Write A Letter

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Yesterday I got a letter. Not in my inbox – my mailbox, the one at the end of the driveway that fills daily with catalogs and heaps of ads that end up in the recycle bin. The letter was a thank you note from a dear friend who had stayed overnight on her way through town on business. I recognized her handwriting on the outside of the envelope and opened it immediately, eager to spend a moment with my friend on the page.

I don’t write letters anymore, except thank you notes. Email has replaced them, and I’m not sure that’s a positive development. It is convenient, and quicker. I appreciate that, and know how invaluable it is for me now. In the 80’s, my husband and I wrote hundreds of letters to each other during a two-year, long-distance stint early in our relationship. I remember how I felt receiving and reading his letters, and the things we learned about one another from our writing.

Hannah Brencher’s TED talk on letter writing moved me. She is the same age as my daughter, and a few things she said made me feel sad for their generation. Most of them will never receive a letter written by hand, on paper, thoughtfully composed in earnest. Brencher defines letter writing as an art form, and is hopeful that it will not disappear. Her initiative, More Love Letters, might keep it alive. Check out her site and read poignant requests from friends who know that some thoughtful words of support might make a difference for someone they love. You can pen a letter and drop it in the mail for them.

John Steinbeck began each day with correspondence. He wrote a letter to his friend and editor as a way of “getting my mental arm in shape to pitch a good game.” It was a warm-up for him. In Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters, we catch a personal and engaging glimpse of the Nobel Prize winning novelist. Through his letters, we receive the gift of his reflections. And letter writing provided a gift for himself as well: a space in which to crack his writing knuckles and get out of his own way. Any activity that might do that for me would be noteworthy.

Carolyn and Leah

Writing Exercise: Write a letter to fulfill one of the requests on the More Love Letters website. There is also a box at most local Post Offices for our soldiers abroad. They enjoy receiving an anonymous note about life at home.

11 comments on “Write A Letter

  1. Hi Carolyn! I love that you and your husband wrote hundred’s of letters to each other when you were dating in the 80’s. You must build a love story around them one day! Hope all is well, Roberta

  2. A great reminder, and a wonderful insight.

    And why not? We warm up before physical activities, don’t we?

    But there is a more important aspect to Carolyn’s note: as important the act of composition is to the warming-up writer, receiving a letter on crisp bond is a significant gift of time and effort, a gift likely to be cherished in today’s 140 character world.


  3. Carolyn, I just read your comments about writing a letter, and I recently wrote 3 letters to young girls (2 15 year olds, one 8 year old) as part of a Girl Rising initiative at work. I thought that they might understand that they were getting a part of me if I wrote the letter by hand as opposed to an email. All 3 were thrilled, and shared the rarity of receiving a letter in the mail. I agree that a letter is a treasure that you can enjoy long after an email has hit the delete can, and even the penmanship tells a story (a very sloppy one in my case).

    • Hi Nancy! So great that you’ve been part of the Girls Rising initiative, and I love that the girls loved your letters so much. I’m not surprised 😀

  4. Thanks, Nancy! It is delightful to hear about your letter writing, and its rave reviews from the lucky recipients. I wrote two letters myself this week and enjoyed it so much. Hooray for snail mail,

  5. A subject near and dear to my heart. I still keep beautifully hand-crafted letters written by my parents and grandparents; and I strive to write personal notes often. You are correct – we do have to push ourselves to take pen to hand in this day and age!

  6. I loved this! I miss the thrill of getting a handwritten letter in the mail, especially love letters. I remember reading and re-reading and re-reading them over and over! I remember the struggle at times to decipher the chicken scratch handwriting, but most of all thinking about the time spent into every word on each page.

  7. I miss it as well! My grandmother’s handwriting was especially challenging to read, but I never complained because her words were so inspiring and wise. I wish I had saved them…

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