so….yesterday was weird…my 15 minute thing took 45 and now I am moving into the second hour today of trying to do it
but then again, as with the two other things I am doing it takes about a week or so before they become things that I miss doing and seek out the time to get them done. I am a long way from that with this one.
But in the oddity of yesterday I had to stop and explain three different times in three different places that the very strange thing I was doing was called “writing a letter.”
Which led to several discussions about how many people missed getting letters (those of a certain age) but…that there was no one to write to. Isn’t that kind of funny? How many of us text, email, update or blog and maintain hundreds of “friends” but there is no one we can sit down and write to.
I wonder if that is why the act of keeping a journal becomes so important to certain people. If there is no one to whom you can share the small beginnings of your thoughts, at least you can write to yourself. Because letter writing is different from public writing or keeping a journal. It is…the infancy of yourself. We are often born in journals and diaries but we don’t take our first steps until we dare to share these things with another. By the time they are public (a la poems and blogs) the thoughts have grown and stumbled and grown some more.
But to hold a piece of paper in one’s hand that holds all the errors and failings of handwriting, of thought is an intensely intimate experience.
Writing a letter, keeping correspondence though, is a skill that is no longer taught. Most letters consist of either a recounting of one’s activities and moments (like a daily calendar only in sentences) or are entirely about yourself, sort of a glorified diary entry that has nothing to do with the other person and really makes no effort to include them at all. For many, a letter is an excuse to speak without being interrupted – but again, it does not connect or relate to the other person.
A letter, a piece of correspondence, should share more of where you are then you would put together for yourself in a diary entry because you imagine the words in conversation and relation to the other person. Your ability to project that way fills in a part of the one sided conversation and gives the person more to respond to. A letter should contain evidence of your interest in the other person’s life beyond the end (or beginning) questions of “how are you?” or “hope you are well.”
Correspondence is crafted to open the door to dialogue. That doesn’t mean it has to have a pattern of questions, in fact, the less direct questions used the better. It is not about stating your beliefs or recounting where you are or where you wish to be, but it is like….hmmm….what is a good way to put it? It is an examination of yourself in relation to the world and an invitation to the other person to step in and claim the space you have opened to them – to speak of their own relations and to speak in relation to you.
I am truly grateful that I have a few people with whom I correspond via email, but we treat it like letter. We write maybe once a month, but geography and circumstances make it difficult to use the post (and in some cases, the post is too unreliable). But I treasure beyond belief the physical letters I get. To hold paper with someone’s handwriting on it is like….holding their hand or sitting beside them. You can see them in their loops and whorls and almost hear their voice just a little bit clearer.
And in this day and age of speed and throw-away connections, let me tell you, there is a keen awareness of the time someone made in their life to write.
c.2010. Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved.