Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The lost art of letter writing

Remember when we used to write letters? And I don't mean the cover letter for a job application or the complaint letter to the newspaper. I mean a heartfelt letter to someone we haven't seen for a while or may never see again. Perhaps a love letter, or a breakup letter. A letter to a soldier with news from back home, or from a soldier with news from the front. A letter to a long lost aunt about an orphaned child.

There is a beauty to be found in a personal letter that cannot be found in today's email. I'll show you some examples of what I mean.

Example of a letter from a gentlemen to a lady confessing a change of sentiment:

Your note has opened my eyes to the fully and wrong of the course I have pursued of late. All night I have been pacing my floor, trying to decide what course it was my duty to pursue, and I have decided to answer you as frankly as you desire. I will not attempt to excuse myself, for I deserve your anger, but I will only say that I was myself deceived in my own feelings. When I asked you to marry me, I believed that we were congenial, and that I could make you happy. I was not rich, but had sufficient, as I thought, for comfort, and thinking you would be content with a moderate competency, I invited you to share mine. Closer intimacy has proved my error. Your extravagant wishes are utterly beyond my means, and your bitter and sarcastic remarks upon those of your friends who are not wealthy prove that you covet a life of luxury.

To be honest, growing up I rarely wrote letters. I never had a pen pal because I never went anywhere to find one. I walked to school with my friends and we'd talk along the way. I wrote a few letters though. One to my father whom I didn't see that often and I wanted to update him on what was happening in my life (he didn't have a phone). One  letter I wrote to him never got posted.  It was about getting my first novel published and my new house on the coast. and spoke of how I wished we weren't so estranged. Sadly, I never posted this letter. It held a lot more emotion than the letter I did post, which is perhaps why I never posted it. When it comes to letter writing, I'm very secretive. What if someone read it?

This is the language we use now:

Hey, just checking that you’re free on the weekend for a catch up. I’m thinking either dinner or morning tea. Haven’t seen you for ages and I’ve got good news to share. Hope you can make it. Let me know. Love you and take care. Bye.

There is a vast difference between the tone and language of the two examples. Is it because technology provides us with the notion that 140 characters is all we are allowed to use to express ourselves? Or has our diamond (the verbose  and colourful language we used to partake in) been honed down so much that is resembles a pebble (catchya, LOL, BTW)?

It makes me wonder if we're happier now that the emotion is stripped out of the message. I used to panic that people would read my deepest thoughts and feelings. And judge me. Are we so afraid of people passing our letters around to others and mocking us? Are we so worried that these letters will be used as examples in future posts?

Are we missing out on connecting with our friends by leaving out the heartfelt emotion, whether it is anger or hurt or love? Are we denying our friends the opportunity to sit under a sunny sky and read a letter from afar? There are so many questions and nobody I can write to. in order to express my confusion, not like in the old days where I could have asked a long lost aunt.

We no longer talk. We text. So it's not the writing form of communication that we're revolting against. Perhaps it's the emotion. So what happened to the letter writing? And will it ever make a comeback? Perhaps they have been replaced with novels. I know there is no shortage of people wanting to share a story.

What was the last letter you ever wrote and how did you write it to? I'd love to hear from you. Please leave a comment.


About the author:

Not one to accept being put into a box, D L Richardson writes speculative fiction for anyone who likes a twist in their tale. She now has six books published and is working on an apocalyptic series and a dystopian novel.



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