Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.

The art of writing letters

18 Comments

Writing letters… is that something that disappeared in my mother’s time?  Have twitter, facebook, bloging and emails eliminated the time worn tradition of touching base through paper and a stamp?  Does instant automatically equal better?

I’ve been considering these issues because I used to love to write letters.  And I grew up in a letter writing household.  Though we lived only a hour away from my Grandmother, my Mom wrote a postcard to her every week.  Mom’s writing was tiny and got tinier as the space in the postcard began to fill up.  I remember her finishing the last sentence by running it up the edge of the postcard, and I used to wonder if my Grandma used a magnifying glass to read them.

In turn, many years later when my Mom lived in Alabama and I was still here in Michigan I restarted the tradition.  Bonnie the sheltie-girl and I would get up every Saturday and write Mom a letter, using a computer and regularly sized paper, which we hurried out to the mailbox so that the mailman would pick it up that morning and she’d have it by Wednesday.

We did this every week for years…until email happened along.  When we found the almost instant connection the letters dwindled.  Yet after her death I found all those letters I had sent bound together, safe in her desk.  Through my tears I recognized the value of a letter, the way you can touch them over and over, knowing they were touched by the person who took the time to send them to you.  They are tangible evidence of thoughtfulness and care and love.

So I was intrigued by a challenge presented by PJ on her blog Books in Northport.  She challenged all of us to slow down a bit and commit to mailing one letter a week to someone between now and Memorial Day in May.  It doesn’t have to be the same someone.  You can choose to mail a letter to someone different each week.  You can delight many people.

Like I was delighted this week when in the mail arrived a card from Bree, Reilly’s Mom.  She makes handmade cards which are lovely, and she sent one to me because she knew I would be a bit depressed by all the snow here after my wonderful week in sunny New Mexico.  Now that’s what I’m talking about.  The unexpected, the smile that comes in the mail, the realization that someone thought about you and took some time to send you something to tell you so.

Reilly’s Mom just had a contest to give away some of her artwork.  I’m hoping those that won the cards will use them to brighten someone’s day…one card at a time, one note at a time, one stamp at a time.

I’ve accepted PJ’s challenge and mailed my first letter to a friend I’ve been out of touch with last week.  This week I have someone else in mind.  When I think about it, there are a whole lot of people that I’d like to touch base with more often than the Christmas letter.

I bet if you think about it you have a whole list of people that would enjoy hearing from you too.  Why not join me in the challenge.  If you have time to spend 30 minutes watching TV during the week you have time to touch someone’s life, to bring a smile to a face, to let someone know they were thought of.

Pretty cool.  And thanks Bree!

(All cards photographed here are Bree’s artwork.)

Author: dawnkinster

I'm a long time banker having worked in banks since the age of 17. I took a break when I turned 50 and went back to school. I graduated right when the economy took a turn for the worst and after a year of library work found myself unemployed. I was lucky that my previous bank employer wanted me back. So here I am again, a long time banker. Change is hard.

18 thoughts on “The art of writing letters

  1. Very well said post, Dawn!
    I love the moment the postman comes with some letters for me. The envelopes, the stamps, the ink and the handwriting make me feel so close to the ones who send them. Don’t laugh at me, I keep all the letters and I have piles of them.
    I email Rosie everyday, there is not just one email daily, it can be two or three or four or even five or six or … a day, it’s so convenient as I just type and click the button SEND and she receives them within seconds. However, I still write her letters, send her postcards or some other random cards which I find they are lovely and cute. I love to put the letters into the pigeon hole postbox and wait for the moment she tells me she has received my letters. I know she likes to read letters too, it’s different from emails. It’s just different and it brings the distance closer too.
    I think I’d like to join the challenge too and I’ll write to some long lost friends 🙂

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  2. What a lovely idea. Made me think back to my letter writing days. I remember my sister and I had a “Seal wax kit”. We’d melt the wax and stamp our initial in the hot wax to seal our letter.I haven’t written a letter in over a decade. Sent cards, but no real letters.

    I used to write lots of letters- to my Babci, my friend in Chicago, to Jeff in Saudi Arabia. My dad would write his mom once a week too. How Babci looked forward to those letters. My mom has a tin full of letters I’ve received. I really should go pick them up some time. In my hope chest are boxes full of the letters Jeff and I exchanged while he was away fighting in Desert Storm. All the letters are so sandy! They are treasures, and I know most soliders have access to email these days, so, I’m sure mail call is a lot less exciting for them.

    You know what else is a dying art? Note passing during class! They all text each other instead! I have a bag full of notes from my friends, passed during high school. Each carefully folded into a tiny triangle.

    Thanks for the trip back in time this morning Dawn!

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  3. I am definitely in on the challenge – that is my plan too, I love writing and getting letters or cards and am lucky enough to be able to make my own so I can individualize them to each person. I am so pleased the card brightened your day a little, I figured when I saw all that snow falling again in Michigan you would miss the warmth and colors of New Mexico – but you know – Spring is just around the corner and I have been busy collecting so many bulbs and flowers to plant – so look for lots of flower shots soon (I hope) !!!

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  4. I have a couple of friends that do not do email, but it takes me forever to sit down and write a letter. With an email I can send a couple of sentences if I want – with a letter I feel I must write a short story. Don’t know why that is. In the olden days I was a prolific letter writer.

