The Lost Art of Letter Writing

Art NZA Iss 312

There is something exhilarating about receiving a letter. But can writing a letter provide just as much joy?

I get it โ€“ who has time to write letters? Youโ€™re on social media and email all the time. But can you be truly candid on Facebook?

Perhaps you journal or do morning pages? While they are useful writing practices, do they push you deep into the โ€œnowโ€ or are you just vomiting on the page?

Decades ago, we used to write and receive letters all the time. We passed notes in class. We sent news of our travels home by mail. We had pen pals. We even fell in love by mail.

Traditional letters are personally created for the recipient, and bring us right smack into the present, as dull as that may be. Isnโ€™t that where writers are supposed to begin? Where we are now? Writing what we know?

With regular letter writing, you must write the next chapter of your life, no matter how mundane. In the search for content, we start with what is in front of us. Changes in the weather. How cute the cat looks. Our secret feelings. What we have planned for our partnerโ€™s birthday. The book we read under the covers last night.

Within these humdrum details lies the essence of our lives. If we stop and look at the minutiae of our day, even the smallest human existence contains a wealth of magic.

I recently started writing to my aunt. She is unwell, can no longer talk on the phone and is unable to write back. Sending her letters was the best way I could show her support and love.

When I wrote the first letter, I prettied it up with clip-art. I told her how I felt about the start of spring, recounted childhood memories of her and reminded her of gifts she had given me that now fill my home. I told her the silly details of my life.

I started that letter believing my life was small. I finished the letter realising that despite my desperate need to feel like my life meant something, that it already did. While I was trying to make something of my life, my actual life was chugging along in the background, and I was blind to its abundance.

Then suddenly I had heaps to write about outside my letters too!

I started seeking ways to make my auntโ€™s letters more fun. I collected pretty cards. I added poems from a Roald Dahl book she gave me as a child. It was about squeezing as much into that little envelope as I could.

Then, to my surprise, I started receiving texts and gifts of gratitude from my auntโ€™s family. When my cousins sent loving texts to my mother on her birthday, I realised that I was not just sending letters, I was sending love. Like ripples on a pond, this love was expanding in all directions, and bouncing around on my loved ones.

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The act of trying to enrich anotherโ€™s life had not only brought me an awareness of the richness of my own life and a stream of great writing ideas, but it had enhanced the expression of love within my family.

Can you find one person that you love and can be open with, whose life would be enhanced by receiving letters from you? Make it your new writing practice to write a regular letter, and letโ€™s see how much love you can fit into an envelope.

Think of it this way: if you cannot bring joy to one person in a letter, how can you ever hope to bring joy to millions with your other writing?


This article was published in the 2018 Autumn Issue of the New Zealand Author Magazine.ย I have posted it today as a Birthday Tribute to my wonderful aunt/godmother, who sadly passed away last Christmas. She is not forgotten. She is still very much loved.


 

Photo Credits:
Letters photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels
Love photo byย Lisa Fotiosย fromย Pexels

 

40 thoughts on “The Lost Art of Letter Writing

  1. I miss writing and receiving penpal letter. There’s more love and feeling in a real letter. I have my character Holly sending her boyfriend little love letters instead of text messages, its so sweet like that too.

    Liked by 5 people

    • I agree. It’s a completely different way of communicating, and very personal. We are so used to writing for a bunch of people and trying to make our lives look exciting. I think personal, simple and real is better ๐Ÿ˜

      Liked by 1 person

      • It really is, I still talk to my friends from other countries, but by e-mail, that just doesn’t have the same personal special touches. The effort to write a letter isn’t there in an e-mail. Great post Wendy.

        Liked by 2 people

      • It’s hard to figure out quite why it’s so different, but it is! It’s surprising ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

        Like

  2. Beautiful!!
    I still have letters from my aunt and uncle they’ve been faded with time but every time we open them and go through the words we find ourselves in somewhere different from this mundane and material world. I love the knock of the door by the postman.
    writing letters and sending them to love is the best way to show your love for them.
    May your aunt rest in peace๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน. Ameen๐Ÿ’•๐Ÿ’•

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you ๐Ÿ’œ๐Ÿ˜€xx Yes I have a shoebox in my wardrobe with old letters and cards like that. Wonderful old memories. There will be none of that for later generations if we don’t write things “for real”. The written history of our era will be profuse (on the web) but not entirely personal ๐Ÿ˜”

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a wonderful tribute to your aunt. I too miss receiving letters, thereโ€™s just something about getting that envelope in the mail, the anticipation of opening it and reading those words. Words so carefully, personally written, putting ink to paper, thereโ€™s just something so very intimate about it. Awesome post Wendy!

