The lost art of letter writing
A long time ago people wrote letters. We would sit at our desk or under a tree or at the kitchen table and write to someone far away.
There was no instant gratification. The letter would take days to arrive and if the person wrote back it would take more time to receive.
I thought about this a few days ago while watching an old movie. It was a great scene with Betty Davis sitting near an open window writing to her lover away at war.
My daughter entered the room and took notice. After soaking in the scene she left, shaking her head and commenting on Ms. Davis’s wasted effort and time.
Today’s youth – Love ‘em/hate ‘em.
My First Letter
I remember the first person I ever wrote. Living in a small town I never wrote to anyone. Everyone I knew lived a mile away. But on a 4th of July a few weeks shy of my 13th birthday I met two sisters visiting from Alaska.
The oldest was busy flirting with the local boys but the youngest one, she too was about to turn thirteen, decided to flirt with me.
We spent the summer laughing and playing and doing with twelve year old’s do. At the end of the summer she flew home and wrote me a letter. Two weeks later she wrote me again asking why I hadn’t written back.
I can still remember my first attempt. I didn’t know what to say or how to craft an idea or take something mundane and turn it into a thrill of a lifetime.
To her credit she was incredibly patient. She taught me how to tell a story. To her every day was an adventure and there was no reason why mine shouldn’t be one too. It didn’t take long before I was describing an outing to the local grocery store and turning it into an epic adventure.
Listening and Learning
Looking at it now, I was learning my craft. I was tossing in a hero, me of course, an antagonist or two and finally the heroic ending.
Our letter writing faded like all things do but lucky for me I met someone else years later. She too was moving away and of all places….Alaska!!
What is it with me and Alaska girls?
By then I understood the craft. Letter writing was much more than a simple hello and a brief description of life on the farm. It was an epic. It was an adventure. It was entertainment.
By then I was the teacher instead of the student. I could describe an average day of stepping into a mud puddle and create similarities to Moby Dick.
I was able to take sensitive subjects and slowly build around them until the appropriate time to discuss it. Looking back I credit my twelve year old Alaskan friend for teaching me these wonderful tools
Letters and Novels
I need to credit both my Alaska friends for pushing me in the right direction. Because of them I took creative writing classes, wrote short stories and was drawn to those who did.
I don’t worry about the art of letter writing being lost. People have a way of returning to the past and making it new again. Sometimes we get bored of the present and curious of the past. We’re funny that way.
Don’t get me wrong: I love Twitter, Facebook has its place and texting makes life so much easier but letter writing is an art that requires effort and practice and talent. Sometimes you and I need that.
Especially if we’re writing a novel.
Where did they go
Now that I’ve written this piece I wonder where my Alaska friends are. If I find them I’m tempted to dig up the past and write them a letter. I can only imagine my daughters expression if she saw paper, an envelope and a stamp on the kitchen table.
Oh so tempting.
Let’s play a game, you and I. Think of someone in your past who you’ve been meaning to contact and write them a letter. Think of the satisfaction you’ll receive with pen to paper and stamp to envelope.
But most of all imagine how you’ll feel when they respond.
Happy Friday Everyone!