Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Lost Art Of Writing...

Don't you just love getting little handwritten notes that arrive in the mail, in the writer's own handwriting? I sure do. Does anyone remember when it was de rigueur to send handwritten thank you notes? It was a lovely custom, and I'm so glad to see that some people still do it. Today I received a little thank you card from a certain well-mannered young lady, and the nicest thing about it was reading the message in her own handwriting.  It was wonderful.  Unfortunately, with emails, texting, instant messaging, Facebook, Twitter and all the other electronic messaging, the wonderful art of letter writing has all but disappeared.

"A person who can write a long letter with ease, cannot write ill."  ~ Jane Austen

It has never been my habit to collect things -- I am the opposite of a hoarder -- but I have a dresser drawer full of handwritten notes that people have sent me, some of them from 30 years ago, including one from my father that is still rather special.  When I was a little girl, I had a pen pal in England, and I was always excited to receive a letter from my friend across the Atlantic Ocean.  I still remember her address.  I wonder what would happen if I were to send a letter there today.

"A letter always seemed to me like immortality because it is the mind alone without corporeal friend." ~Emily Dickinson

I always wanted to be one of those elegant women who had a beautiful writing desk, and monogrammed stationery, like Jacqueline Kennedy and her famous powder blue embossed letterhead.  I would sit at my writing desk and write -- with a fountain pen, of course -- lovely handwritten notes and invitations to soirĂ©es at my home.  And of course, people would write me back, with their RSVPs.

"Then there's the joy of getting your desk clean, and knowing that all your letters are answered, and you can see the wood on it again." ~Lady Bird Johnson

In her 1922 publication "Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home" Emily Post wrote a whole chapter on Notes and Shorter Letters. "In writing notes or letters, as in all other forms of social observance, the highest achievement is in giving the appearance of simplicity, naturalness and force."

"There must be millions of people all over the world who never get any love letters... I could be their leader." ~Charlie Brown

I'm going to keep my little note out where I can see it for a few days, and then I will put it with my collection of other special handwritten notes.  Have you written anyone a note today?

30 comments:

lakeviewer said...

Some habits are worth keeping. And letter/note writing is worth it. Too bad many of us have lost the habit.

Marcos Vinicius Gomes said...

I like handwriting, but some times I think my letter is so horrible...

Sam Liu said...

I love receiving handwritten letters and I am a keen letter writer myself. But you're right, the art of letter writing is not very popular nowadays. I find electronic communication very convenient, but I think that handwritten notes are far more personal, more charming. I hope that, in the future, there will be those who can still appreciate this.

Firefly said...

A good idea I think. If only people would make time in their lives to do such things. As for me, if it wasn't for blogging I would probably have forgotten how to spell.

Elise said...

You should send a letter to England!! You never know what adventure will ensue or what kind of magical friendship you may make!! It might be '84 Charing Cross Road' kind of wonderful!! And I really loved this post. I still write handwritten notes and letters. I think electronic communication is great for the daily grind but nothing beats a handwritten note for an instant happiness boost!!

Alissa said...

When I went for training for my sales job a few years ago, one of the tips they gave us was to write handwritten thank yous to the customers we visit, and I always do.

Linda said...

I send hand painted cards with notes in them for special occasions. Every one appreciates them.

DJan said...

You got me. I've stopped writing anything much, but when I was younger I kept a journal and loved the feeling of writing in longhand. The other day I tried to write a note to my aunt (she doesn't have a computer) and found it really difficult, as I am out of practice. I too have a drawer full of mementos from the past, little notes from some who are now long gone.

Katy said...

My mother and I write each other for all sorts of holidays and special occations. I just got a note from her because this week is Children's literature week. My daughter thinks we are crazy because we live less than five miles apart and see each other regularly, but I still think its fun.

The Bug said...

Dr. M's mother is in a nursing home & we've gotten into the habit each week of sending her a note with some of our pictures for the week. I'm trying to learn to be succint - & legible!

Blue Ridge Mountains said...

I belong to a group of international quilters who exchange signature patches (siggy patches). Along with the patch always comes a letter about the person. Some are so special I often reply and have formed some delightful pen pals. It is such a pleasure when I find one of these soft envelopes in my mailbox.

Laurie said...

My vocal coach is the greatest note writer. I am always giving her book recommendations, and I always receive a lovely note in the mail telling me what she loved about the latest book. This even though I see her every week. Most of my writing, unfortunately, is done via computer. Seems my mind works faster than my hand can write...but I can keep up if I'm typing. I do send handwritten holiday letters to a few of my mother's close friends that I have known since childhood. But I type them first, then copy them...oy...

Amy said...

Oh, synchronicity, Jo! On my "to do" list is a thank you note to my friend in San Francisco who put me up for a few nights for our high school reunion this past weekend. I have shoe boxes filled with letters, at least up until the late 80's when email began. I love to save postcards, notes, and, let's face it, they really don't take up that much space!

