Thoughts into words
“How wonderful it is to be able to write someone a letter! To feel like conveying your thoughts to a person, to sit at your desk and pick up a pen, to put your thoughts into words like this is truly marvelous.” ― Haruki Murakami
A short time ago I was answering Patsy’s comment and ended up writing her something more like a long chatty letter. I’ve always loved writing letters, so maybe that’s why I ended up blogging. When I wrote for publication in various journals, there was very little interactivity, even when people would tell me they had seen my articles. Blogging, especially the comments section, is much more like letter-writing because I am writing to people I know (or may come to know), and it’s easy to respond to them on a personal level.
Still, there is nothing like a good old-fashioned letter, and I hope we never completely lose the practice of postal correspondence. When I did a qualitative research project on letter-writing during what I decided would be my final semester in the Communications program, I learned there are many people out there who share my conviction that postal mail is a unique form of connecting that cannot really be duplicated by any of the faster and more efficient ways of staying in touch.
Interviewing people, and reading their questionnaire answers, I came across many aspects of letter-writing that I had never considered before despite my lifelong interest in the topic. And I became fascinated with the mail art culture, and all the websites dedicated to establishing and maintaining postal friendships. I felt enthusiastic about these groups, and wanted to join in. Part of why I decided to quit school is that I realized I’d much rather spend the time actually sending postal mail to people than writing long, dry papers about people who send postal mail– papers that almost nobody will really read anyway, unless they are assigned to do it (academics, sorry if I just insulted you– by “nobody” I really mean “nobody I know”).
Recently I received a lovely handwritten letter from a blogger whom I’ve never met in person, who lives in faraway Wales and has a gorgeous cursive style (if you’ve ever seen my handwriting you know I still print because my cursive penmanship is irregular and unsightly, so I admire attractive script). Her letter was a remarkable gift that is all too rare nowadays. It was full of everyday life, yet the settings and destinations were exotic to me. Her news and descriptions were a wonderful combination of familiar experiences and fanciful travel daydreams. Reading and re-reading the letter is like a mini-vacation; a refreshing break from daily tasks.
I don’t write cards and letters nearly as much as I would like, but whenever I do, it’s a rewarding process. The pleasant rituals of postal mail– choosing a pen and paper, putting thoughts into words, choosing a pretty stamp and sealing the envelope, then strolling to the mailbox or post office– are a distinct pleasure for me, whether or not I ever get a response. I usually do get one, and it’s icing on the cake, but the writing of letters is a hobby that I would likely indulge even without the special delight of a reply in my mailbox.
Do you enjoy sending letters? How about receiving them? Do you prefer getting an email or phone call, or do you like to use different forms for different types of messages? Have you ever had a pen pal? Feel free to send us all a letter in the comments!