Home > only slightly ranty, Random Musings, Stories from Childhood, Writing > Letters, Old Habits, and Lost Art

Letters, Old Habits, and Lost Art

“Please give me some good advice in your next letter. I promise not to follow it.”               ~Edna St. Vincent Millay

 “A few weeks after the worst day, I started writing lots of letters. I don’t know why, but it was one of the only things that made my boots lighter.”
— Jonathan Safran Foer

My friend Andrea and I have started writing letters back and forth. I think the last time I had a pen pal was when I was seven. And, being seven, that didn’t last long.

I have Amy Brown stationary that I love, but never used. I’m using it. I even had to order more. Because some things should be said on pretty fairy paper in purple ink. Even if it’s reminiscing about passing notes in high school — or complaining about the story I have been working on.

I’ve written out cards before – brief notes. But letters? Not in a long time. This is fun, exciting, and really rather refreshing. Because it’s not instant. In this world of fast food, instant coffee (gross, but will do in a pinch), and minute rice – it’s NICE to have to wait for something.

It reminds me of something important: anticipation. How often do we lose that in today’s world, emailing instead of calling? Texting instead of talking? I wonder, honestly, how badly our communication skills will suffer. In fact, the other day I read about schools that will no longer teach cursive.

What…? *blinks* That’s crazy. As a person, you still need to WRITE things. You need to sign your name. Surely, cursive isn’t a lost art. In school, I hated learning cursive. I was TERRIBLE at it. I have the world’s worst handwriting short of an epileptic doctor. (Sorry, Andrea.) I couldn’t understand how to make my writing neat and flowery. I looked at my friends’ handwriting, and I felt like I was writing things out with a pen in my teeth. But I was always glad that I learned it. It was a rite of passage. I was a grown up (ha!). I could write in cursive!

Now, I know the truth. Well, truths. 1. I will never really be an adult. (Says the person who is frantically searching for My Little Ponies on tv.) and 2. I don’t want to be. (Growing up, completely, is for suckers! Cake for breakfast! Cake for all! Thank you for flying Church of England – Cake or Death?) and 3. I have grown too dependent on things like spellcheck and typing.

Halfway through my last letter to Andrea, my arm began to cramp up. There was pain, like an overused muscle. I realized, as I was trying to write the last paragraph, that I wasn’t used to writing that much at once. The letter was not extraordinarily long: a page, front and back. I should not be in pain from that.

I was appalled. It was a lot like being a marathon runner, only to come to find that running around the corner caused me to be winded. I was ashamed of myself, as someone who used to write entirely by hand. (Now, I only write poetry by hand. I can write that on the computer, but I like the feel of writing it out. In pencil. Only ever in pencil.)

I don’t want to lose the art of letter writing. Yes, I can write a damned good email. I will make you laugh. I will tell you that you’re being a twit. I will reassure you. But it’s SO much more fun to do that on fairy stationary, damn it, in purple ink. With PURPLE stamps. I also have fairy address labels, and I love them.

So, if I have your address – and you want a letter – let me know. It might take me a while (and I may have to ice my hand), but I will send you one. I will also apologize in advance for my ridiculous bad handwriting. (And Andrea, your letter goes in the mail today. It was ready yesterday, but I left it on the table when I went out. Drat it!)

What is a skill that you find less prevalent? What art forms do you miss?

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  1. July 16, 2011 at 10:20 am

    I also miss writing letters. I had a bunch of pen pals when I was younger but my parents complained about the cost of international postage, so I didn’t get to write to them like I wanted to. I also tried to sign up for a pen pal recently, that was a fail. The first one never sent their letter (they were supposed to send first). The second one sent their letter, I sent one back and that was it.
    I do write in a regular paper journal though. I’ve given myself a self imposed ban on blogging until August, and I’ve been writing more in my journal (ban doesn’t include art related or advertising blogging). I like actually hand writing something, in print though not in cursive. It was never faster, never pretty and never fun for me at least. Though I will still be teaching my daughter cursive, she should be able to sign her name and read what other people write. Maybe she’ll even like it.

  2. July 18, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    To be completely honest, one of my fifth graders asked me once why they had to learn cursive and beyond “To sign your name on checks…” I didn’t have a very good answer. Because you’re right, writing is a lost art. It’s sad to me that it’s becoming redundant. Who needs to write on paper when typing is so much faster? But I’m with you, I still enjoy writing on paper. I still do it quite a bit because I always have notebooks handy and sometimes starting up my computer seems like too much work (yes, I am that lazy). So I’ll work on my novel or write a blog by hand and then type it later. Still, I must confess that with my last letter my hand cramped, too. That’s when I decided that story about my Josh Groban tickets really just wasn’t worth it. *grin* I’m looking forward to your letter!

  3. Jessica
    July 19, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Ummm… I’m going to give you my address because I really want a letter on pretty fairy stationery with purple ink! Every time I’ve ever had a pen pal, it has kind of died out within the first few letters, especially now since it’s so much easier to text or call or email. But there is something very special about opening your mailbox and finding something that isn’t a bill or a restaurant menu. I get that there aren’t many real world applications of cursive anymore short of signing your name, but I still use it in my personal notebooks (and if I want to make sure someone else probably can’t read it, I write in cursive super fast). I mean, can’t we do anything anymore just because it looks nicer? Haha.

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