The classic epistolary novel Clarissa by Samuel Richardson might be a fun way to get a feel for the letters written in the 18th century, arguably the golden age of letters. He also wrote a book of example letters that was popular at the time, useful for picking the appropriate form or tone for a certain situation.
Some people still write letters in the old-fashioned way in Japan, which is to always remark on something seasonal at the start of the letter, even if you are writing a short thank you or a note to ask a favor, not just long sprawling all-encompassing missives. You always have a line about something in the season, it`s just the way it`s done.
I come from (and moved very far away from) a family with a lot of issues, and I write a lot of emails and letters, sometimes to people with whom I`m not entirely comfortable. I always follow the Japanese rule, because my life is also pretty well tied to the seasons and the land, so it`s only natural, plus it fills the space when you`re not sure what to say. It also provides a good chance to describe something and then ask a question of the person I`m writing to. Could be something simple like what color flowers are blooming in the trees in their area in spring, or something involving memory, shared experience, or even more philosophical and abstract.
I've had a pen pal going on 3 years now, we've both been busy and so haven't written as often as usual but typically we exchange about a letter a month. He lives in the UK so takes about a week to travel to and fro. I also am getting back into sending friends actual letters or cards for birthdays and sometimes if I'm just thinking of someone I'll send them a hand written note.
You have inspired me! I am going to write some letters to some of my distant loved ones.
When I was a kid and teenager, long distance phone calls were expensive and receiving one usually meant someone had died.
When I left home, my dad made it clear that it was my duty to write my mom at least once a week to let her know how I was doing. I didn't for a the first few weeks and he wrote me a letter that left me shamed and anxious to repent and write my mom. Writing letters would help me review the last week or two and evaluate my life. Often there were cool, terrifying, or just weird and noteworthy things that I would remember to report that otherwise I would have simply forgotten about. (I am not normally a real introspective guy. I'm usually focused on the goal at hand and miss important things.)
Many moons ago, when Noah was a cabin boy and I was in boot camp, we lived or died at mail call. Those with girl friends or wives who wrote every day were looked on with envy. While boot camp was no harder physically than many jobs I'd had, it was mentally and emotionally rough. (It was supposed to be a very long stress test. The theory was, if you were going to crack, they wanted it to be in boot camp rather than in some situation where you would get a bunch of people killed. (Either that, or it was several weeks of hazing. I prefer to think of it as the former.) Our particular stress test, besides the requisite having garlic chewing men scream in your face and doing lots of pushups, involved hours of running and/or exercising in a cold rain or worse, just standing at attention as the cold wet soaked in. About 1/3 of us came down with pneumonia. After a bunch were checked into the hospital, we were told us that if any more went to the hospital they would hold the whole group back 4 weeks. Since all we wanted to do was get the hell out of there as quickly as possible, us sickies just toughed it out, hacking our lungs out as we ran, and the other guys took up what slack they could to keep us out of the hospital and able to keep up. It was rough. We had a bunch of suicide attempts, several were just stupid calls for help, but there were also several serious attempts. It was a saving grace in that depressing, miserable situation to get a letter from someone who loved you when the world around you seemed bent on breaking you. I read and reread any letters I received, sometimes a buddy would either read parts of his letter or we would swap and read each others letters. It was a rare sweet spot in a miserable situation. I got letters from a girlfriend (a couple of times a week) and my parents (about once a week) and even one or two from my grandma and my sister. That may be what got me through.
Nowadays I email or phone those I love who are distant pretty often, and we are actually probably better connected. A phone call is immediate. Even an email gets there almost immediately and can often be responded to in a few hours. Somehow though, it just doesn't give the thrill that a hand written letter does. I still have letters I received years ago, the phone calls and emails are long forgotten.
I have wanted to write more letters by hand for quite a while now. As a kid I use to write to friends, when your a kid it's really exciting to get something in the mail!! Because nothing is ever for you, just stuff addressed to your parents.
I occasionally will hand write something to send to people but it's usually birthday cards( I like to say a lot). I think the main things that hold me back are;
- not being organized and having supplies/stamps/cards/paper on hand. Then sending out an email or e-card at the last minute.
- not knowing if someone will be able to read my handwriting. I have RA in my hands and wrists so my handwriting is not very neat and clear. Also I prefer to write cursive, it's hard to know if someone can read cursive or not. Guess I need to start asking people and keep a list!
- Loving to include photographs with what I'm writing. Sending through email I can send as many as I like.
- Typing is faster! And I can then keep a copy for myself, this helps me to remember what I wrote about in earlier letters.
- it's "free". I already pay for internet and phone service.
The main reasons I want to start handwriting letters are;
- it's a beautiful art form. I think it adds beauty and richness to peoples lives.
- I love making handmade cards. I think a handmade, handwritten card means more to people and can be a keepsake if they want.
- I can add in neat little drawings or other art. Or even include a pressed flower, leaf or herb. Or leaf and bark rubbings.
- Rubber stamps! loved those as a kid. Fun stickers too.
- You can get really creative and use different papers, inks, colored envelopes, etc.
- it's a way to slow down and become more mindful. I'm really trying to find ways to slow down in my life and handwriting letters is a very grounding practice. A great time to sit down, slow your thoughts and focus on something that is slow paced rather than overstimulating.
While cleaning out an old house that had been in our family for generations we found many old letters. It was interesting to read them and hear about their everyday lives. A handful of the letters were written by one of my female relatives to her family. She lived here in the USA but was traveling around Europe. During her travels WW2 started and she was always keeping one step ahead of the war!
“No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.” Winston Churchill
The knights of nee want a shrubbery. And a tiny ad:
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