Monday, February 8, 2010


Twice a week I write a letter to a complete stranger. I fold it carefully, stuff it in an envelope, and send it off to the other side of the world... and I may never hear from that person again.

They don't know anything about me and all I know about them is their name and address, which makes it very difficult to write a letter.

It's harder than I expected, not that I've ever been the world's best pen pal to start with. The art of the letter has fallen by the wayside in today's age of email and internet access. Snail mail is all but extinct for anything other than physical packages.

I think it's kind of sad, personally. Sure, I struggle with what to say in a letter, and it's really easy to fall into a form letter mode when you're writing to people you don't know, but I think there's a personal touch with physical mail that email just doesn't have.

It takes a few moments to sit down and bang out an email, and send it off, but a letter... someone thought ahead, brought out pen and paper, moderated their usual scribble to something that someone else will be able to read. I think that puts something of the person into their correspondence.

I don't write letters to my friends, even those who are far away. There are people I hold quite dear that I don't even know their mailing address. And I realize, now, that that's quite a shame.

The written word is a wonderful thing, in all it's forms. I think a handwritten letter is something special, though. A good friend's handwriting should be as familiar as their face, and as welcome to see.

So, readers, I'm giving you a mission. Go write a letter. To your mom, your grandmother, your best friend or your brother, or even to that one guy you had a crush on in college if you have his address. It doesn't matter. Just write a letter, let them know you're thinking of them and took the time to sit down with pen and paper and write it out.

They'll smile when they read it, and that's worth it.


Alan said...

Maybe I should engrave a stone tablet instead?

Technology changes. Writing on dead trees has been replaced by electronic communications. When writing on paper replaced writing on wax tablets, writing styles changed. They are changing again now that we're moving away from writing on paper.

I communicate with more people around the world than I ever could have with paper and snail mail.

That's not a bad thing.

The Internet: Best Thing Ever.

Farmgirl said...

Just because something new comes along it doesn't wipe out all the good things about the old way.

I know you're all "death to dead tree products!" but personally I'm a little more old fashioned. Dead tree books will always be more viscerally satisfying than ebooks, letters will make me smile more than emails.

There are really great things about the electronic age, and I'm glad I have the ability to talk to people through technology, don't get me wrong... but even though email will eventually completely replace the concept of a letter, it will never completely fill the same niche, because it doesn't have the same qualities.

Alan said...

I promise not to smile at the next email you send me. :D

Farmgirl said...

:P you'll smile, and you'll like it, mister!

Old NFO said...

I still do write a few letters to certain family... thanks for the reminder!

falnfenix said...

one of my favorite teachers from my high school is doing a letter a day this year...mine was even typed out on a typewriter.

mustanger said...

I remember when I used to sit down and hand-write a letter... and how much paper I wasted in the process of composing it. When I started emailing, I really learned how to type. However, I do still occassionally write a letter. But, whether I hand-write or print it, I usually use the word processor to get my thoughts and how I say them in the best order I can think of.

Mom told me about a preacher we knew when I was a kid... this guy hand-wrote all his letters until he got a typewriter. Then he never wrote again except to sign his name. Seems to me, handwriting is a big personal touch. Penmanship is getting worse and worse all the time because people type so much more than they write.