I saw one of those lists on Facebook not long ago of things that are gone now. It saddened me to see that writing letters ranked right up there with 8-tracks and phone booths. Is it true that letter writing holds no value today? Can that really be true? Oh no!
Opinions vary widely today as to whether or not writing letters—good, old-fashioned, handwritten letters—has a worthwhile place in our high-tech social circles. For many, the answer is a slam-dunk No! And that is their final answer.
At the other end of the spectrum are those who glaringly refuse to learn how to email, text, or communicate in any modern way. They live stuck in a world of snail mail and house phones.
And between the two extremes of all tech only and no tech at all dwell most of the rest of us! We regularly perform some combination of texting, messaging, social media posting, and even emailing. Some in the older generations grumble about it, marveling at how their 3-year-old grandkids can download games on Granny’s cell phone when Granny barely figured out how to text or take a picture.
As much as some of us older ones hate to admit it, we have jumped into the pool of technology in order to stay connected and functioning in our lives. Though frustrating at times, it does give me a sense of accomplishment to know that I can stay somewhat on top of the technology that has so drastically changed my world!
Still, I must be true to myself and to my generation and say that it bothers me to see some of what is taking place around me concerning the art of communication. My goal is not to pick a fight on any subject, but only to share that I am bothered, saddened by the seeming disappearance of certain things. There are statements that I never thought I would hear for real!
• Cursive writing is fast becoming a mystery language no longer taught to our children.
• Writing by hand in any fashion is being totally replaced by electronic devices.
• Writing letters is a lost antiquated thing of the past.
These thoughts alone make me shudder, so I will not even pursue this list any further!
Writing Letters Past & Present
I recall with great fondness the years of my childhood when letters played a dramatic part in shaping my love of writing…and of reading, too. Two of my dear cousins lived in a town an hour’s drive from my home. Our families spent many weekends together at one end of that road or the other. Being quite close in age, we grew up together somewhat like three siblings rather than cousins.
In spite of being together so much just about weekly, at one point Mark and I decided that we needed to write letters to each other. I will never forget the excitement I felt at pulling a letter from him out of the mailbox!
I would read the envelope while I was still standing at the curb closing the box door. My name and addressed penned across the face of the envelope, his crouched in the upper left corner in small letters. A proud stamp with a wavy postmark declared what day, what time, and from what town the letter had been posted. And sometimes, there would be cute little drawings and sayings embellishing the back and edges of the front.
Writing Letters Creates An Event For The Recipient
Receiving that letter was an event, a cause for excitement, a mini-celebration of how great life was! Running inside, I would go to my favorite place with my dog following close behind me. Then I opened the letter carefully and unfolded its pages to reveal its special contents.
Those letters may have only shared about his funny experience in the Spanish club after school or how much he disliked geography class. Sometimes I found invitations—to spend a week with them during summer break, to go to the Lake of the Ozarks with their family for a weekend, to go fishing, to come play softball. Whatever the letters contained, they were so fraught with meaning. Each one was special, and each one was signed with love and affection.
Those years are far off in the distant past now, their envelopes and pages lost to the ruthlessness of time and moves around the country. Letters, after all, are fragile in some ways. But, even though the paper is missing, in my mind’s eye I can still see those pages and envelopes; I can still read those fun and quirky thoughts and events shared so sweetly by my dear cousin.
Writing Letters Connects Us Uniquely
Writing letters connects us in ways quite unique to paper, pen, and hand. It is an art form, a craft that shares more than information. To write a letter is to share your personal space—your soul—with another. It reaches out to include the reader in your thoughts, emotions, and experiences.
This kind of written communication is so valuable, so precious at times. It is an art form, a craft that shares so much more than just mere information. No matter the content of the letter, whether mundane and earthy or wild and transcendent, each one has the capacity to become an heirloom of incomparable worth.
Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
These words were spoken by a man who lived from 1749 til his death in 1832. Among a plethora of his writing which includes books, poetry, and countless other works, there still exists a body of 10,000 letters that he also wrote.
When I discovered that fact about this man, I thought back to those letters from my cousin, most of which are lost. Then my mind went to the big white box with the gold lid in my bookcase. I call it my memory box, and it holds all kinds of mementos from the past.
