5 Reasons Why I Still Write Snail Mail (an open letter)

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

I'm scattering thoughts today, and questions, and musings. Feel free to pick them up and add on, or to answer questions as you see fit, or to ask even more. Xx

Letter-writing. Why bother with it? I mean, email and text are certainly more convenient - cheaper even, since postage is some 75 cents per letter, but a hundred texts cost next to nothing if your phone plan is decent.

Letter-writing is slower. Your hands can physically cramp. You might get ink stains on your fingers, if you have a particularly leaky pen, or if you're left-handed and just can't avoid it no matter how you try, or if you use a fountain pen (because you like the way it looks).

My own fingers are blue from the page.

You might find you don't know what to say when you open a letter. How to begin? Where? It's more formal, perhaps than emailing someone, definitely than texting someone. There won't be an immediate response; there might not be any response. No way to gauge where the conversation is going, no emojis to say what you mean in happy bright colors - instead you'll have to look for words to force down your feelings onto the paper, and it takes a lot longer, (and you might have carpel tunnel).

And you might feel uncertain about how the reader will respond. Will they think, "why didn't you just text me?" or will they say "you made me feel really special"? Do you know their address? If you don't, is it worth asking? You might wonder about social conformity.

1. I write letters because I like the feel of the ink running out onto the page. The page is smooth, the ink is wet, my hand picks up traces of the words I've written.

I think it's much more therapeutic to pour your feelings out through the physical exertion of writing, paper and pen, than a thumb-war text message, or email. I like the rhythm better.

2. If more people wrote letters, would there be less overall gushing in our communications?

3.  If I have to write my words on a piece of paper, and address an envelope, and go to the post office, and pay postage, maybe I'll think about those words a bit more. Maybe they'll mean more. Maybe they won't. Maybe just the act of mailing it will be more intentional. Maybe I'm too lazy to find out.

4. Is a letter morally superior to a text? Is there something in the paper that makes us more intelligent, or is it simply something people who are more intelligent like to do, or is there no correlation whatsoever? Why do letters smell like honesty, and can a pen fake happiness the way a text can?

5. I've found that the people who write letters tend to communicate better. Maybe it's that the practice of editing your speech begins to carry over into other aspects of their lives, or maybe they're just in the habit of being verbally economical. But they use words that other people don't generally use in conversation, like incendiary, or dichotomy, or etymology, and you know it's not because they are trying to sound smart but because they've searched for that word at one point in time to explain just exactly what they wanted to say (perhaps because they couldn't use an emoji?) and then it stuck, and now it's a part of their vocabulary. 

Writing letters is a lost art. We can all agree on that. But I have another query: did it loose itself, or did we loose it?

And can we get it back?

p.s. to the people I write letters to, this isn't a grate on you if we've not corresponded in a while. this is a muse, because i have questions that float around in my head unattached if i don't write them down . also i love you guys and you're wonderful humans (you know who you are).

3 comments

  1. I adore writing letters and sending things in the mail! It makes me feel warm and fuzzy :)

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  2. I love writing letters (yes I realize I far far far owe you one) and there is nothing that makes my day brighter than finding a piece of mail addressed to me. <3

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  3. I need to start writing more letters. Who doesn't love getting mail.

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