February is National Correspondence Writing Month. The idea is to hand-write a letter every day of the month…29 in all, since this is a Leap Year. To those of you who know me personally, you’ll understand when I say that I have, in fact, written at least one letter every day this month so far. I have not, however, actually mailed any of them. Hopefully, I will get them in the mail in the morning. Yep, that’s how I roll.
I really like the idea of writing letters by hand. Emails are fine, especially if you’re conducting business and want to get to the point. Texting is somewhat less fine, but if you need to make a quick connection, it’s OK. A card with a brief, sentimental message is better than anything electronic, but still…if the only personalization involved is the signing of a name, it isn’t that great. But a real letter, with a hand-written message, shows that you are taking the time to let someone know that you’re really thinking about them.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Any kind of communication is better than nothing, even for personal messages. I’ve sent birthday greetings via email before, or using FaceBook messaging. I’ve only recently learned to text, and I’m not fond of it, but it’s great when you just want to send some information and don’t necessarily need a reply. Sometimes a person just needs to get the message sent, one way or another. But a real letter, hand-written, takes time and thought. It takes care.
When I write a real letter, I go all out. I have pretty notecards for shorter letters, and good stationery for longer ones. I use a fountain pen with a special color of ink. I make sure that the stamps are beautiful and don’t in any way clash with the color of the envelope. I use my best handwriting and make sure I spell everything correctly. I plan what I’m going to say and make it a personal message, for the recipient alone. I express care, in a way that an electronic message simply cannot. With a hand-written message you can express conviction by adding pressure to your pen, or by underling, by using larger script, slanting your letters, or in any number of ways. Likewise, you can express timidity, love, worry, sadness, joy…all in the way your pen touches the paper and the ink flows onto it.
When I was in high school, forty years ago, I had a couple of penpals. I found Michael Webster from Australia and James Mbutu from Kenya through an organization that handled such things. I’m not at all sure now how it all worked. I didn’t have to pay anything, so I have no idea how the company conducted business. They probably no longer exist. That sort of thing is obsolete now, which is kind of sad.
I wish I could say that I plan to be an avid letter-writer from now on, but it just isn’t so. Life is too fast now, too fractured. I’ll write my daily letter this month because I said I would, and I’m stubborn. But when the month is over, I’ll likely go back to emails and texting and an occasional birthday card. Oh, I’ll try for a while, but life is too busy for things like fountain pens and pretty stationery. It’s a shame.