Writing letters

When did you last write a letter? You know, get some paper, a spare envelope and a nice pen, and sit undisturbed, to write something to a friend , or relative. I appreciate that stamps are expensive these days, at least in the UK, though still a small price to pay for the value of personal contact, with some effort behind it. If you have ever received a letter, was it a good feeling? A nice change from circulars, bills, and charity requests, I bet. To imagine that someone actually bothered to think enough of you, to take the time out from a busy life, to contact you personally.

We live life electronically these days. Internet shopping, .com groceries, texts, e mails, and tweets. Facebook is the new and preferred method of keeping in touch, for an entire generation. An e mail or text can be sent to numerous recipients at once, saving you time, and trouble of course; but is it remotely personal, and does it really have value? I manage to write quite a lot of letters. I have certain friends that I only correspond with, and never communicate with using anything remotely impersonal, like e mail, or text. There are others that I have frankly given up on, as they never reply, unless by e mail, and they are just not ‘into’ the written word on paper anymore. Despite writing thousands of words on this blog, and sending numerous e mails in the course of a week, I believe that I never write better, or more from the heart, than I do when committing things to paper.

I don’t have good handwriting, and never managed to improve it, or to learn italics, or adopt a written ‘font’, as some do. However, it is usually legible, and hopefully more meaningful, than anything sent electronically, or by telephone. When I have it, I like to use decent paper stock, and where possible, write on one side only. I no longer have a working fountain pen, though I have decided to get a new one next year. The filling from the ink bottle, the smell of the fresh paper, and the checking of the address in a book, all rituals that indicate I am about to do something special.

In this age of computerised communication, we still send birthday cards, Christmas cards, and cards for special occasions, like passing exams, or an anniversary. So, why have we stopped writing letters? It cannot be just because of the sky-high price of stamps, the less than perfect postal service, or the effort to buy paper and envelopes. Ironically, it has never been easier to get these items, as they are easily purchased in all supermarkets, and most convenience shops. Pens, at least the ballpoint variety, have never been cheaper, or more readily available. In most ‘pound shops’, they can be had in bulk, for that very sum. No, it is just too much effort, like so many things discarded for that reason, in this modern life.

I have corresponded with a friend, on a weekly basis, since 1985. I have not actually seen her for almost ten years, and we rarely speak on the telephone. She lives about 200 miles away, not far by some standards, but for various reasons, we never seem to get around to meeting. Yet still, we know about every event in each others lives, significant or trivial, thanks to our exchange of letters. Before the widespread use of computers gained popularity, I also wrote to another old friend on a regular basis. When he left England to work in Canada, and was living there for some years, we kept in touch by letter, so never lost a single element of our friendship. Since he returned, to live near London, we are probably in contact more than ever before, though by e mail, not so much by letter. I miss this, and may well revive our old tradition, despite his legendary, appalling handwriting!

Since beginning this blog, I cannot fail to notice the immense volume of communication that goes on in the world today. I have even e mailed people, suggesting that they read my efforts, as a means of keeping in touch with my life in Norfolk, and what I am thinking and doing. I should not have done that. I should have written to them, even if they didn’t reply. I have let myself down. I am using the blog to stay in touch, and that is just more impersonal, trouble-free communication, of the kind that I criticise in others.

So, I am asking you all to put away your keyboards for one day. Get a pen, some paper, and envelopes, and write a letter to someone important to you. I guarantee that it will make you feel better about yourself. There will be no spell-check, or auto-correct; no suggested alternative words, or online thesaurus. You will have to think about it, and cross out anything you have done wrong, or didn’t like. The recipient will value it, even if they don’t think that now, and they might even keep it, and if you are very lucky, compose a reply.

21 thoughts on “Writing letters

  1. Oh, you hit a nerve. Handwritten letters are cherished, as they carry the thoughts of the writer from heart to pen to paper. It seems that electronic letters with a handwritten sentence of personal thanks has replaced the letter. Sadly, people think that an email is the same thing as a letter. Maybe I’m just old, but I feel I’m right.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. While I appreciate and use all of the conveniences of the modern world, I am one of those dinosaurs who has an affinity for things like writing letters and sitting down to read a physical copy of a newspaper or book.

    One of the things I always did with my elementary students was to have them write a letter to a friend or family member. Many had never handwritten a letter before or knew how to address an envelope.

    At the end of the school year, I always gave out my address hoping to hear from a few of them. They never let me down—in fact, I still get letters from former students who are now adults. I’m with you, Pete. There is something beautiful about getting a personal, handwritten letter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Pete. The friend I corresponded with for so many years was a former teacher, who later became one of my best friends. When he died unexpectedly, I knew I was going to miss his letters.
      Best wishes, Pete.


  3. I used to love writing and receiving letters. When I lived abroad it was before email communication was possible (I was usually living in places with no electricity for one thing) I kept all the letters people sent. When I was leaving to come home I had two large tin trunks stuffed full of them and had to dump them as it would have cost a fortune to have them shipped. I still regret it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m behind in my correspondence, but I do feel sending cards with short letters and actual letters to friends shows more of a personal touch. The idea that I spent time out of my day to think only of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pete, it’s been a long time. I used to send postcards when I went travelling, especially to one of my cousins, who collected them, but although I enjoy writing, my handwriting worsened with time (it seems to come with the territory when you are a doctor), and although that changed recently, I used to have to write lengthy notes at work, so I reserved my writing, mostly, for fiction writing and the computer. Even people who don’t use computers seem to prefer to talk on the phone. These days I mostly “chat” and “correspond” with bloggers all over the world (and some locals, but I just talk to them when I see them) but we rarely even know each other’s address. Between changes in communication and the move to try and save paper, it doesn’t look good, although I remember how much I’d love to get letters from friends and relatives when I was younger… A very nostalgic post, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I still get excited receiving snail mails, sadly though, you can count on your fingers who write by hand nowadays. It’s either emails, messenger or calling through Viber.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Reblogged this on beetleypete and commented:

    Since posting this in 2012, I hurt my hand a couple of years ago, and can no longer write comfortably. I still send letters though, but sadly they now have to be typed. Let me know if you still bother to write to anyone, in this electronic age.


  8. I love writing letters – Its the initial subject of my blog – which i also started when i moved the crossover of Norfolk/Suffolk – maybe its something in the water? My gran used to send me packages and write letters all the time when i was younger but due to the ever-rising cost of stamps and the ease of communicating via new technologies its easy to become lazy.- its also a lot quicker and easier to correct etc.

    My friend and I used to write letters to each other while i was staying with my dad in America for a month in the summer. It usually took so long to reach the other that we didn’t manage many but they were always of novel standards.
    We drifted apart over the years but since starting up my ‘unsent letters’ blog i began thinking of her and we made contact again. I now live too far away to be able to physically visit so she suggested we took up writing again… my turn first.
    I wrote page after page bringing her up to speed with all the life changing events of the past few years- which as you can imagine was a hefty task- the last few months were eventful enough. However i felt a sense of accomplishment and smiled as i slotted it in the postbox. Its been a month and Ive still not had a reply…. I’m hoping shes just a slow reader :/ ha ha


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