Monday, March 27, 2017

Email or Blogs vs. Handwritten Letters

Now here's a blast to the present ... an 1890's man 
sporting a 21st Century Beard ! It is true ... what is old 
is NEW again. Maybe letter writing will be next!!!
I know, handwriting a letter is so 20th Century. It's almost the mark of a true Luddite. For those who don't know, a Luddite is a person whose against just about all technology. If you're still riding around in a buckboard drawn by a horse ... you're a Luddite.
     Recently I received a handwritten letter, a rather long one in fact, from a colleague in my old college Journalism class. I think she was surprised to both hear from me and that I sent her a hand written letter.
     She had recently gone to China and gave me impressions of her trip. Since I have barely scratched that country yet but am eager to visit, I read with fascination. At the end, she expressed a kind of dismay that she had written so much and promised the next letter would be email. I fully intend to write back, yes on paper, and tell her I treasured her letter and have already read it several times.
     Why do I say that? Its because there are subtle clues in a letter. The paper, the color of ink, the handwriting, good or bad, give a deeper impression of a person. When I received her letter I was startled to see my name written in much the same style of my mother who passed on years ago. While its a three minute walk, longer if walking the dog, I couldn't wait to get back home to read her letter!
     After years of writing either long emails or using Word to write a letter and then print it for each person receiving it, I have gone back to writing letters. To me, and I would suspect to many of you, holding a letter in your hand is an intimacy that most of us have forgotten. Yes, you can print out an email but tell me, is it the same thing?
     What draws me is that there is an immediate writing of your thoughts. Once written ... ink to paper, there is no going back, unless you like a lot of mark throughs as you try to again clarify a thought. I realized that I would write an email and then work it to death ... sort of like this blog. There is never the spontaneity of thought here that I would give to a letter. I write what I am thinking or feeling at the moment and then in review after review, sometimes after a few days read it yet again, correct it yet again and finally publish.
     Now there is a lot to be said about editing. I believe I read somewhere that the T.S. Eliot poem, "The Wasteland" was started by Eliot's editor on page 128 of the handwritten poem. Can you imagine? 128 pages? You have to wonder what he said before the poem we all had to read in high school. However, what we write is not always clear. I would be the first to admit that. So, we write and hone what we have written.
Even if you use a computer you still have to keep paper and 
pencil handy. When a friend told me this with my first computer
I thought he was crazy. I learned quickly that he was right! Writing 
a letter in fact is much faster. Once written, its done.
     Never has it been so easy to do this honing, this editing. You even have help if you use Microsoft Word whose suggestions often annoy me. While it is true that I may violate tense at times, there are many expressions that probably are not proper English yet clearly understood and often used in speech. I remember an especially demanding English teacher in high school. He made us diagram each sentence, define what each word in that sentence was and on and on. However, the best thing he taught us after this was to say the sentence aloud. He told us that once we learned how a sentence worked, saying it would help you catch errors. 99% of the time he was right. If I'm not sure, I say it aloud and instantly realize what is wrong.
     As I discovered trying to buy stationary to write letters, it is almost non-existent, at least in the United States. You may find some in a Barnes & Noble but it is maybe one style and color. It seems that all that is available are cards ... 25 to a box that are cute, or seasonal or thank you's with THANK YOU printed on the front in case the receiver didn't know why you sent it. I had to hunt just about every tiny, way overloaded stationary store in Hong Kong to find stationery. At least they have some and usually plain in a variety of colors or with very subtle patterns. In fact, I bought a lot since you can not find it here. Oddly there weren't many matching envelopes but I didn't care. It was something nice to hold in your hand and hopefully something the receiver would cherish. I know I do.
    So, the next time you want to write someone a note ... yes, it takes longer, costs you 49¢ but your receiver will be so surprised and will email you back what a delightful letter you wrote.
     Anyway, its a thought.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ...

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