Letter Writing, Is It A Lost Art?

Image by creo que soy yo via FlickrHow many of you write letters to family and friends on a regular basis? I’m not talking about E-Mail, I mean a real honest to goodness hand written letter. I know I have never been good about letter writing, but my Mother writes letters to family and friends all the time. It’s always fun to receive a letter from her in her own hand. She does do form letters for the holidays, kind of a synopsis of the year, but it’s not the same.

I was so bad about writing letters, that while I was in basic training, way back when, Mother called the red cross. Mother informed them that she had not heard from me, and was worried that something might have happened to me. The thing to remember here, is that I was keeping a low profile, not getting in any trouble or doing anything to attract the attention of the Drill Sergeants. Imagine my surprise to be called before the First Sergeant, to explain why the Red Cross was calling him asking about my welfare. He made me write a letter home, and then assigned me to KP for a week, and gave me additional duty (mowing the grass around the barracks and his office). I made sure to write home after that, at least until I finished training.

What brought the subject up you ask? I have been reading a new book I picked up,

Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children
by Dorie Mccullough Lawson

Read more about this book...

It’s very interesting to read a letter from someone to their children. To see the different style, and personal feeling from one to another, it is similar to reading some of the personal blogs I frequent. There are letters from George Patton to His Son, Thomas Jefferson to his Daughter, Groucho Marks to his son, the Rockefeller’s, and so many more. The language and wording of each letter is unique to the individual and the era. After reading this I have may have to go out and get

Reagan: A Life In Letters
by Kiron K. Skinner, Annelise Anderson, Martin Anderson

Read more about this book...


I Love You, Ronnie: The Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan
by Nancy Reagan

Read more about this book...

I’ve heard that Ronald Reagan was a very active letter writer, and that it was his preferred method of communication.

I’m still not good about writing letters, especially now. I think we may have lost something with the advent of E-Mail. Gone now is the personal touch, feeling, and beauty of a hand written letter. But to be honest, if you were to receive a letter from me it would be anything but beautiful, my handwriting is atrocious to say the least. Perhaps that is one of the reasons I don’t write much longhand, not to mention my terrible spelling. Besides, E-mail is so much more convenient, faster, and cheaper. So I’m sorry Mom, but I haven’t changed much, and you will most likely not receive many hand written letters from me.

Quote of the day:
Why are our days numbered and not, say, lettered? - Woody Allen

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maggie's mind said...

Sounds like an interesting book, and I can't remember the last time I actually wrote a handwritten letter other than a little note in a care package for my sweetheart.

tashabud said...

Hi Eric,
I wrote this comment for this post, but for some reason, it got left on your other post-- twice! I'm reposting it here. I hope this time, it will be posted where it's suppose to be. I'm sure it was my error and not the computer.
Anyway,I still write letters to family members in the Philippines during Christmas, but I don't write them in long hand anymore. I use the computer. But for short notes to family and friends, I write in either long hand or in print form. I must have two personalities because there are times when I write in long hand and other times in print form, but mostly in print form.

I do agree with you that it's always nice to receive a hand written letter. I still have all the hand-written letters my husband had written to me. I'm a hoarder like that. Hehe.

This is a nice heart-warming post. I chuckled at your experience at basic training. There you are, trying your hardest not to call attention to yourself and did just the opposite.

forsythia said...

My sister and I still write monthly "sister letters" which we send to our three half sisters. For years we used typewriters. There is something about typing that makes me, at least, chattier than I would be if I were pushing a pen. Of course, now the "sister letters" are sent as e-mail attachments.

Jena Isle said...

I am not fond of writing letters as my penmanship needs much to be desired. I write though emails. My mother though has a flourishing had always write letters to all of us. I like to read her letters because she always has this written boldly at the end of all her letters: "God bless you all ...I love you all...lol...".

Brady Frost said...

I remember the days of pen pals in my youth. It was always so exhilarating every time a letter showed up in the mailbox. Now that I have my own house and my own mailbox, I don't get letters but I do get a lot of junk mail and the occasional bill.
Then again, not everyone is suited for letter writing. I get more emails from people who never would have taken the time to write a letter, so I suppose that's a plus.

