Thursday, July 28, 2016

Write Letters for Fun and Writing Fitness

My kids are home! It was so nice to have them blessed and tucked into their own beds last night. Just like old times. They have some letters to write now, but I'm letting them take it easy today, adjust to the heat and humidity.

Earlier this year, I discontinued my website because I much prefer the Blogger platform, but I had useful articles and links that are now lost. Partially. I had the good sense to back up some of the stuff and since people still ask me about particular articles, I'm going to start putting them here along with a permanent link under Tips and Links. Such is internetty housekeeping. I've already noticed that some of my articles have two spaces after a period.  LOL.  So you'll know which ones are the older articles, when I was still in my typewriter mode. I'm tagging these under archives.

From the web archives: Write Letters for Fun and Writing Fitness

Dear Friends, 

How are you?  Chances are that you do not have much time to spare.  But I propose that you make time for writing letters.  Letters will keep you connected to those you love and will keep you writing. 

Thanks to a fractured home, I began writing letters at the tender age of six.  There was no telephone and no television.  Papers and pencils, rationed by my mother, were one of our prized possessions.  Every time I missed my father, I wrote a letter to him.  It was the next best thing to a visit.  Every time I had a secret that I couldn’t bear to keep, I wrote to my brother. 

I love writing and receiving letters.  They are the life-line to my family and friends.  Nothing compares to the joy of opening a letter from my best friend and reading it for the first time.  Later, I savor it.  I’ve traveled to many places and letters bind me to the people I miss.
My husband and I had a long-distance relationship for eight years.  I do not recommend it.  We were young and foolish and too independent.  But we wrote a great deal.  Letters kept us close.  I have all those letters in a binder and even now, after twenty years of being together, I’ll take one letter out and read it and feel happy over how everything has turned out.
Writers write.  Write a letter to your beloved husband or wife.  Write a letter to your child or grandchild, a letter to your friend, a letter to your editor.  You will feel good, and when your recipient reads your letter, he or she will feel special.  You can even write a letter to yourself.  It will help you to clarify your thinking.  Sometimes I let my characters write letters to me or to each other.  It is amazing what they reveal.
Letter-writing is becoming a dying art.  Some of my nieces and nephews do not acknowledge gifts.  Some of my friends write haphazard e-mails in which not a single thought is expressed coherently.  We are in the age of fast and furious living.  I say, “Slow down.”  Write a letter.  Read it.  Revise it.  Ponder while you write.  It is a time to collect your thoughts and articulate them.  And it IS the next best thing to a visit.
You don’t have to be Nick Bantock, the author of Sabine and Griffin trilogy books, to write letters.  But you can look to his books for inspiration.  You can write on a postcard if you’re on a holiday, or if you want to share a particularly beautiful picture.  You can use scented paper, colored paper,  paper with designs.  Or you can write on a plain piece of paper.  You can also type it, if you feel that your penmanship is not the greatest.  I prefer hand-written letters (my hand-writing is not great, but it’s legible chicken-scratch) because the style of writing also reflects the mood.  I recently bought some calligraphy pens and often use them to address the envelopes.  It’s time consuming but the result is worth it.  And the entire time I am thinking of that person.  The very act of writing a letter is all about that – thinking about a person with whom you want to share some of your thoughts.  What greater gift is there?
Even now, I write a letter to my husband, sometimes for a special occasion or sometimes because there are things on my mind that need clarification.  Sometimes I keep the letters to myself.  But more often, I put them next to his backpack.  And he says that it is wonderful, because he can read the letter, tuck it away, and read it again.  And again.  A telephone conversation is great because of the instantaneous feedback, but unless you record your dialogue, it is lost forever.  Though modern technology is wonderful and has its uses, it cannot replace the beauty of the old-fashioned paper and pen.
Salutation:  Salute the reader.  Dear Mom.  My Darling Husband.  My dear, sweet baby.  Don’t jump right into the letter.  Take the time to greet the reader.
Body:  Express yourself.  Share your thoughts.  Tell a story.  My mother wrote the most beautiful letters about the mundane.  She even wrote about laundry, but it’s the way she wrote about it that made it enjoyable to read.  The summer I spent with my husband (then boyfriend), my mother wrote to me how much she missed me.  She realized it while she was folding clothes, when she didn’t have me around to tell me how to fold shirts properly (I still don’t do a good job of folding clothes)!  So go ahead.  If it’s laundry that’s on your mind, write about that.
Ask about the reader.  Let him or her know that you have their health and well-being on your mind.  You should care enough to ask.  Then sit back and enjoy the response.
Closing: Don’t end abruptly.  Recapitulate something important, like when you may next meet or what you feel.  Always end with a positive emotion.
So, what are you waiting for?  Write a letter to your favorite person NOW.
Yours truly,
"Write Letters for Fun and Writing Fitness" was first published in Once Upon A Time (Winter 2003) and next in The Chinook (Spring 2004).


Mirka Breen said...

Lovely. I so agree that letters, the old fashioned kind, are a major literary form. My late father told me his best writing was in his letters, and he was a published writer and poet.

Barbara Etlin said...

Letters are wonderful. One day many years ago I was feeling discouraged by writing rejections. I opened my mailbox and found an envelope addressed to "Miss Etlin" in suspiciously familiar handwriting. When I opened it, I found a fan letter from M, my then-boyfriend, now-husband! I still have it.

I had a small bunch of handwritten letters from my father to my mother while they were dating. They lived in different cities and only saw each other on weekends when my father would take the train in. (Unfortunately they got lost.)

Yanting Gueh said...

I ought to do this. Yes, I might. To a dear friend. Thanks for the internetty housekeeping, Vijaya!

Vijaya said...

Mirka, I feel a kinship with your father. My best writing too, is probably all private -- letters -- for the audience of one.

Barb, love that your husband wrote you letters. And too bad you lost the correspondence between your mother and father.

Claudine, I hope you do! Letters are truly a wonderful day to brighten someone's day.

Carol Baldwin said...

I wish you could see my smile as I read this!