Reviving the (nearly) Lost Art of Writing Letters

I’ve been promising myself (and my mother) for several years that I would start writing letters.  One would think my raging addiction to stationery and note cards would automatically have me using them, but, well, other than thank you notes, not so much.

I have kept a journal for decades and poured all my thoughts and feelings into it (an average of 70 pages a month). But I realized that, while my journals hold all the evidence of how much I care for friends and family, they aren’t going to share. That’s on me.

So this year is the year of letters. And though I’ve written about two dozen at this point, I’ve already learned a few interesting things:

  • Writing letters satisfies the same need/urge as writing in a journal. In fact, I’m writing much less in the journal as I’m taking that drive into letters.
  • People really do appreciate receiving them. Whether it’s a happy break from bills and “current resident” mail or the fact that someone took the time and spent the money on a stamp, or both, letters have been met with surprised pleasure.
  • Technology dies hard. I write and receive Skype or email in return, but I told everyone at the outset there was no pressure to write me back. I am particularly amused by the older generation, for whom letters were standard, but now Skype me a response.
  • The younger generation struggles with reading cursive handwriting. Some schools are even dropping penmanship from their curriculum, which gets me on my soap box every time the subject comes up. I won’t print for them, though. It’s a skill we’ll need for several generations, yet. I don’t want to think of a world in which people no longer write by hand.
  • I’ve learned that I can write from my heart, just as I do in my journal, and let people get to know me in a way I haven’t for most of my adult life. A letter is a gift of oneself. It’s a tangible bit of caring that can be held in the hand instead of living in a device.

Letter-writing really is becoming a lost art. I certainly can’t revive it on my own, but perhaps my efforts will cause a few ripples in the people I write to and keep it alive a little longer. I’ll let you know how the year of letters is progressing as the year goes on, but today I am hopeful that I have established a new habit and that I will be able to share my inner self with the people I care about in ways that journals don’t allow.

Have you felt the same urge? Have you wanted to write letters or do you already? We’re writers here, so I imagine more of us write them than the general population. If we don’t write them, who will?

What do you think will happen if personal correspondence moves entirely to electronic means? Will our great-grandchildren read about letters in history class?

What is your reaction when you receive a personal letter in the mail?


Humble Pie and the Return to Writing

IMG_6923I’ll just come right out and say I’m happy to see the back end of 2015. Here’s to a good 2016!

So, you know my often expressed views that discipline and routine are what get words on the page? Let’s just say I now have a deep compassion and more insight for writers who struggle with both. With 30+ years of experience, I never thought it would happen to me, but humble pie is good for the soul, right? Or is that digestion…

I’ve thought about hiding the near collapse of my writing life, but it wouldn’t be right. We’ve always been honest with you and won’t change now. Besides, if my recent lessons and experience can help even one person, I’ll be glad I swallowed my pride instead of putting on a mask.

Though it’s been a busy, disruptive year, the primary way I spent my free time was indulging in voracious research, some of which you’ll soon see. There’s an overview series on the elements of a crime scene coming up as well as a series on how the dead can speak to investigators through their remains (don’t worry, I’ll give warnings before the squeamish bits). Other upcoming posts deal with elements of romance (a touch of which belongs in every genre), suspense, and how to get your characters to talk to you.

And that’s just me. Michelle, Amanda, Chris, and I will be posting on a different schedule this year, but are working to bring you interesting and useful information. Mostly, we’re just happy to be back. We’ve missed you!