I love the illustration of the young girl, and, yes, wouldn't it be delightful to have a writing desk? Personally I agree with Emily's take on note writing and I try to apply it to blog writing as well.

Whitney Lee said...

I'm not so good at letter writing anymore but am big on cards. I give them often and typically fill up the blank side with a long winded message. So that's sort of like writing notes, right?

I have kept many cards and letters of my own, neatly tucked away in a box. They bring me such joy.

Single and Sane said...

Um, guilty as charged. I have the best of intentions, but I rarely get around to writing those notes.

I must do better. I must do better. I must do better.

Sigh.

PinkPanthress said...

I used to like handwritten notes and letters, but these days everything is being send to me in e-mails, so I stopped using snail-mail, too.

I think it is a sad change, that people do not do that anymore. :/

P.S.: When writing letters by hand I would write on paper which I beforehand prepared, in hot water with each a teaspoon of tea & coffe to colour them naturally. Plus writing with a nice founatain pen, that has at least a(broad)3mm tip... :)

Jennifer D said...

Jo sometimes it feels like you are writing straight from MY heart!

I have an Aunt who sends me handwritten letters, cards and thank you notes. I adore them and I save them . It is because of her that I have tried very hard to do the same for others.

In this age of twitter and facebook I have a hard time getting people to respond by email.

"There must be millions of people all over the world who never get any love letters... I could be their leader." ~Charlie Brown

I have never heard that quote before... very bittersweet.

Brenda's Arizona said...

Handwritten notes are the best - to send AND to receive. Everytime I receive one, I feel like I have to write back and express my joy!

Looking forward to your future posts!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Not only has this truly lovely custom disappeared from our instant gratification world, but where the urge still exists it is usually met with professional greeting cards chosen for their sentiments which most nearly approximate what we want to say. (I always send blank cards so I can write something personal in them.)

I agree that handwritten letters are a lost art and we are poorer for its loss. (To say nothing of handwriting analysis, at which one need not be an expert to learn quite a bit about another through his/her script.)

Sadly, my own writing has become a decrepit, near-indecipherable chicken scratch from years of using keyboards. I do not think that anyone would treasure a letter from me for its "loveliness" if it were illegible.

TomCat said...

Don't you just love getting little handwritten notes that arrive in the mail, in the writer's own handwriting? I sure do.

Actually, I don't. I feel obligated to write back. My typing is bad enough, but my chicken scratch would make a doctor blush.

myletterstoemily said...

a lovely personal gift that should be
cultivated.

Cloudia said...

Lovely post.

Saw youngsters in a band from Vancouver playing in Waikiki to day and thought of you :)



Aloha from Hawaii


Comfort Spiral

Mia said...

I used to pass notes in class. Does that count?

Wolynski said...

Ooh, I love fountain pens.

I'm sure handwritten notes still exist for people who throw a lot of dinner parties etc.

But I'm glad all this new technology has arrived. It's so great to be in touch with people instantly - you lose something, but gain a lot in return. Can't fight progress.

PhilipH said...

'Texting' (awful word), email (almost as bad) are lazy forms of writing. Often, with texts, I cannot understand some of the "words" as they are 'text-speak' - which I don't speak!

A few days ago my old dance teacher, Patricia, sent me a photo of her Rough Collie, Lisa, whom Patricia misses. Lisa is in kennels until it's safe for her to rejoin her owner.

I scanned the photo and made up a sort of greetings card, with a message from Lisa the Collie, saying how much she missed Pat and so on. I added on part of the card that the messages were dictated by Lisa but written by me as Lisa cannot actually write yet.

Patricia phoned me to say how much she enjoyed reading the letter "from Lisa" and that Lisa could be home in about a week.

I enjoyed doing this. Pat enjoyed receiving it. You can't do this by text, by phone or by email (Pat doesn't 'do' the web!

Lay said...

I love letters, my husband & I write each other a little love note every morning. I write mine at night because he leaves before I am awake & he writes me in the morning before he leaves. I have shoe boxes full of letters he has written to me. Some from him are as simple as a quote on a piece of paper while others are pages long... We are still in our twenties (barely) & I think we are a rare breed. He keeps all of his in his night stand. I have a letter that my grandmother wrote to me for my 20th birthday.. That is my special letter that I will cherish always.

Lea Anne said...

I have had two pen pals for 20 years. We started writing as adults! One lives in Czech Republic. I have had 20 years of finding fun, personal letters in my mailbox. Now my Czech pal has suggested that we correspond by email. i agreed, but I'm not happy. We hardly ever communicate any more. My other pen pal... I managed to alienate her, so she no longer writes. It's a lonely time now with no letters in my mailbox.

Paula Slade said...

I did indeed write a note today and included it in a care package of coupons for our son in college. Handwritten notes are very special - I love to get them, send them and save them.

@ly said...

An old high school friend's mother of ours hand writes us a letter about six times a year and every time I see the envelope come in the mail...I get excited.

Linda S. Socha said...

This is a touching and lovely post. Thank you Jo
Linda