ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

JOIN YOLANDA RENEE ON HER BLOG TOUR!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Is the pen mightier than the keyboard? Thoughts anyone?

Hello there!

What do you think? Is letter writing dead? Do you think those days are gone when buying stationary was a beautiful fetish? Where giving/receiving a gift set of notes and envelopes was actually quite nice? Oh, and some smelled pretty too! How about a leather writing compendium complete with expensive pen? A yearly agenda planner and a not-so-expensive pen?


Our Australia Post has recently practically declared bankruptcy as no one sends letters anymore. So their response was to double the cost of a stamp. Well, that'll stamp it out altogether.

So by all evidence letter writing seems to be yet another dying art, along with 'proper' English, landlines, taking phone calls instead of messages, regular SLR cameras etc.

Image result for image of a teenager looking at a letterSo, what's the cause of this demise? That's easy, isn't it? Email's the go (although it's already old hat according to my Face-timing, Snapchatting students). Twitter and texting and facebooking are quicker and easier, so why write a boring old letter say you?


But the death of the letter really kills me.

A person born in the last 20 years may never have sent or read a handwritten letter. Wow! Really! The thought of picking up a pen and writing a personal message to someone seems foreign to the young and now many of the not-so-young. But don't handwritten letters offer a unique and personal touch that can never be replicated in our 'new' ways of communicating?

Are our mailboxes just for bills? Ugh!

Is a major literary era on its last legs? Double ugh!

The written word is undeniably the most dynamic discovery of human history that sets us apart from the animal world and personal letters have traditionally been an important literary medium.

JK Rowling is a prolific modern day letter writer. But if we want to, we can also read the letter collections of writers such as Beatrix Potter, Jane Austen, Ernest Hemingway, Graham Green as well as some of the famous political leaders of the 19th or 20th centuries. And who could forget Anne Frank's handwritten diary?
A couple of precious pages from Anne's diary I snapped at
Anne Frank Haus, Amsterdam
Handwritten letters create a connection that modern, impersonal forms of communication will never approach. No doubt there are writers whose emails are worth collecting, but if they're locked behind passwords they're inaccessible.

Old French postcards written during war time
Collections of handwritten letters cover a vast array of topics. Queen Victoria was a prolific letter writer. She wrote about 3700 letters to her confidante alone! And isn't it romantic when a stash of love letters are discovered, especially those bound by satin ribbons. In war time letters are written to those at home. Very poignant they are too. So important that many of them are housed in War Memorials and Museums. They provide invaluable eye-witness evidence of the horrors of war. Will emails from a tour of duty in Afghanistan hold up against the letters from the trenches in WW1?

Did you have a pen pal when growing up? I had several. How I enjoyed receiving those light airmail letters replete with the daily doings of a life in Japan, or Canada, or Alaska. Had far more appeal than a Facebook post or two hundred.

I recently read an article that claimed that highest-level communiques should be hand written in an effort to thwart spying. So maybe it's back to the future in some areas!

 US President Barack Obama said in 2012: 'In my life, writing has been an important exercise to clarify what I believe, what I see, what I care about, what my deepest values are.' 

That man does have a way with words.



  • Do you still write personal letters?
  • Does the demise of personal letters worry you or are you all for technological ways of communicating?
  • Do you ever hand write your stories? 


32 comments:

  1. I still write the occasional letter, Denise, usually though it's typed on my laptop and inserted into a card. I embellish cards, too, for a personal touch, but I also use ecards when needed as real cards are expensive, just like postage. I write certain things by hand, such as journal entries, moleskine notes about a character, or travel. The internet is faster, but there's no personal touch. Will these who no longer write longhand remember how to if there came a time, such as the disasters/dystopia that everyone loves to read about? Interesting subject.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's the lack of personal touch that i miss. Who treasures emails? Life goes better with a letter!

      Delete
  2. I don't write letters anymore, even though I used to have lots of pen pals too. I still love handwriting. I hand write all my first drafts.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Denise .. well you know my answer - I still do. Though I do write them on the machine but send them by post .. I'm horrified to read of the near demise of the postal system in Australia - it's gone in South Africa .. and I really want to send cards to friends with cancer - one who isn't on the internet at all ... and the other is - but they live opposites ends to Jhb ...

    How do the bills get through ..

