Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

copyright aaron paul lazar, 2010

Most of us correspond daily with email. When you take a moment to slow down and examine your email, you may realize you write and receive dozens per day. Some days it’s more, but if we go away for a week or get caught up in life away from the Internet for a while, we’re often buried.

Sound familiar?

How long has it been since you wrote a real live honest to goodness paper letter? On stationary, for that matter? I hadn’t even sent Christmas cards in eons, since life got crazy and I could quickly dash off an e-card or a few lines of Christmas cheer with a bright email. So much simpler, right?

Email became so convenient that we all sneered at snail mail and used to roll our eyes when some venture required us to actually print out a letter and affix a (way too expensive) stamp to it.

But since I got my new wireless printer, packs of fancy paper and envelopes, and started applying for colleges and new agents all at the same time, I got into the groove of typing out envelopes (I never could figure out how to do that until now, LOL!) and letters on nice stationary. Damn, they look so good on that pale blue fancy parchment paper.

Strangely enough, I found the exercise pleasant. There was something satisfying about licking the stamp and putting it in the mailbox. I started to wonder if I was regressing to my youth, because I used to correspond with people all the time. When I left home to move to the Finger Lakes region of New York, I wrote long newsy letters to my grandparents back on the east coast. I’d enclose snapshots (another thing I haven’t ordered in ages! Must do that!) and enjoyed the process of sitting out under a big old maple tree during my lunch breaks at work, and penning many pages about our triumphs and traumas. My handwriting has gone to hell in a hand basket since then, probably because I don’t practice any more. It used to be quite elegant, something like the Renaissance man I’m supposed to be should have in his arsenal of skills. You know, drawing, piano, gardening, photography, poetry, and nice handwriting. Ha.

Since I’ve had a little more time on my hands this year (in starts and spurts), I’ve taken the time to print out well crafted letters to friends I haven’t seen in ages to reconnect with them. My ex-boss from Kodak, a fellow writer who’s in the hospital, my old pal from college… it felt good to create a letter you can touch and feel and save in a drawer. Know what I mean?

When people send me thank you cards – something that’s really almost a lost art, I think – I feel so special! After a library event or book club appearance, I’ve often received these colorful notes from my readers. You know what? It feels great.

I wonder, have you taken the time to pen a handwritten note lately?

Do you notice how much more casual we are in our emails compared to when we type them to print out or write them longhand? We’ve gotten more and more lax in our grammar, punctuation, and now the shortcuts are so common that even in this article I’ve used “LOL”, because I think there are just a handful of people out there who don’t know it means Laughing Out Loud. It’s so engrained now, I sometimes find myself tempted to use it in my writing, which is absurd, of course.

If you can find a spare moment this weekend, go dig up some of your old cards or stationary, and pen a thoughtful note to someone you’ve let drift out of your life. It’ll make you feel real good. And I’ll bet it will make your friend feel even better.


Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. The author of LeGarde Mysteries and Moore Mysteries enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his websites at and watch for his upcoming release, HEALEY’S CAVE, coming in 2010.

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