The Sunny Lifestyle of a Home Journalist

Monday, September 28, 2015

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Lost Art: Letters

Some trends are dead. People just don’t do them anymore, because we have something newer and faster now. That’s a little sad. A lot of elements of the past have been lost just because there’s an easier way now. 

It’s weird to think that’s still happening now. In fifty years, all the cars might drive themselves. We’ll be old Grannys saying “I used to know how to drive a car once.” I don’t think that’s too unrealistic, actually.

But the old-fashioned approach is better sometimes. No one will argue that horse-drawn carriages are more romantic than cars. No one will argue that home cooked food is better than frozen. And no one will argue that receiving a letter in the mail is more touching than receiving a text any day.

So, from time to time, I’m going to blog about Lost Arts (things that aren’t really a thing these days, but should at least be given a little more attention).

Today’s Lost Art is letters- all different types- hand-written, mailed, thank you notes, invitations, RSVP's, cards, etc.

Here are the downsides:
-They’re slow. Hence the name “snail-mail.” At the fastest, if your recipient is local, it’ll be a whole day. At the slowest, a few weeks.
-They also take time to write.
-They're inconvenient.
-They kill trees.
-And is your friend really worth that .49 you'll pay for a stamp?

Here are the upsides, or the reasons why letters are important and shouldn’t go out with last year’s fashion trends:

(Or, just get a boyfriend who lives more than 1,000 miles away and you’ll learn them all on your own like I did.)

-They make days. I try to find every excuse to mail letters or even send little cards to people I’m thinking about. It’s something different than sending a text or email, and everyone loves it. Probably because mail these days rarely consists of anything fun- just bills and ads. But when there’s a bright envelope peeking out from all that junk, the day just gets better.

-It’s an excuse to be creative. If you’re lovers of the written word like me, you probably have ten different varieties of stationery stacked inside your desk, some of which you haven’t even opened. But it’s so fun to actually put them to use along with your favorite pen and maybe a few stickers, even if you just write a few sentences. And if you happen to have an insanely talented artist and calligrapher for a little sister like me, just hand her a blank card, ask her to make an intricate design and you’re on your way. (I did that last week and the person who received the card said they didn’t even realize it was homemade. But I’ll stop bragging about Audry. She’ll have to pay me if she wants any more shout-outs.)

-They can be kept forever. An email would just get lost in the sea of archives, possibly deleted years down the road when you forget it exists. Letters or notes can be stored and read over and over again.

-You think through your words more, therefore they become more meaningful. Texts are so quick and convenient, so meaning is misinterpreted easily, or dumbed down, no matter how many emojis you use. Letters show you were willing to put more effort into what you had to say. (And if you mail them, you even sacrificed .49 whole cents too.) They automatically mean more.

-It’s a surprise. Weirdly enough, sometimes I even write letters to members of my family. Obviously I wouldn’t mail those. But, instead of just handing them out, I put them in spots where I know they’ll be found. Then when they see that cute envelope on their nightstand or on the seat of their car before they head to work, they’ll be pleasantly surprised.

-Sometimes, it just makes sense. When you don’t quite know how to say something to someone, a letter might be the answer. It’s awkward to talk about some things in person, and usually more awkward over some form of technology. And some people are just terrible at verbally expressing things (not me though). Putting your heart into a letter will be easier and so much more heartfelt.
So I’m not saying we should all throw away our phones and computers and write letters as our only means of communication. Obviously, there are instances where texting and emailing and social-media-ing work out way better. I’m just saying letters shouldn’t be something we never write anymore. For the reasons above, they’re just too awesome for that. In fact, we should write them more. The upsides definitely outweigh the downsides here.

Check out this 1961 book on writing letters I found at an old bookstore this summer. It starts out instructing on how to get your typewriter set up with the ribbon and all. How times have changed (deep sigh).
Next Lost Art up: Hope Chests. 

How have letters impacted your life? What do you think makes them so special?


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