Tucked inside that box are theater tickets from The Phantom of the Opera in Los Angeles, various airline ticket stubs and boarding passes, all kinds of pictures, greeting cards, letters, and cards from flower arrangements come and gone. And there are bundles of letters from my Aunt Joanne, each one filled with the news of the day. Some have fun newspaper clippings she knew I would be interested in seeing.
Another stack of letters lies beside those in the memory box, these all from my mother. My aunt, my mother— both are now residents of Heaven. The letters from both of them in that box with the gold lid mean everything to me now. (Here are some great ideas to help you create your own memory box!)
Writing Letters vs Technology
The age of technology has both revived the use of writing and provided ever more reasons for its spiritual solace. Emails are letters, after all, more lasting than phone calls, even if many of them r 2 cursory 4 u. ~Anna Quindlen
It is a fact that our electronic devices are incredibly handy, fast, and efficient at passing information back and forth to each other. That is their job, and they (for the most part) do it well.
Still, when it comes to sharing your heart, your deepest thoughts, your soul with another person, emoticons just really don’t do much for me. You can add a string of little hearts after your message or post. You can fill each line with little yellow faces wearing expressions of all kinds (some of them I just really don’t understand!). But in the end, you will not truly communicate and connect with that person like you would if you wrote them a letter.
Writing Letters Has Its Advantages
Technology is great for sharing information, jokes, and lighter, smaller items. But some of the advantages of writing letters are:
• The content is thought out better
• More relational and connecting with the reader
• Contains an element of permanence
• Greater expressive qualities because it is handwritten
• Very personal because your name has been written
• Brings a sense of excitement and adventure
• Creates a keepsake, a tiny time capsule of memory
Before you scream too loud, let me add here that I get the concept behind texting, messaging, and social media posting. And the argument that these forms of communication connect more easily than ever before is not without merit.
However, there is an element of privacy in writing a letter to someone that is definitely missed through all these electronic means. Slowing things down a bit, sharing from the heart through words written by your hand, takes you into a different realm of relationship. It becomes dear, of great and precious value as the world spins further along.
Writing Letters: A Creative Writing Challenge For You
I challenge you to begin to write a letter or two this month. Pick someone you would really enjoy sharing with, connecting to, and hearing back from, too! It can be anybody. Give it some thought.
Get some paper to write on and a favorite pen. Maybe you want to go buy something special, maybe not. It’s entirely up to you. Make it fun!
Then set aside certain time when you can sit down without distractions and write a letter to this person. Before you begin writing, bring that person up in your heart and mind. Envision them in some familiar setting. Think of how you love them, what they mean to you.
Next, share something interesting with them about something taking place in your life, memories of doing things with them, whatever comes to mind. There is no right or wrong. Just share something interesting.
You can follow the basic format for writing a friendly letter found here. It is the easiest thing in the world to do. Once your letter is complete, address an envelope and add a postage stamp. Then it’s ready to drop at the post office or place it in your mailbox with the little red flag up.
It might be fun to explain to this person you are writing to that you are doing a little experiment with letter writing, and you chose them to share the experience. Invite them to write a letter back. This will be a pleasant challenge for most of you!
Hold on to letters you receive from loved ones, too. It’s a good idea to create your own memory box if you don’t have one already. One of the most comforting experiences is to sit down and go through a box of memories like that. Each item takes you back to a specific place, time, event, and emotion.
Writing Letters: Conclusion
Technology is fast and easy, but it will never adequately replace writing letters to a friend or loved one. Writing and communicating this way is a simple skill to master. And the personal touch it carries with it far exceeds anything that can be crammed…or abbreviated…into a text message!
In the end, there is a time and place for both electronics and writing letters the old-fashioned way. Texts, messages, emails all have their usefulness. That is a fact. But don’t overlook the treasure that writing letters creates for you and yours. The truth is, you delete all those electronic messages from your devices. At some point, it becomes almost necessary to do so.
But there will always be time and space and value in creating a memory box for yourself. Therein stash your favorite things. My wish for you is to one day have a special box filled with stacks of old letters. May you sit down with a cup of coffee or whatever to pull off the lid and sit with your treasures. And may your memories flood back to you and touch your heart.
Let’s Write Your Book!
It’s really time to get that book of yours written! I know some of you have a great message, testimony or story. I’m here to help! Get started now!
Thank you & God Bless!