A Love Letter to Letters

 Since I graduated from college and my closest friends moved to such far-off places as New York, Los Angeles, Boston, London, and even Seoul, I have embraced letter-writing in a way that I have always wanted to but never had reason to.

I know, I know.  Writing letters is so anachronistic.  Why would you take the time and spend the money to produce and mail a letter, only to wait so long for it to be delivered that the news is obsolete once it finally arrives?

Well, I have put some thought to this very question and come up five reasons it’s worth picking up your pen and dusting off those Forever stamps.

  1. Letters are conducive to sustained conversation.  How many email threads have you begun with the intention of keeping up a regular correspondence, that nevertheless died quickly when you ran out of anything new to report?  It’s hard to wait to respond when you have an email sitting in your inbox: If you mark it unread, it’s a constantly staring back at you prompting you to respond.  If you leave it marked as read, it quickly blends into the rest of your inbox and fades into obscurity.  A mail correspondence, on the other hand, has built in wait times that ensure you have something new to report by the time it is your turn to reply again.
  2. Letters are exciting.  There are a few exceptions (I know I don’t much enjoy bills or credit card offers), but opening the mailbox at the end of a long day to find a hand-addressed envelope provides a warm, fuzzy feeling few emails can hope to replicate.  The anticipation only builds as you rip through the envelope and unfold the contents within.  Which brings me to my third point:
  3. Letters are physical.  I am completely entranced by the look and feel of nice stationary, but no matter what you write on, the paper and handwriting of a letter provide contextual backdrop in a way that the targeted Google advertisements next to your emails just don’t.  Additionally, it’s much more difficult to be distracted from a letter because the need to hold the paper creates a much more immersive reading experience.
  4. Letters are personal.  It takes time and energy to write a letter, which demonstrates your care for the recipient.  It means a lot to me when I see that someone has taken time out of their (assuredly busy) life to sit down and think about me for as long as it takes to write, address, stamp, and mail a letter (or even a quick postcard).  A well-chosen postcard with a sentence or two scrawled on the back then carries the same emotional weight as a lengthy email update.
  5. Letters show you really mean it.  This is a variation of the previous point, but diverges in that it particularly applies to the all-important, should-never-be-forgotten Thank You Letter.  When you send a thank you letter in the mail as opposed to dashing off a quick email, people take notice.  While a thankful email is likely to be deleted shortly after reading, a thank you letter is something that people hold on to (my two bosses both recently admitted that they still have the letters I sent to them after my first job interview).

So while I readily admit the value of email and social networks, I am not quite ready to give up on snail mail.  The inbox hasn’t completely replaced the mailbox, after all!

Who’s with me?

{ps: send me your address and I’ll send you back a genuine, hand-written letter}

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One thought on “A Love Letter to Letters

  1. Christine Turner says:

    Hi Amy,

    I totally agree with you. While email is nice and I am constantly checking it, nothing compares to receiving a hand-written note. And Uncle Jim can attest to the fact of my many boxes filled with letters & personalized cards I have received over the years (he would love to clear out the attic, but no way!). I have letters from a boy I used to have a crush on while in high school (he lived in the desert and I lived in Santa Ana and we met at a church camp). I have letters from a young man from Germany whom I corresponded with regularly for several years. We met while I was on a 10-day camping trip in California. He and his two friends were at the campsite next to me in Yosemite and they noticed I was alone & brought over a couple beers to share. I also have many letters from a couple Uncle Jim & I met when we were in Jamaica on our honeymoon. Although we don’t write letters anymore, we still exchange Christmas letters. So yes, the value of hand-written letters is priceless to me. Thank you for writing about this topic.

    Aunt Christine

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