    If people are ill - it's a fabulous way of giving them a lift ... and we can't always phone - and people's moods may not be that encouraging .. but if we write we can set a tone and alter, weave our way through some stories of life ... my mother maintained contact with friends and relatives via letters ... with lots of prompts and instigations by me ...

    I have to say (and I really wasn't ill) having cards and letters for my hip were a really lovely uplift - even if I had to use my grabber to get them off the floor!! - once the postman delivered them ... yes we still have deliveries.

    I write to Lenny - and he loves getting letters through - cheers him up no end ...

    I sincerely hope they don't go - but it is expensive .. we shall see - I did get a lovely Godmother card with lots of news in it ... that's encouraging from a 22 year old ...

    My handwriting isn't good - except when I do notes for myself!! Cheers and it will be interesting to see what happens - at least you can read this - Hilary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the big guys are organising online billing/payment so that gets rid of another reason for the post. Not sure where it leaves you if you don't have a computer. Perhaps you go to the library. A cold old world.

      Delete
  4. You wouldn't be able to read my writing.
    I still send thank you cards for gifts, bad handwriting and all. I never wrote a lot of letters anyway. Most of the time I call now instead.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Nicely written.

    I love writing personal letters (with my pen), but I rarely do so. I love receiving letters (not bills) in the mail.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I loved handwritten letters in the '80s and '90s. Ever since the email bug hit me, I stopped writing them, and also receiving them. I still do Christmas cards, even though some people send me electronic ones. I have a ton of stationery that I've been giving away since I barely use it anymore. I'm glad I write cursive though, because I write fast compared to kids these days who only do print.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They're considering stopping teaching handwriting altogether in Oz. Ugh!

      Delete
  7. For a long time, I held onto my love for hand-writing things. I'd write my books longhand and type them later. I've lost that in recent years, though, as it's just so much quicker to type. I wonder if there won't be a backlash at some point where hand-written letters come back into vogue. I know when I was in high school, we'd pass notes between classes and if you had a boyfriend, it was fun to hand over a note on your way to the next class. It just meant so much more than a text when it was in your handwriting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've written a lot of my new novel in longhand. I think it adds more depth. Sure it's quicker to type and I do that too.
      Instead of passing notes in class, it's now texting or sexting.

      Delete
  8. Yep, it is pretty much toast. I have bad hand writing anyway, so don't mind haha

    ReplyDelete
  9. Yes, I had pen pals, back in the 1950s. Like my friend who had polio in 1949, I miss our wonderful old world--landlines, handwritten letters, etc. etc. It was all so much more "personal" back then (I don't think Facebook is really THAT personal)...a slower pace of life. It exhausts me sometimes just to think about all the hoops I have to go through when I make a phone call to some office.

    But at my age, I prefer email. Easier on the hands, for one thing. Just have to be careful not to get carpel tunnel...the typewriter was better in some ways, more hand exercise involved LOL.

    A great post, Denise. Gets one thinking....and remembering. ((( ))) from me and Jen

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi sis!

      It was certainly more personal. Modern ways of communicating will never equal it!

      Delete
  10. Taking the time to write a letter also gives the sender time to not send! I hear stories of people sending an email only to regret it moments later --- or sending it to the wrong person!

    Same thing happens with texting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes apparently you can organise it with google on gmail to stop this happening. No drunk emails!

      Delete
  11. I come from the writing generation too. I had penfriends all round the world but then today I have cyber friends all round the world. My handwriting these days is appalling as I so seldom use it. I type everything. The Postal service here seems to be mainly about delivering junk advertising. That infuriates me anyway because of the sheer waste of paper - think of the trees. However I do still send thank you notes and I send dozens of Christmas cards which I make. However, the postage cost me a fortune last year so I am thinking if people have a computer, it will be an ecard next Christmas.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's nice that snail mail is not completely dead for you Jo. Ecards are good too but I like to add a Christmas letter so prefer 'real' cards still.

      Delete
  12. Hi Denise,

    I still write, mostly when I need to write in Bengali :) All of my Bengali stuff is handwritten. Letters - I used to write really long ones, but now I call more often, because a hand written letter does not get a response and then the exchange just peters out...I do write my drafts out in long hand on paper sometimes, just for the pleasure of it. I love pen and ink writing - no email can beat getting a real hand written letter or even a scribbled note. Ever.