Vixen said...

I wrote a hand written letter to my Dad about two years ago. It started as a note (on a pretty card) but then I ran out of room and had to add paper. And then my hand got tired. And my penmanship deteriorated. I am too wordy for hand written notes. I learned my lesson and I stick to typing these days.

Eric S. said...

Maggie, I know what you mean, I have to force myself to hand write anything any more. My handwriting is so bad, and I have to really work at it to make it legible.

Tashabud, I'll get the comment thing figured out yet. I have to work so hard at making my writing legible, that I loose track of what I want to say. I simply think better at the keyboard. Thanks

Forsythia, I never wrote a letter every month. I am so bad about that, it goes back to our family makeup. we call only when something important happens, and Mother is the only one to really write letters.

Jena Isle, I'm the same way. But I love getting a letter from someone that has very nice flowing handwriting. there is a far more personal feel to it.

Brady, That's so neat that you were involved with the pen pal programs. I remember trying it once or twice when I was in school, but let it die out very quickly. It does seem like all we get in the mail box at times is bills and junk mail.

Vixen, LOL, I can picture that happening. Especially with a few people I know. Believe it or not, I am not a very talkative or wordy person normally. This blog has somehow changed me, and opened me up a little, besides I think better at the keyboard.

LceeL said...

A thoughtful post. And I have to admit I've never been one for writing letters, at all. And I got myself into the same kind of fix when I was in the Marines. That's why this blog thing amazes me. It's like letters to the world. And people from all over the world read and respond. And then you can communicate with each of them, individually, if you wish to. And it's cheap. And instantaneous. Try THAT, US Mail.

Eric S. said...

Hey Lou,Thanks. I know, I am constantly amazed at myself over this blogging bug I have. It is so uncharacteristic for the old me. Besides, like you say USPS can't beat this, price or delivery time.

Kel said...

I do, from time to time, yet write an old-fashioned ink and paper letter. I write in my journals too, fairly frequently. The weirdest thing is that my writing changes so much from day to day and sometimes within the day. Sometimes my penmanship is very elegant and stylized, and sometimes so scratchy and jumbled it is hard to read, and there are many, many variations between the two extremes.

But that's beside the point . . . what I wanted to respond about was that your post put me in mind of a book in my home library that was a fascinating read: "Too Afraid to Cry; Maryland Civilians in the Antietam Campaign" by Kathleen A. Ernst (Stackpole Books, 1999). In it are many excerpts from letters of the period. A bit of the one I particularly remembered upon reading your post follows:

. . . "Among the many who came to visit the Battlefield was a young wife whose frantic grief I can never forget. . . Accompanying some friends to the spot she could not wait the slow process of removing the body but in her agonizing grief, clutched the earth [away] by handfuls . . . she needed but one glance to assure her it was all too true. Then passive and quiet beneath the stern reality of this crushing sorrow she came back to the room in our house." (pg 176)

The entirety of the entry paints such a contrasting image of a young woman so dynamic and passionate in her search that she actually convinced people to help her open a days-old mass grave to search for her husband becomes, upon seeing the horrid proof of his death, so hollowed out by the reality that she is rendered "passive and quiet."

There are many gripping and evocative, and occasionly sweetly tender, letters recorded in the book ~ and the language of the period is more elegant, more poetic than that in common use today.

Eric S. said...

Kel' that sounds like a good book. I do like the "sound" of the language from the old days. There is so much style and finesse in it.

soulMerlin said...

I used to have really good handwriting - but now I only use a pen for taking notes about the show, when I'm sitting and watching it in the auditorium.

Writing with a pen and nib is so much more satisfying than with a ballpoint - I still am tempted to buy a really good fountain pen when I see them, but I know I will not use it much now.

My ex-wife still writes letters to me and I think it very strange that I can type away all night on whatever blog or story I am involved in and yet resist writing a letter.

What ever happened to pen-pals? Did they all turn into Bloggers?

I also enjoyed your trip to Las Vegas. When I was in the States last year, my boss invited me to that oasis in the desert, but I declined, as I wanted a peaceful weekend on my own. Maybe I should have gone.


ps: how do you get your jeans off?



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