Handwriting Thank You

Thank you

After nearly 12 years, she still sends me lovely notes on paper. The kind of note I keep, stash with the other years of notes, memories, signatures, change of addresses, friendship.

In a time of electronic cards, emails, text message, and many things digital messaging, I suppose I’m still a fan of the occasional handwritten note, letter, card. In a conversation earlier this year with high school seniors, many of them also expressed their love for the handwritten, for pictures, notes, letters they can hold in their hand, smell, savor, read over and over again. They admitted to keeping “pen pals” and returning to writing letters and notes to send greetings and pictures just to have a different communication experience. These students surprised and inspired me as they expressed an appreciation for moments that are “low tech”, and “high touch”, less about instant, anonymous, casual communication, but more about deliberate, thoughtful, human-centered rituals in communication and writing. These students were looking for a balance.

Of course there are creatively endless ways to communicate using our technologies and devices, but there is something multi-sensory about the experience of writing a letter, a note, and then mailing it. It seems that same multi-sensory experience is ignited when mail arrives and it’s not a catalogue or a utility bill, but a handwritten note from a loved one or a friend, a note that traveled a long or short distance, with its own narrative of how it arrived.

What do you think? Do you occasionally hand write letters, notes, or cards, send them by mail, or slip them in the hand of a loved one or friend? Do you still receive handwritten notes?

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Categories: Inspiration, Writing

8 Comments on “Handwriting Thank You”

  1. December 8, 2013 at 11:11 pm #

    I do love getting legitimate letters and notes– though I sometimes have a hard time finding a friend who’ll write back.

    Once last year, I found an old ream of paper in our basement. The pages were lightly textured and coloured with a brownish-yellow, and BOY was I excited! I immediately took a couple sheets back upstairs to my desk. I spent a while drafting a letter to one of my friends whose address I happened to know, and searched for my loveliest black pen (which was actually a bit of a struggle… I had to settle for a rather mediocre one after auditioning four or five different candidates I found in various bins and baskets around the house). I took up a ruler, and penciled even margins onto the page, and started transcribing my letter (how I would have loved to have a quill and inkwell at that moment) pausing at one moment to think of my broken fountain pen that would have been perfect for the job. Once finished, I erased my margins, sealed the envelope, and wrote the destination on the back. Then, of course, I reopened the envelope and transferred the letter to a fresh one (Note to self: address the envelope BEFORE sealing it).

    Based on the size of that paragraph, you might guess the enjoyment I got out of the (hour or two) I spent writing that letter on such lovely paper!

    A few days later, my friend walked up to me in school and thanked me for the letter: “Yes, I love getting mail too! But yeah, I don’t really like WRITING letters; *shrugs* not really my thing!”

    Based on the size of that paragraph, you might guess at my utter disappointment…

    On an unrelated note, I’ll mention how much I love words that end in -re! Mediocre, Ocher, Nacre…

    • December 9, 2013 at 5:14 am #

      I have to say I am pleased to hear that you found the spirit to write your friend a letter on beautiful paper and with special ink. It’s unfortunate so many people don’t have the will (you have to make time) to pen a letter by hand. It is so personal, so sensory, so slow. Many have lost or never had that desire. It is remarkable that feeling of exchange to give (and receive) a letter. It is one of the few slow and sensory things we can do with our writing. Sure we have all of this technology and that works I suppose, but handwriting, beautiful paper, and the bleed of ink is a special experience and I suppose one you should share with someone you know will appreciate it enough to try writing you back. Maybe pick a pen pal from far (or not so far) away and see if you can keep it up. Or maybe write via technology and a few times a year pen something on paper, in handwriting.

      I collect hand-made papers from all over the world and I used to collect pens, wax, etc. I love making cards with layers of letters and texture, I’ve even had artist friends send me back my cards recreated with more layers and texture (ala mail art). Ray Johnson is one artist known for this but there are plenty others doing amazing things with words and paper.

      I still collect journals and sometimes write something beautiful just for my journal. You can try that as well, the journal is always listening. Check out my post on the Moleskine journal and see all the creative ideas folks are doing with their journals.

      It’s funny, several years ago my aunt gave me parchment paper and I saved it until just the right (and write) occasion. I finally ended up using the paper for several special occasion and invitation correspondences with family and friends.

      Don’t be discouraged, if you like letter writing keep it up, inspire a correspondence exchange with a few friends and see what happens. We are all busy but if you want to write a letter you have to *make* time. Who knows you just may find hidden in the mail a handwritten letter addressed to you one day.

  2. Gwen
    March 20, 2013 at 7:17 am #

    You raise a great point here. Lately, my kids have taken to sending electronic thank-you’s. It’s a sign of the times, and certainly the quickest, most convenient option, but there is nothing quite as special as a handwritten note.

    • March 20, 2013 at 7:39 am #

      Absolutely. We have to embrace the times kids are living in and allow them to express themselves creatively in these times of multimedia. That seems just fine. And I appreciate all the “writing” we can do in and through technology, it’s an exciting terrain.

      But I can’t help but think about those high school seniors I was talking to earlier this year, as they described their cravings for a more multi-sensory experience in writing and how they felt handwriting, sending and receiving letters and notes was one way of achieving that. It was surprising and refreshing to hear. Maybe that feeling was simply a sense of brief nostalgia as they tire of rapidly developing technology, but I do sense those kids were looking to strike a balance, looking for human-centered experiences among this vast technological landscape. We can and do have both don’t we?

      • Gwen
        March 20, 2013 at 7:46 am #

        Last night my 4th grader sat down to write a story in an unused spiral notebook she found while rummaging through our home office. I was thrilled she chose to actually “write” it, rather than hauling out the laptop. Thanks for another great post!

      • March 20, 2013 at 11:00 am #

        Love that! I think many (not all) of the youths growing up with all of this technology will have choices about how they communicate and write.

        I’m glad to see that 4th grader of yours knows she has choices and good for her for stepping outside of the norm and journaling (and by hand no less)!

        I’m glad to see many youths contemplating opportunities to engage both high and low tech, conceptual/abstract and hands-on experiences. We can write (by hand) or (by tech)! Balance is good!

  3. March 20, 2013 at 6:41 am #

    I am such a fan of the good-old-fashioned hand written letter! I think there’s nothing more rewarding than putting pen to paper. I loved your post! And your blog… really gorgeous. Do visit mine (i speak about old-fashioned writing! hehe) http://tamikadoubell.com/2013/03/20/keeping-a-journal/

    • March 21, 2013 at 8:05 am #

      Thanks Tamika. Yes, there’s something about a handwritten letter isn’t it? Thanks for sharing your blog and for stopping by.

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