    Cards are always handwritten, make sure the son writes postcards home too from wherever we travel :) Not that they always reach the recipients,but it keeps the habit alive.

    Hope all is well
    Best
    Nila.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Nila!

      Glad to see someone is still practising the art! True about postcards. Sometimes they even arrive home after you get back!

      All goes well, thanks. And you?

      Denise :-)

      Delete
  13. I've always loved hand written letters, but now everyone uses email. I never had a pen pal, wish I had. Getting others to respond is impossible though. I started out sending out monthly letters, then went to quarterly, now it's down to a few cards. A response makes all the difference, and everyone says, I really miss your letters, but when no one writes back it's like talking to the wall. Now I use pen and paper for journaling. A wonderful exercise, and all the letters are to me. :) It is a lost art, but one day someone will discover it again and letter writing will be new.
    Hey Denise, hows the writing going?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Yolanda!

      I'd certainly like to see a revival. I used to so enjoy writing/reading hand-written letters.

      The writing's going gang busters! How's about you??

      Denise :-)

      Delete
  14. Hello greetings and good wishes.

    Very interesting post which is a true reflection on what is happening in the modern world. The art of writing letters has almost vanished and almost everyone uses a computer, or a tab or mobile phone. I agree it is easier to communicate with an electronic gadget but it lacks the personal touch. Even greeting cards are used less since people find it easy to send messages on the phone or call up. This method of communicating is easier,faster and can be done on the move.

    In the past we were given marks for good handwriting in schools and students with bad handwriting were given impositions for bad handwriting. It was a thrill to sit in a quiet corner and read lengthy letters from near and dear ones and friends. It was exciting to open up the mail box and see if any letters have come.

    This reminds me of a song by Karen Carpenter====

    "Please Mr. Postman"

    (Stop)
    Oh yes, wait a minute Mister Postman
    (Wait)
    Wait Mister Postman

    Please Mister Postman, look and see
    (Oh yeah)
    If there's a letter in your bag for me
    (Please, Please Mister Postman)
    Why's it takin' such a long time
    (Oh yeah)
    For me to hear from that boy of mine

    Best wishes

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for visiting Joseph and sharing your thoughts on letters. I know that song. No Mr Postman now!

      Delete
  15. Hi Denise!

    Yes, we do tend to write with pen and paper less now with so much advanced technology around.

    Hope all is well.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I recently received a handwritten letter from my former boss, and I was actually shocked. It really brought home how things have changed.

    I used to work at Bancroft, the rare books library at UC Berkeley, There were boxes and boxes of correspondence from John Steinbeck and Mark Twain (among many others). Scholars would come from all over the world to study their letters and other papers. With the advent of email and other disposable digital formats, we've lost a very rich and meaningful reserve of primary source material. Who saves email?

    VR Barkowski

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly VR. We've lost more than we realise. When we do realise it will be too late!

      Delete
  17. Honestly, I think not hand writing things is hurting us. I try to make my kids write things out by hand and they balk, claiming they'd rather type it. But they can't type properly either! I'm with you, Denise.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I loved my penpals - I had 2, but my sister had almost a dozen!
    Doing email pals just doesn't have the same effect.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I used to write to pen pals in my teens...but its so much easier now!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I used to write letters to my mother in Paris, but she is gone. My French cousins don’t have a computer, so I write to them now. I still like to send postcards when we travel and I get them from my French friends, but in the US they do not send postcards when they go on trips. I had pen pals, two in the UK, one in Germany, one in Lebanon and one in Martinique. The one in Martinique came to Paris after I had left home for the US and stayed with my parents for 4 years while attending nursing school in Paris – I still hear from her. One of my pen pals from England lives in California and I saw her last year (have known her now 62 years!) But now we email too. I like to read books of letters, right now I am reading “Death of a Confederate” the letters of a Confederate soldier sent to his family during and after the Civil War.

    I often send handwritten postcards to my grandsons – even just postcards of animals or flowers, because I know it’s fun for a child to get mail. I have to send one to each grandchild though so they won’t fight! They each have a box with all their postcards. I think when people wrote letters and knew that the letters would last they tried to write better, but with emails grammar is no longer as important. In the US in many schools they don’t even teach cursive to children anymore – my French grandfather used to have such beautiful handwriting, it was like calligraphy.

    ReplyDelete

Please take the time to share! I love hearing from you! Hit me with your wisdom!