mother has taken great comfort in reading through all of their letters/love letters. I have love letters from my husband too, somewhere up in our attic. I guess future generations will not have that possibility. It's rather sad, but I'm not sure it can be changed.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Very well written indeed...Emails seem to have replaced letters as a preferred means of communication (may be due to faster mean, I guess) but it can never replace the emotional quotient associated with the letters..thx for such a wonderful post.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I love writing letters. Sadly no one likes reading them.....

    ReplyDelete
  16. This makes me want to write a letter to someone right now! I had pen pals as a child, usually friends I met at camp during the summer. One lived in Africa so it was very cool to exchange letters with her. And I loved to decorate envelopes! Ah the memories!!

    ReplyDelete

Hello! I welcome comments, as long as they are civil, are on topic, and do not contain profanity, advertising of any kind or spam. Any messages not meeting these criteria will immediately be composted, and my flowers will enjoy their contents.