There was recently a very interesting, beautifully written article that appeared in the L.A. Times by Simon Garfield, who is lamenting the lost art of writing love letters. There have been so many such articles by people who see the world of instant messaging, email and texting as the end of letter writing. Don’t jump ship just because people are saying it is a dying art. It isn’t.
Yes, we mail fewer letters than ever (thousands of those we do not send any more are bill payments), and it is sadly true that some post offices are closing. But emails and texting often replace phone calls, not letter writing. You must realize that the telephone itself was a real threat to letter writing and the instrument of fewer letters, but certainly not the end of letters. Suddenly we had the most immediate communication ever with a simple dial of a number. We called each other to chat, catch up, and deliver news, but we still wrote letters when we wanted to spill out what was in our hearts. Or when we wanted to put our feelings on paper and put our name to it. Or when we wanted to make a lasting reviewable point because no one can re-read a phone call. We still do that.
Letter writing, in my opinion, is not a lost art, not a dying art. It is, as they say in the stock market world, self-correcting. It is simply an art left in fewer hands. That is, it is an actual art rather than communication by default. Some of you may remember when television came out there was a panic that it was the end of the movie theater. Not so. Movies were more well attended than ever. When the VCRs came out, new panic that it was the end of the movie theater. Again, not so. When music was downloadable it seemed the end of the the music industry. Not so. Ask Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Wiz Khalifa, Yoyo Ma, Gil Shahamor anyone of hundreds of others who are playing to packed theaters.
Anyhoo, back to letter writing. Here is a thought. How about a new year’s resolution to write one letter a month; a real letter in your own handwriting on good stationery? To anyone in your life who has done something nice for you, to anyone with whom you would like to share a wonderful memory, to anyone you want to re-invite into your life (yeh, yeh, once you have found them on Facebook).
If you go out and buy the stationery right away and stock up on some beautiful stamps, this will be one of the easiest resolutions to keep. Just twelve a year. Okay, you might want to start with one every two months. Just six a year. Fair enough. While you are at it, write one to yourself with a huge written pat on the back for having stuck to your letter writing resolution. You can’t lose. Whenever you have a positive thought about someone, give voice to it. Just jot it down, stamp and mail it and see how happy you make someone. See how happy you make yourself.