When did you last handwrite a letter?
My first computer, an Amstrad, came with us when we moved to Christchurch in 1986. I used the word processor to keep an ongoing diary, and I would cut and paste this into letters, which I printed out and posted to friends and relatives left behind. Their reciprocal letters were precious and I have some still, stored in a shoebox in a high cupboard.
I loved being able to write something, then edit it, and thought I’d never want to write longhand again.
By the time a daughter moved overseas in 1998, we had e-mail – so much better than waiting for snail mail. I printed out the messages e-mailed from Singapore, India, and eventually London, and filed them – until the file was full.
Last month a real letter arrived for me. The daughter knew I’d been offline for a week, and she decided to write me a ‘proper’ letter. She’d been thinking about the ephemerality of online messages, lamenting the fact that there’d be no shoeboxes in attics filled with treasured papers for a new generation to discover. Of course I sent a handwritten reply. Oh, the pleasure of putting pen to paper, of carefully forming the cursive script.
Handwritten letters take longer to compose. They show love and caring – time spent thinking of the recipient. The difference between an e-mail and a handwritten letter is like that between reading an e-book and holding the pages in your hand.
Sending letters means paying for postage, a cost that increases regularly. Perhaps I could think of that as a charitable donation, helping to keep post people in employment. Life seems to have gone full circle, and I’m off to write another letter.
“My pen and paper are the best
for sending missives, I suggest.”