Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Idea of Writing Letters

I am a big fan of the Idea of Writing Letters. Therefore, I am waiting patiently (sort of) for my name to come up on the library's reserve list for The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting by Philip Henscher in which he writes about the joy of slow communication.

I would also love to get my hands on a copy of For the Love of Letters by John O'Connell. It was published in Great Britain but, alas, it is only available here in an e-book edition which doesn't seem quite right. (Update 27 Jan 2013: The O'Connell book is now available in hardcover from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.)Another book along the same lines and also published in Britain is Ian Sansom's Paper: An Elegy which I see won't be released here until May 2013. 

Of course, that would be reading about writing letters and not actually writing them. 

How does one get inspired to do the writing part?

Well, I see there is a Month of Letters challenge afoot to write and send a letter or postcard every day in February which was mentioned on "A Work in Progress" (here). It looks promising but I don't want to have to register to participate. Another site that encourages the art of snail mail is Postcrossing - which has been on my radar for a while but I haven't signed up - in which you send postcards to random people around the world and receive postcards in return.

Like I say, I love the Idea. But actually sitting down and writing is another thing entirely. I do a pretty good job of writing thank you notes. And, I don't buy greeting cards but do send birthday cards and sympathy cards with my own handwritten messages. 

All this comes to mind because I received a letter from a friend recently. Over the years we have kept up a fairly inconsistent correspondence (she is more consistent than I). The envelope's postage stamp is a photo of my friend and her two dogs. I laughed out loud when I saw it. How fun! That is something you don't see every day.

And I have another friend who sends postcards on a very random basis, but I rarely reply in turn although we do keep in touch by phone. 

To cut to the chase:
I went to the post office today and bought stamps both for 1st class letters and for postcards. The good news is I have plenty of note cards, postcards, and stationery in my stash so I don't need to buy any...unless I just want to. 

So I will attempt to write a letter or postcard each day in February. That actually turns out to be only 23 pieces of mail as Sundays and the one holiday, Washington's Birthday, don't count. 

What are your correspondence habits? Do you write letters or just like the Idea of Writing Letters? Are you willing to write a letter a day in February?


  1. This may be a topic you might not want to get me started on! First off, Amazon has the hardcover For the Love of Letters by John O'Connell (if you don't boycott Amazon)

    My correspondence habits: I've been writing letters to people I have never met (at least most of them I haven't) all across the country and abroad ever since I was about 12. I still correspond with two of those original penpals - we e-mail occasionally but mostly it's hand written or typed letters. I don't even remember how I "met" some of them. At times we send letters back and forth monthly, sometimes something happens and it's months inbetween. We talk about everything but religion and politics! These aren't short letters either for the most part though I do correspond with a few older women who don't write much. I can tell they are lonely so try to make letters to them light and newsy. What's it take to get started? A pen, paper (I like to use pretty paper and just bought a BUNCH of pads from a place going out of business but I have a TON of 8 1/2 x 11 decorated sheets too. I type some of my letters - will again now as just got a new printer today. Notecards don't get used too often, but they are great too and I use them sometimes with extra pages. See? Wanta be my penpoal?:)

    1. How impressive! Ii is nice that you are sharing the joy of slow communication with people you have not even met. I can barely write the folks I know and love. I had a pen pal from Japan when I was a teenager but our correspondence didn't last long. I can still remember, though, the very thin paper of her letters.

      Thanks for the tip on John O'Connell's book. I see it on Amazon now. I don't know how I only found the Kindle edition the other day. The hardcover is now in
      my cart.

      How lovely that you scored all that stationery. And,
      I feel as if we are already pen pals. Isn't it fun!

  2. I don't make resolutions come the New Year, but, this year I promised myself I would write more letters or at least send more cards with notes in them. One month gone and I haven't done much letter writing, Belle, though I do love writing them and receiving them. I did send two little wee letters to our granddaughter this month. Does that count? She is approaching three and I think at a good age to enjoy getting things in the mail.

    I loved this post as I love handwritten, or even typed, letters. While I can't commit to a letter a day in February, I will try to send out some notes.

    I've kept many letters over the years. They are in boxes, some close at hand, and I like tying them in bunches with ribbons much like the picture you show.

    1. Of course the 'little wee letters' to your granddaughter count. I am sure she was excited to receive an envelope with her name on it.

      I love that you have tied up your letters in ribbon. So romantic.

      I went through a ton of correspondence a couple of years ago and got rid of a lot of it. Some were letters written by a friend when we were in college. I returned them to her. She read a few and then threw them out. Said she didn't want to be reminded...

      The ones I did keep are gathered in a drawer. I also have a pretty large box full of postcards that I have received over the years. Little pieces of art. I wish I could think of a way to display them.

  3. I, too, love letters, and am impressed by the photo at the top of the post!

    Email has pretty much destroyed letters. For years I loved writing and receiving thoughtful letters, but now everything is off the top of everyone's heads, including mine. Whoops, that one went out to the wrong person: have you ever had that experience?

    On the other hand, I have many e-friends I appreciate. But I love to receive letters in the mail.

    Great idea for a post! I love collections of letters!

    1. I do love the photo of lovely old letters. And yes, email seems to have taken over slow thinking as well as slow correspondence. There is a definite lurch in the stomach when an email is fired off without a second thought. Did I send that to the right person? Was I too hasty? Will they get the joke?

      I am looking forward to spending time with my stationery and fountain pen in February.

  4. I used to write loads of letters when I was younger--but have fallen off considerably until just the last year or so. I joined Postcrossing last February and am now addicted to it. You can be as involved as you like (or as little as you like) so maybe that would be the way to dip your toes in--though it's sort of one way, and not quite reciprocal as you send and receive from different people. As for the month of letters I don't think you need to officially join to participate. I did sign up but haven't really done much there to be honest. I love getting a card or letter in the mail and love sending cards as well. Feel free to email your address if you'd like and I'll add you to my list for my month of letters (though it may well be a postcard) that I'll be sending out! :)

    1. Thanks for your comments, Danielle. The Postcrossing idea is a bit random, but I have made a list of people to write to in February's Month of Letters. I will happily add your name to it. I am looking forward to spending some time with pen and paper.

  5. Love your blog. I just read a very positive review of P.Henscher's new book. I look forward to reading it too. How did your February month of writing letters go? It is a treat to receive a 'real letter' isn't it! You and your readers may enjoy for more thoughts/ideas on letter writing.

    1. Hi Barb. Thanks for your comments.

      I am still waiting for the Henscher book to come available on my reserve list at the library. My name doesn't seem to be moving up the queue...I fear the copy may be lost or someone is taking a very long time in reading it.

      The Month of Letters was great fun. I wrote a letter or note every day so I outdid the requirement of sending out only 23. I actually sent out 29. The last one was a letter to myself recounting the month and listing those I wrote to.

      I received a couple of letters in reply and now I get to answer them.

      I find now that I don't put off writing thank you notes or just 'thinking of you' cards. A bonus: I treated myself to some new stationery which is always a treat.

      Glad to hear from another old school letter writer. I look forward to taking a look around your website.