On Writing Letters

I wrote a letter today. It has been years since I wrote a personal letter to anybody but my wife. Yes, I’ve written cover letters, resignation letters, formal emails, but a real, sit yourself down, grab a pen, some paper, and start spilling your thoughts-letter hasn’t happened since college, at least. I realized this strange deficit in my writing life a couple months ago and swore to myself that since I was moving to a new place, I would start a new habit. Well, here I am two months later, and I finally did it.

Now that I’ve written the letter and am about to send it out to my friend, I ask myself, “what is it about this art of writing letters that is both a little more difficult and different than any other kind of writing I do?” Because, you could say that any form of writing is a letter to someone. My fiction is a letter to my readers about a world in my head. My blogs are letters to my readers about the worlds I create, and how I create them. My journal is a letter to myself. But a letter to someone in particular, now that’s special. It is a devoted amount of time you are spending in labor for a particular friend. Granted, there are times when that labor isn’t loving. Sometimes you might write an angry letter, or a manipulative letter. Some letters are meant to break hearts.  Most generally, letters are meant for the one person to read and keep locked away for no other. But, at times, they are written to a whole crowd of people, meaning to incite rebellion or obedience, encouragement or disdain.

Letters, being physical representation of thought, can be burned, or framed, or crumpled, or corrected. They can be stored away in a time capsule for a century and read anew to another generation. The most ancient cultures wrote letters on tablets of clay and buried them deep in the earth for us to find in this century. All we would know about them is due to the letters they strove to record in their own way. Otherwise, all we would have left of their lives are a few stone tools and broken pots and bones. And even the bones might be gone by now.

I might write another letter this week, to a different friend. I think it will be a labor of love, or friendship, or both. I try not to hold grudges long enough for a letter. But I’m pretty sure this new/old way of doing things is going to stick this time. Just wait and see. Maybe a letter is coming your way.

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