The Art of Letter Writing

Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude
with good company. 

~Lord Byron

And none will hear the postman’s knock
Without a quickening of the heart 
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?
~W.H. Auden

Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls;
for thus friends absent speak. 

~John Donne

I often ask myself why I want to share what I write and why I have such a need to communicate what I think, experience and feel. Why is it so important to be heard and understood? I think, for myself and for others, it’s not a matter of vanity or some sort of self-gratification, but a way of living life.  When I don’t give my words to someone their life is over too soon – the words are dead as soon as they hit the page. My words are what I am, so naturally I want them to live.

People have communicated in so many different ways since the earliest of times first through art and symbols – as found in Neolithic cave paintings –  and in music, which was so often the basis of ritual and religion.  Stories and history were passed down through the oral tradition and then with the written word. From cuneiform script and hieroglyphs to pen, printing press and computers we have progressed through the ages.  We have come a long way. Now we communicate electronically in quick, barely there sentences and often those sentences are incomplete. Even words aren’t spelled out completely these days.

I often think about the ways we communicate now. Being an introvert, I have a difficult time meeting new people and making friends. The friends I do have are few and very important to me. I tend to need them more than they need me and that causes a great loneliness.  I wish I had lived in an earlier time, when letter writing was one of the main forms of communication – no texting or tweeting or instant messaging – just long, deep sentences, rich paragraphs, meaningful words. Life was shorter then, but time was longer. Life was slower. People took time to contemplate and describe their experiences, their impressions, their feelings.  They took time with their words and penned them carefully. It was a form of art.

Art is creativity. I spend a lot of time in my inner world and the need to get outside of that and create and express things is very strong. I’ve experimented with different ways of doing this – painting, dancing, crafting, music – but writing is what I do best. I guess my motto could be: If you want to know me, read me.

Today’s brief way of communicating is unfulfilling to me. I long for someone with whom to have deep conversations with – someone to take me back to a more leisurely time and give me the opportunity to practice my art and my life. I often wonder what will become of us all if we forget how to talk?

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15 Responses to The Art of Letter Writing

  1. Not so good at letter writing unfortunately, but good at deep conversations. I do have a dear sweet Aunt, who loves to write letters. Certain skills are being lost in our modern times, but hopefully enough people will find importance in carrying on traditions for future generations.

  2. magsx2 says:

    Hi,
    I used to look forward to receiving letters from friends, and I also enjoyed writing back to them as well, of course now it is all done through e-mail which of course is quicker, but I do miss getting the letters. Now all that usually comes in the mail are bills, no longer do I look forward to the postman arriving. I still get post cards every now and then when friends are on holidays, which is great. :)

    • Funny thing… my daughter (8 yrs. old) just received a letter in the mail today from one of her little friends! Come to think of it, she was asking me for a stamp yesterday… there is hope!
      E-mails are nice, too. I think it’s not so much the form or method, but the content. I suppose an internet server could be considered a sort of postman if you want to look at it that way. :)

  3. I love the quotes you used, and I share the same feelings about writing. When I was little my wonderful grandmother was my best pen pal, and when I got married, my husband’s grandmother became a beloved pen pal, too. I miss their letters so much!

    Something is lost when we communicate by email, but the internet has also helped us introverts, too, to interact with interesting people we would otherwise have never met. I think blogging may be the new way of “combining solitude with good company.” :)

    • I’m so grateful for the internet and it certainly is a blessing for introverts and others who may feel isolated in rural areas. Whatever did we do without it? (Oh, yeah! We wrote letters!) I agree with you that blogging is a new way of combining solitude with good company. It’s such a joy to meet so many interesting people here on wordpress.

  4. Jamie Dedes says:

    Bravo! You are ablsolutely right. The Internet is a huge blessing, but it has it’s place and so do handwritten communications, telephone calls, visits over coffee.

    Blog on … ;-)

  5. Why not an essayist, in letter form?..You may fictionalize the person to whom you are writing or you may want to use actual persons, past or present.. Example..

    President Kennedy, Nov. 20, 1963
    The White House,
    Washington, D.C.

    My dearest, Mr. Kennedy it is with the utmost urgency that I relate to you, a dream, no, not a dream, but rather a vision. A vision of such clarity, unlike any known before to me, of a scene of great anguish and heartache, that will leave a nation to weep. I so strongly beseech thee, heed these words my president..In Dallas, awaits the Devil himself…

    Or something like that, or not..Just a suggestion you can use it as an exercise..

  6. Jamie Dedes says:

    So pleased you accepted the Sunshine award and look forward to you post.

    Happy days ….
    Jamie

  7. Jeannie says:

    I find my communication to be mostly online too…and I’m rather sad for it in a way because there is nothing like a real letter in the mailbox! All to often, our notes online are short, sweet and to the point. I rarely get to have a good talk with anyone. Maybe that’s why I blog? I have things to say! Hello, is anybody out there? LOL

    Nice post!

    • My husband just told me this interesting statistic that he read somewhere – 57% of people talk to others online more than they do in real life. So we’re not the only ones!

      And, yes, I think that’s one of the reasons we blog. :)

  8. This is a lovely post. Very valuable too. I did a post on the Handwritten Note:

    http://mindfuldrawing.com/2012/03/20/civilized-communication/

    I hope we all wean a bit more from email and start writing each other again.

    Paula

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