The lost art of letter writing
A long time ago people wrote letters. We would sit at our desk or under a tree or at the kitchen table and write to someone far away.
There was no instant gratification. The letter would take days to arrive and if the person wrote back it would take more time to receive.
I thought about this a few days ago while watching an old movie. It was a great scene with Betty Davis sitting near an open window writing to her lover away at war.
My daughter entered the room and took notice. After soaking in the scene she left, shaking her head and commenting on Ms. Davis’s wasted effort and time.
Today’s youth – Love ‘em/hate ‘em.
My First Letter
I remember the first person I ever wrote. Living in a small town I never wrote to anyone. Everyone I knew lived a mile away. But on a 4th of July a few weeks shy of my 13th birthday I met two sisters visiting from Alaska.
The oldest was busy flirting with the local boys but the youngest one, she too was about to turn thirteen, decided to flirt with me.
We spent the summer laughing and playing and doing with twelve year old’s do. At the end of the summer she flew home and wrote me a letter. Two weeks later she wrote me again asking why I hadn’t written back.
I can still remember my first attempt. I didn’t know what to say or how to craft an idea or take something mundane and turn it into a thrill of a lifetime.
To her credit she was incredibly patient. She taught me how to tell a story. To her every day was an adventure and there was no reason why mine shouldn’t be one too. It didn’t take long before I was describing an outing to the local grocery store and turning it into an epic adventure.
Listening and Learning
Looking at it now, I was learning my craft. I was tossing in a hero, me of course, an antagonist or two and finally the heroic ending.
Our letter writing faded like all things do but lucky for me I met someone else years later. She too was moving away and of all places….Alaska!!
What is it with me and Alaska girls?
By then I understood the craft. Letter writing was much more than a simple hello and a brief description of life on the farm. It was an epic. It was an adventure. It was entertainment.
By then I was the teacher instead of the student. I could describe an average day of stepping into a mud puddle and create similarities to Moby Dick.
I was able to take sensitive subjects and slowly build around them until the appropriate time to discuss it. Looking back I credit my twelve year old Alaskan friend for teaching me these wonderful tools
Letters and Novels
I need to credit both my Alaska friends for pushing me in the right direction. Because of them I took creative writing classes, wrote short stories and was drawn to those who did.
I don’t worry about the art of letter writing being lost. People have a way of returning to the past and making it new again. Sometimes we get bored of the present and curious of the past. We’re funny that way.
Don’t get me wrong: I love Twitter, Facebook has its place and texting makes life so much easier but letter writing is an art that requires effort and practice and talent. Sometimes you and I need that.
Especially if we’re writing a novel.
Where did they go
Now that I’ve written this piece I wonder where my Alaska friends are. If I find them I’m tempted to dig up the past and write them a letter. I can only imagine my daughters expression if she saw paper, an envelope and a stamp on the kitchen table.
Oh so tempting.
Let’s play a game, you and I. Think of someone in your past who you’ve been meaning to contact and write them a letter. Think of the satisfaction you’ll receive with pen to paper and stamp to envelope.
But most of all imagine how you’ll feel when they respond.
Happy Friday Everyone!
17 thoughts on “SPONTANEOUS FRIDAY”
Those stamps with the houses. Are they German. I seem to remember them from my father‘s collection…
Your text sent me back to my days of letter writing and the nagging time of waiting for a reply. Still, I have kept lots of letters. I am so happy we lived through that time. My grandmother died a few weeks ago and I finally got hold of the letters my grandparents exchanged during the war. I’m still not ready to read them. It’s gonna be such an emotional trip. She told me once where she sat when she wrote them. It’s gonna be diving into the past. Sorry for that rather long and unstructured comment. Your words just ticked of so many thoughts.
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I would love to read your experience of your grandmother’s letters on your blog. Somewhere down the road please share your thoughts or her letters. It would be amazing.
It was a different time, wasn’t it. I love the convenience of today but sometimes I miss the creativity of writing a letter. As for the stamp, I’m not sure. I went with the visual. Might have to do some checking and see.
Thank you for your comments. Always fun talking to you.
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The card is really sent from Berlin. Thank you so much for your thoughts. It set something in motion in me. I shared your words with an Instagram friend and we decided to write real letters again. So excited. Writing about my grandmother’s letters is a great idea. That’ll be an emotional one 🙂
You’ll know when you’re ready and when you are it will be a wonderful experience for all of us. Thank you so much for your words. They mean a lot.
I was out of creativity, when asked to write letters at school. You’ll laugh an art teacher tought me to write a letter, in English. I still remember those lines: “The rains are falling cats and dogs here….” Thanks Bryan for the visit and comment. If you ever write, I’ll always return the favor.
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Thanks for stopping by. I’ll take you up on it. 🙂
Nice 🙂 Yes, they were fun to read and I think we should bring back stationery – remember all the different kinds of stationery there were??
I remember two things: snow flakes decorating the stationery and lots of perfume. I knew the moment I opened the mailbox that a letter was waiting for me.
What a lovely reflection of your letter writing journey and how that transformed into a love of stories and writing. I too remember the days of writing letters. And I’ll take up your challenge and write a letter – I owe some older relatives a few. 🙂
Thank you. It was a lot of fun to write. I need to find my Alaska friends. Hopefully I’ll succeed. Happy to hear you’re taking up my challenge. Maybe I’m starting a new trend. 🙂
I am on the younger side, 25 to be exact. But when it comes to hand written things I absolutely agree with you. Both of my older brothers are in the US Army and we wrote letters back and forth while they were in boot camp. One of them got deployed a few times and so letters were the only way of getting in touch with him. I remember how emotional it was. Just to see their handwriting and how it was like they were directly talking to me through the letter. I also had a past love who got deployed with the Navy. I wrote him letters as well. And though we ended our relationship as just friends when he left, those letters were so dear to me. There’s definitely magic in writing letters.
You nailed it, Jena. Letters are personal. We feel the letters they touched. We see the ink they used and we read the handwriting that is theirs. An e-mail or a text has none of those. In your case it is an emotional experience. Deeper than anything technology could offer.
Thank you for your reply. That was incredibly touching.
As society progresses more and more into the technological consciences, some of the greatest treasures of the past are getting left behind. I remember as a little girl, writing to my favorite cousin. How grown up I felt using my mom’s stationary and her helping with the envelope and stamp. They excitement of waiting for a reply. Your article brought back so many pleasant memories.
Thank you, Angela. My earliest memory was writing a get well letter to my great-grandmother. I wrote with my favorite pen and used my grandmother’s favorite stationary. Like you, it was about as grown up as I had ever felt.
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I never thought of letter writing as story telling; my pen pal and I, since we live across the country from one another, merely use it as a tool of catching up on one another since we reserve online communication for talking about writing. Since it tends to be more informative (with the occasional jokes and witty quips), I never stepped back to think of it as a story. I’d love to hear how you could make a letter a story, I know I would love to try my hand at that myself. Thanks for the beautiful story!
You are welcome, Cybelle. Thank you for stopping by. How to make a letter a story? Hmmmmm……tell me how you would do it?