    Liked by 7 people

    • I love the fact that you can hold it in your hand and read it to others too… share the joy! Great comment! Thank you! ๐Ÿ’œ๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ’™

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t have someone to write a regular letter to, but I wish I had. I believe there is magic in it too. I used to exchange e-mails with some people though, but that feels like so long ago. I guess when I write more personal posts is like I’m writing a letter to everyone that comes by… maybe I will work more on this perspective. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for sharing these beautiful words and this nurturing kindness. The lives of those more sensitive are also embellished when reading such magical experiences and expressions of love โค

    Liked by 2 people

    • The difference with those letters to my aunt was that I was not judged on my content, so I wrote about small aspects of my life that I would never write about otherwise. And those things were current, because I had written other stuff a week or two ago. So the exercise of doing this regularly and on an ongoing basis is also an exercise is staying in the NOW and being grateful for little things. These days we have to force ourselves to do these things.
      You know, you could write to someone who is no longer with you. Or you could just write to yourself. It was such a surprising exercise for me, and is hard to explain. It’s something that needs to be experienced. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Hope you are well ๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ˜„

      Liked by 3 people

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  6. Thank you for a fresh perspective. My daughter and her friends are leaving for sleep away camp in a few weeks. They have gone together for several years now, and the parents are always encouraged to send daily letters. I was already dreading the letters because I didn’t know what I was going to write. I now see a beautiful opportunity with these letters. Maybe I will even post one here on WP. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. “Think of it this way: if you cannot bring joy to one person in a letter, how can you ever hope to bring joy to millions with your other writing?”……………you are absolutely right! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This is so beautiful. I have wrote a letter here and there for support, but not ongoing. I once wrote one for an acquaintance, who I thought could be a good friend, as she moved to another state in the US, and although she swore she would write back, she never did. It left me quite crumbled for a while, and I still feel it as I type this out. We must remember that the love we share out into the world need not come back to us in the same form, or from the same person – but it WILL come back to us.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I wholeheartedly agree with this. Whatever kindness you send out will come back to you multiplied, but often it is from a different place. Don’t let that disappointment stop you from giving out love ๐Ÿ˜€ Thank you so much for visiting and commenting xx

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Wendy, your post brought memories of when I used to write to my Mom and to a very good friend of mine years ago. So much more thought goes into writing a letter compared to that of a text or email. I used to really enjoy writing letters. Good for you for all the GOOD you are doing for your Aunt. How awesome that you are enriching her life by giving her something tangible that she can actually touch with her two hands. To send Love in an envelope ….. what better way to say I Love You long distance? Wonderful post!! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks ๐Ÿ˜ƒ I found it really enjoyable too! I think I got as much out of it as she did ๐Ÿ’–I’m glad this reminded you of happy times ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

      Liked by 2 people

  10. What a lovely thing to do for your aunt. Letters are so great to send and receive. Iโ€™ve got a friend who writes lots of letters and Iโ€™m behind by about 6 months writing to her. You have inspired me to write her a letter and get back on track! Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Aaw this is soo lovely. You gave me an idea. ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ Writing a letter is so much different from what technology we have one. I love the texture of the card, the smell, and excitement of opening it. The only thing is that my hand writing is really bad. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, so is mine! Even when I used capitals. I used to type my letters up on the computer, use an easy-to-read handwriting font, then fill it with relevant clip art. I’d pop poems in with it and put pretty stickers on the envelope. It’s still special! You could also paste the letter into a pretty card if you wanted. Use your imagination, and as with everything else in life, make it work for you! ๐Ÿ’–

      Liked by 2 people

  12. I’m glad your aunt had that.
    I still write letters. To my grandmother, to friends, to a couple of people I met online. They’re not necessarily long – the ones to my grandmother are like what you describe, the others are usually short notes saying the other person is thought of.
    Keep writing!
    Love, light and glitter

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Eliza. I think it’s the personal effort that makes all the difference, and I bet all the people in your life that you are writing to are so very grateful ๐Ÿ’•

      Liked by 1 person

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