From Lands Unknown – The lost Art of Writing a Letter

The other afternoon, I wandered through the card section in what will remain an un-named huge mainstream bookstore (the kind that would have driven Meg Ryan raving mad in ‘You’ve got Mail’ and searched for writing paper. Granted, it’s not like I’d ever found writing paper there in the past, but you’d think with the wide array of journals they sell, and cards, and envelopes, there could be a slim chance of finding writing paper; with even minimal decoration (but perhaps lined and better than what comes out of my printer tray). Well, tough luck.

The art of writing a letter is perhaps a waning one. Yet unlike polaroids pictures or tape recorders, writing a letter isn’t dependent on technology or availability. Simply put, it is always in style, even when it’s popularity has dwindled. Although I’d had a few pen pals in primary school, years had gone by since I’d sat in front of my empty page and written to ‘someone specific’. Yes, naturally I’d written in books, collected quotes, written essays and long winded e-mails to old friends. However there is something quite powerful in writing someone a letter, one that will actually be sent to the individual in question (not the kind of exercise a shrink would prescribe to let go of anger or resentment, or even guilt). No, this is a test of vulnerability, because unlike cards, where words are few and scattered, you can’t hide behind greetings and funny puns. You need to divulge more about yourself when you write a letter, since there is an entire page to fill. Someone on the other end will see your hand-writing, your scribbles, that spelling mistake the spell check would have caught, the legible and illegible words that make you wonder if the recipient will even understand what you’ve scrawled in the margin. Will they see you as an optimist if your writing slants upwards? Should I squeeze that last sentence in at the bottom of the page or just take out a new one? Should I just start over?

So yes, it may be time-consuming, but let’s face it, getting a letter is pretty awesome.

So perhaps, this is something I can work on; perhaps I can write more personal letters and thereby bring new life to old friendships.



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