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  5. In not sure how I feel about letters. I still send birthday cards, thank you notes and sympathy cards. But I don’t write letters except around Christmas and only to people who aren’t on Facebook or read my blog. Let’s face it, between those two things , you already know what’s going on in my life. I really wish more of my family used Facebook so I knew things that were happening to them. It has really helped me keep in touch with college friends and other friends I’ve made through life. People that I really would only talked to once a year with their Christmas letters, now thur Facebook I get to see their kids prom pictures, vacation pictures and snow pictures that I would have never seen. I get to share in the happy and sad things that happen to them ,when they are happening, instead of having to wait until Christmas to hear about it.

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  6. It feels like an unbelievably handy coincidence that Diana left the comment she did. I’ve been thinking (and wanted to comment on those thoughts here) that because of e-mail and Facebook my letters, when I write them, are becoming different: instead of being a survey of “what’s new” in my life, which friends and relatives can see on my blog and Facebook or read in our frequent e-mail exchanges, two of the letters I wrote and mailed this past week were lengthy explorations on single topics. Well, one was me thinking on paper about an issue, and the other was more a story I was sharing with the person who would receive the letter. I enjoy Facebook for what it is, but it’s pretty shallow most of the time for most of us, isn’t it? Like riding your bike down the street and waving and yelling “Hi!” Most of my e-mail is “newsy” and more substantial but hardly deep. Not that letters have to be “deep,” but I’m enjoying just jumping off and seeing where I end up without worrying about giving a recitation of all my life’s events. I put this forward as another possibility for epistolary content. (Don’t you love that word ‘epistolary’?)

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  7. I understand that Diana, I have lots of people not connected on facebook, but those family members (mostly distant) that do use it sure do provide me with lots of info and photos! And I wouldn’t get that through letters. But so many of my family and friends don’t read my blog or do the facebook thing that I think there is real value in touching base more often than just the Christmas letter. Plus I hope they will be surprised and happy…we’ll see!

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  8. I think all the ways we have to say to another person, “You matter to me–I’m thinking of you–I’m glad you’re in my life” are good. Let a thousand flower-bedazzled notes and letters and emails and waves from a bicycle bloom!

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  9. You are so right. What a great challenge and one I will try to take on!

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  10. I used to write letters too. I haven’t done it in years. I do agree, going to the mail and finding a hand written note is much more exciting than just getting an email. Maybe it’s time to dig out the stationary.

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  11. I was thinking about letter-writing just the other day! Up in my attic, shuffling aside the bundles of letters exchanged with friends away at college or from my parents when I was away at college, and so many others. And I was thinking about sending my niece, who’s now in college, a letter, and wondering whether it could possibly be the same? I remember checking my letter box every day, and when I’d see an envelope inside it, it lifted my spirits right away with anticipation. How I cherished those letters! I wonder whether my niece even knows where her mailbox is? And she’s facebooking and texting and WOWing constantly with family and friends, near and far. My parents have preserved letters that they wrote to each other through the years, and that their parents wrote to each other and to other relatives, and letters that their grandparents wrote. So much life captured in those notes! Email is so much more ephemeral. Sure, I’ve got an email folder titled Personal letters for those few things that come through that are more like those old letters–but for how long is that email box going to exist, especially after I’m gone? I tease my dad for printing copies of newsy emails, but maybe he’s on to something. Now I’m looking at my half a drawer full of unused stationary–used to love oohing and aahing over the choices in the store and buying paper or notecards that closely represented who I was or who I wanted to present myself as.

    Mostly I only ever write letters now in sympathy, or rarely for celebrations.

    Thanks for an interesting post on something that’s been in my mind lately, too.

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  12. Ellen – use up a bit of that left over stationary to mail a real note to your niece…bet she enjoys it. Just a little note with some snippet of fun information or voice your story about seeing letters in the mailbox…something short. I think it will be good!

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  13. Marie – yes, dig out that old stationary!

    Gerry – I agree…the more ways we connect the better!

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  14. Mom used to write lots of letters too and enjoyed receiving them as well. Last summer she went through box after box of letters and cards she had kept since high school. It was fun to relive some of those days so you’re totally right – email is not the same and it would be nice to get back to traditional letter writing!

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  15. This is a great idea! I’m going to try and do it! I used to have a couple of penpals when I was little and it was so much fun to get and send the letters.

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  16. Excellent post, I think we have lost someting very special because so many people do not know the joys of a nice letter, not that I have helped…….I am part of the problem, but that can change 😉

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  17. Letters. My mom wrote them every week. In fact her side of the family were all letter writers–including both her mom and dad and her sister and two brothers. Everyone wrote letters. My mothers aunt lived in Wisconsin-while my mom and her family lived in New Mexico so lots of letters went back and forth. My aunt save them ALL. When she died they were an amazing history of the family. My mom wrote her weekly when she left Roswell, New Mexico to go to New York City to become a dancer (probably because my aunt always sent her a dollar or two in her next letter) My mom’s brother wrote while he was in the Marine Corp…We have a lot of ways to communicate these day but none of them really touch the heart and share our thoughts the way a letter does. . .
    Great post for reminiscing about back in the day. ..

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  18. Pingback: Letter writing results | Dawn King

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