Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Letter Writing Revival

I’ve been accused of being both Amish and a Luddite, but I honestly have nothing against technology. I love my smart phone, and there’s no way I want to return to the days of the VCR. But I do think that technology is divesting us of a few of our more civilized habits of communication. Non-public telephone conversations, for example. (Yes, loud woman in the grocery line, I’m talking to you.) And letter writing.

In this world of instantaneous communication, writing a letter takes planning, pen and paper, and postage, and there are many days when I am lacking at least one of those. But that’s what makes a letter so thoughtful. It can’t be composed and dispatched in the length of a Burger King commercial. I love receiving a hand-written note in the mail, which otherwise is divided between bills and junk. But it had been quite some time since I sent one. So when my friend Kerrie Flanagan hosted a letter writing revival at the Northern Colorado Writers studio, I dropped by to join in.

Kerrie provided all the supplies, including postage, and set the ambience with relaxing music. Other than grocery lists, I haven't written much by hand lately, and I was reminded that letter writing requires more forethought than composing at a keyboard. Once you realize you’ve begun one of those sentences that goes nowhere, there’s no backspace key to bail you out. It’s either cross out, start over, or press on. Oh, the pressure.

I wrote a note to an elderly aunt in Colorado Springs and sent a card to my mother, who lives in town. Neither uses email, so a letter is not old-school for them. I also sent a letter to my sister in Seattle, the only non-holiday correspondence I’ve sent her via snail mail in years. And I sent a letter to my boys telling them how great they are. When it arrived, I suspected they would be underwhelmed. Neither one of them likes to communicate in writing—especially cursive—and I assumed they would shrug me off as embarrassingly old-fashioned. But they were genuinely appreciative of my effort and sentiment.

Email is hugely convenient, and I have no plans to do without it. But I will make an effort to sit and write a letter more often. Just think how much more fun a trip to the mailbox would be if we could trade one piece of our daily bills-and-junk mail for a letter from someone we care about.

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