The Lost Art of Letter Writing

Letters

Does anyone else miss the days of pen to paper letter writing? Technology has made things so fast and easy, that it seems the personal touch of actually writing has become obsolete. Not only is writing electronically faster, but when you make a mistake it’s easy to hit the backspace or delete key and with no indication whatsoever of any error, you’re back on your way to creating the message. When you make a mistake when handwriting a letter, unless you scribble out the error, leaving it look less than beautiful, or you use the tacky, sticky white-out method, still leaving proof of an error, the only way to be error free when handwriting is to start over. And over. And over.

But there’s something about putting pen to paper that makes a message more personal and intimate. Choosing the stationery or notebook, the style and color of ink, feeling your hand move on the page, even the smell of the paper. And speaking of the smell of the paper, did I mention the extra personal touch of a spritz of scent on the paper before sending it on its way?

When I write, whether it be novels, poetry, or even writing practice, typing on the computer and writing by hand produces a significantly different outcome, which I’ve come to learn there’s a reason for: How you write affects the way your brain processes information.

One of the items on my bucket list is to become friends with people from ten different countries. In my pursuit to make that happen, I began looking at different websites that assist with finding pen pals. When I looked over the lists, a large number of those potential pen pals are looking to exchange letters specifically via email. I have to admit, I bypassed those.

I began to look at my own letter-writing habits and realized when I write letters to my sponsor kiddos in Togo, Tanzania, and Burkina Faso, I write them on the computer, sending pictures electronically as well, because it’s faster and easier. But when I receive their handwritten letters, seeing each curve and individual style of their handwriting in their handwritten letters, it brings me a sense of closeness to them, and pride when I see the progress they’ve made in their handwriting skills. I treasure those letters. Not to mention the thrill of seeing a letter in the mailbox. Oh the joy! 🙂 Perhaps it’s time to send them good old-fashioned handwritten letters in return.

In an age like ours, which is not given to letter-writing, we forget what an important part it used to play in people’s lives.”  ~Anatole Broyard

What are your preferences?

Writing pen to paper or email?

Actual books or electronic readers?

Electronics–friend or foe?

Receiving handwritten letters via snail mail or email?

Carpe Diem

Back to the Basics

I’ve decided to take a week-long “partial” leave of absence from electronics.

I received an email the other day that contained a series of pictures, each with a brief caption beneath it, that had a profound effect on me. Let me share some of them with you here:

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A day at the beach

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Out on an intimate date.

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A visit to the museum

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Enjoying the sights

“I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” -Albert Einstein

What affected me the most about this email is the truth that lay within. It’s a rare occasion that I don’t see several people talking on their phones or texting while driving. And there is no finger-pointing going on here, as I’m among the ones talking on the phone.

One of the weekend magazines in the paper I read this past Sunday had an article called “Massive Media,” and one of the sentences popped right off the printed page as I read it: Media went from a series of choices and a schedule of events to the air we breathe.

That same article also stated: With only 24 hours in a day, it isn’t possible to make a dent in everything that demands to be seen, listened to, read.

But how hard we try!

Some days, I’m so busy checking blog stats, Facebook statuses, Twitter feeds, emails (on two home accounts as well as my work account, and each email opened leads to further reading/link-clicking and mindless wandering), Internet surfing, checking for text messages, etc., that I miss the majority of the blessings in my day.

So what does a “partial” leave of absence look like?

For me it means taking a complete break from social media and engaging in social human interaction. It means being present with the people I’m with, rather than being unaware of their presence while I socialize elsewhere.

It means beginning my day with my good old-fashioned Bible rather than surfing for devotions online, which almost always ends up with me reading something completely unrelated.

It means keeping my cell phone on vibrate or silent so I’m not checking every beep I hear;  and checking for text messages once or twice a day is sufficient. In fact, rather than send a text, perhaps I will make the old-fashioned phone call to humanize the connection.

It means checking emails once per day, rather than every half hour which I have been known to do. No joke.

It means not checking my blog stats for an entire week, and get back to posting because I love to write and share; and connect with wonderful like-minded people.

It means no Internet surfing unless it’s research on my novel.

It means living with intention rather than mindless living.

