Friday, January 25, 2013

A Year of Writing one Letter a Week

Why letters?  Why snail mail and not an email or phone call?

I love snail mail!  I love going to the mailbox and seeing what is inside.  If you take time to write a letter and send it in the mail it must mean something right?  Time spent with pen or pencil in hand.  Time picking out the writing material, finding an envelope, licking (o.k. who am I kidding- sticking a stamp) addressing and putting that red flag on your box or driving to post office and mailing it- Yep that means something.

I'm a lover of classical things.  I love vintage clothes, but am too cheap to purchase the nice kind of vintage stuff and too inpatient to dig through goodwill stores or second hand stores looking for that rare find.  I love vintage fabric- one of these days I'm going to make myself a quilt using only retro fat quarters to piece together a "happy" quilt.  O.k. back to topic at hand- letters.

Letter writing is something that can be personal, professional, political and proper etiquette.  I had put as one of my goals of 2013 to write a letter each week.  I'm doing good so far.  I've fallen onto reading about the formality of writing letters and also about other's letters in the process.

I'm not always the most succinct person- big surprise.  I know with the nickname "chattynatty" that does not yell "succinctness".  So letter writing allows me to enjoy creative writing while communicating at the same time and for the most part if you ramble on and on in a letter and write (physically) as hard as I do your hand will let you know enough has been written and start to cramp and send a message to your brain saying "enough already".  So on my letter writing journey I'll share with you words of wisdom I've found about writing letters.

Nina Sankovitch (Tolstoy and Purple Chair- author) wrote in her blog the following...

" Letters cover everything from love to war, finances to religion, child rearing to grave site planning.  Letters offer connection between writer and reader.  Letters are a unique window into human experience.  And letters, while not 'dead' are most definitely an endangered species... The conclusion at which I've arrived after my year of reading letters and a lifetime of reading and writing letters is that the writing and sending of a letter is an incredibly brave and beautiful act."

First off I wish I could write that beautifully!  There are two parts I really, really like above... " letters offer connection between writer and reader... writing and sending of a letter is an incredibly brave and beautiful act."   Maybe I want to think that I'm being brave and beautiful in this year of writing letters.

P.S. (no pun intended) Fall 2013 Nina has a book about letters coming out that "explores the beauty and value of  letter writing". You can bet I'll be getting that one as it comes off the shelf. 

A book I read this past month " For the Love of Letters: A 21st-Century Guide to the Art of Letter Writing" by Samara O'Shea was insightful from the start.  In her introduction (which she has two within this book- Part 1 and Part 2) she wrote in Part 1:
" And letters eventually equaled evidence.  Evidence that they existed.  That they breathed.  That they had good insights and had days.  That they loved.  That they suffered.  That they longed.  That they had moments of artificial insanity.  That they were selfish.  And that sometimes, they were satisfied.  We must make arrangements for our descendants to discover us in such a candid way."  (Part 1- Yes there is still a need for letters). 

She goes onto write some other great ideas about letter writing and dissected different types of letters and communication that can be done in letters.  One of my favorite lines was at the very beginning... "One of the lesser known benefits of letter writing is how well you can get to know yourself in the process" (pg 29). 

Letter writing can be hard and give you opportunity to deal with emotions, memories and feelings you haven't been able to digest or be honest about.  Samara O'Shea quoted James Earl Jones in her book
"One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can't utter" (pg 95).

Some of the hardest letters I find to write are apology and sympathy letters- especially sympathy letters.  For someone who is "chatty" loss of a loved one shuts me up, makes me introverted, makes me stumble at loss for words.  Samara agrees when writing " In both apology and sympathy letters you have the daunting task of looking for words that bandage a wound" (pg 95).  I thought this description was perfect.

Apologizing is no easy feat either.  You want the apology to come across as genuine and not forced or fake (or at least that's my goal in apology letters- I'm not a devious person).  Samara agrees too, but descries my thoughts much more accurately and beautifully as I could when writing.
"Apologizing is a form of art.  A masterpiece of an apology can completely alter the state of a relationship." (pg 96).

I'm hoping I don't have to write many apology or sympathy letters in my year of writing a "letter a week".  But if I do I know I will write from my heart and only send it if it is genuine. 

I'm going to keep a log of all the recipients of my year of "a letter a week"  and then share at the end of this year the recipients and any comments on the letter content, etc for that week.  I'm not going to make any rules other than it has to be hand written and be sent via snail mail.  Hopefully the arrival of some of these letters will come as a surprise and bring a little smile to the recipient's day. 

In look for letter writing info I came upon the following letter blog/Internet sites.  If you are interested in letter writing or reading I'd suggest these:

-Samara's site  (if you have any time at all go to "Fist Pump Friday posts" love this- my hubby thought this blog was a little too much- he didn't get the purpose, so if you are a "black n white" person like he is you might not enjoy this one
- (go to the Letters link - books, her views, etc)
- (this is an awesome idea and I totally love the "community power" within this initiative- I even think it is a great idea for kids/teens, etc. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow. what a great idea! This is something I'd like to establish with my daughter. Getting her to even write thank you notes is difficult, but if we got into the practice of writing (weekly, monthly, just often) it might make that easier. Thanks for the idea