exploring art and writing

The Lost Art of Letter Writing.

In Letters, Writing on December 2, 2012 at 4:42 pm

From ‘Stories for Young Folks’ (Boston, MA: D. Lothrop Company, 1889)

This week I handwrote two letters. One to each Granny, both of whom are well versed in the art of letter writing.

I’m not going lie: I found it a challenge. Not the writing part (I like to think I’m used to that by now) but the handwriting part. I’m a lefty so writing by hand involves a sharp twist of the wrist; the forearm sweeps over the page, smudging the ink so that you discover half-printed words on yourself hours after you have sealed and posted the smeared letter. It’s no wonder I started a blog; typing is less pain and less mess.

I am sure there are people out there who would gasp in horror at my denunciation of pen and ink. As I bought my gold gel pen, some cream letter parchment and a pack of bejewelled and be-ribboned Christmas cards (only the best for my Grannies) all I could think was: gods, I wish I could type this up. But I knew that these letters had to be handwritten. The question is: why?

I’m especially fond of the English poet John Donne’s claim that “more than kisses, letters mingle souls” (and not just because of my appreciation of the word ‘mingle’). When I picture all the handwritten letters I’ve sent throughout my life, I imagine a line connecting me to the recipient. This cord is thickened with their response. But there is nothing linear to me about email or instant messaging; these, to me, consist of mind maps and pathways, folders and delete buttons. No matter how much Google lets you personalise your inbox, it’s never going to be unique.

Letters are like art, in a way, and letter writing is certainly an art in itself: the tone, the structure, the humour or pathos. These are the challenges that thwart every letter writer. But no matter how brief or how hurriedly scribbled, every piece of paper that is covered in ink is matchless. As is written for the Letter Writers Alliance (by hand, of course): “I crafted it especially for you.”

For some exceptional letter writing visit www.lettersofnote.com


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