I want to say that again, to get it into my own head if for no other reason: It means living with intention rather than mindless living.

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Here’s to writing a new page in my life’s story for seven 24-hour segments in a row. Perhaps it will be the start of something marvelous that will continue on.

And now it’s back off to Camp NaNo. 🙂

All is Grace.

 

Electronic Disconnection

Cell Phone

I’ve blogged about this exact thing once before, and as much peace as it brings when I do it, I still don’t seem to practice it nearly enough. Electronics can pull more energy from relationships than they add.

It makes me sad when I see a young child talking to mom or dad who is more connected with their cell phone than with the child.  Does that parent know that they can never get that moment back again?

My heart bleeds when I’m at the coffee shop and see a child with mom or dad, the child a happy chatterbox, full of animation, trying to get the attention of the one they look up to and love so much, but mom or dad is too connected to their open laptop to notice.

Or the couple at the table next to me in a restaurant, no conversation to be seen or heard, while one–or both–of them are texting, surfing the Internet on a cell phone, or watching the game on the TV hanging near their table.

And then there’s the occupants of the car next to me at a stoplight, each texting away on their respective cell phones, frequently even the driver.

And what makes my heart bleed even more is the frequency of which I’ve done those things myself without even realizing it.

It’s easy to see more clearly when we’re disconnected from a situation, so to think how much clearer I could see what’s right in front of my own face when I’m disconnected from electronics seems like it should be a no-brainer.  And yet, how much time has slipped through my fingers like a fist full of sand, as I fall into the habit of blocking out everything but the empty entertainment of the screen in front of me.

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If I could go back and have a “do-over” I would:

Leave the cell phone at home when taking my kids on an outing.  I would watch them take in their surroundings, watching as they see things for the first time, rather than see something on the screen of my cell phone for the umpteenth time.

I would sit on the floor playing with my children, rather than sit there watching a television program while they played around me.

I would read a book to them, engaging them in the story, rather than let them live their story without me present to watch.

I would listen intently to how their day was, their experiences, hopes and dreams, rather than listen to how the world was on the news, letting them know they are my world.

I would let them know that what they said truly mattered, more than anything in the world, as I gave them my undivided attention, listening to what they had to say rather than say “I’m busy. Can we talk later?”  Later may not come.

I would stop cleaning, cooking, playing a game on the computer or watching TV to simply be with them, 100% present.

If the phone was ringing, or beeping with an incoming text message, during a conversation with a loved one, or while spending quiet time together, I would let it ring without answering it, or even a sneak peak at the text message, letting my loved one know their presence is more important to me than the phone.

Rather than run back in the house two seconds after leaving to get the forgotten cell phone, I would run back in to give the forgotten hug or say the forgotten “I Love You” to the loved one remaining behind.

When I’m on a date with my husband, I would leave my phone at home, or tucked away in my purse, letting him know the time I spend with him is valuable to me.

And while I can’t go back and start over, getting back time that has past, it’s never too late to start over.  Right.  Now.   While I can’t start the day over, I can start over anytime during the day.  And that is a blessing I intend to take advantage of, practicing until it becomes more the norm than not.

No electronics

Thankful Thursday – Vacations

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Whether it’s a vacation or staycation, it’s medicine for the soul.

What better therapy is there than to unplug from all things electronic and just get back to nature.  To the simplest of pleasures.

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There is much to be said for simplicity that is best summed up not with words, but in quiet reflection.  Uncomplicated living.  Even for one day if that’s all you can string together before duty and obligations need to be tended to.

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Free from the distractions of television, Internet–yes, even social media, telephones, radio.  All electronic devices.   To completely unplug.

Just to absorb the solitude and beauty of pure silence.  Nature and its sounds in its purest form.

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Or to do nothing but reading for pleasure.

I’ve experienced reading or writing with pen and paper in nature or in complete solitude to bring a whole new level of creativity and joy than with the distractions of electronics.  Even if they’re not on.

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The threat of the phone ringing or someone turning on the TV or radio limits my thought process from being completely free.

Unplug.  Unwind.  Vacate the busy-ness of life.  Vacation.

Rejuvenate.  Re-energize.  Renew.

All is Grace.