For the Love of Letters

When was the last time you wrote a letter? To a person, I mean. I can remember way back when writing letters to people, real or historical or even imaginary, was a creative writing exercise. And I actually still do write a handful of letters a year. Thank you notes mostly, and a few family updates for various holidays and birthdays.

Most of the time we write emails, text messages, DMs, Tweets, and whatever else. All very casual. Most not even containing full words.

I used to write email correspondence for a living, so I write a mean business letter (and sometimes not so mean. It depends on my mood). But I have been thinking a lot about personal paper letters lately. I can’t remember the last one I received that wasn’t contained in a holiday card. And what’s worse, I can’t remember the last one I sent that wasn’t folded up in a card either.

When I was little I had a pen pal in Korea. It was so exciting to get a letter in the mail. I had special stationary sets with matching paper and envelopes that were kept specifically for letter writing. I’m not even sure where I would go to buy stationary anymore.

It’s funny, but when I think about writing a personal letter, I don’t really know where I would begin. Business letters are easy. They are basically a template where you speak in a specific parlance that is very nearly a mask. No one really gets to know anyone through business correspondence. Everyone projects the same false confidence in the hopes of impressing or convincing someone to do or believe something.

But if you were to get to know a person without the use of emojis, lols, or contracted words, what would you say? Would you write down all the small talk that awkwardly fills those first encounters in public spaces? Would you write in random stream of consciousness (like a certain someone tends to write her blog posts)? Would you wear a mask of polished words and poetic phrases? Or try to be as authentic as possible and chance being ‘too much’?

Who would you write to, if you could write to anyone? Dead or alive, real or imagined — the sky is the limit. You could even write to the sky if it took your fancy to do so.

I’m a romantic, so I think that the time and effort put into writing a letter is beautiful and underrated. As a writer, I can’t help but think that this is an exercise that is well worth practising often.

I think I’m going to write a letter to Edgar Allan Poe.

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