I write a damn good letter. I just have to put that out there.
Back in the day, I used to buy special stationery, chosen specifically for the intended recipient. I would mull over the contents of the letter for days, finally writing AN OUTLINE (!!!) to guide me as I wrote, and man, did I write. Page after page of carefully crafted prose, words upon words upon words. Always made sure to include a small bit of humor, a few heartfelt anecdotes, and the luckiest recipients got hand-drawn illustrations in the margins - little cartoons of all that I'd gotten up to that week, or winding vines painted in watercolor.
Yes, I was a complete nerd. And I can imagine receiving one of these intensely crafted mini-novels might have been a little...overwhelming.
I had a friend scan & email me a letter this week - one she'd found in her archives, one that was vintage NilsenLife, actually, way before I even imagined a NilsenLife. I'd photocopied pictures of me and a boyfriend, and mused at length about what the relationship meant (before digressing to discuss a recent trip to Paris, and plans for post-grad life as an English major.)
Got me thinking.
There really aren't any letters like this being written anymore. At least, not by my peeps. Not even by me.
You come across old books in a used book shop - entire books devoted to the correspondence between one dry old Victorian botanist and his mentor. Sometimes I think about these sort of books as I fire off the 493rd email of the day - what if someone were to collect all the emails I send? What if I become outrageously famous for.... I dunno, my chocolate chip cookies, say, and someday someone wants to piece together my Early Years. Really? All these million emails I send will serve to give someone a picture of who I was, way back in the early part of the century?
It's a little sobering.
I will say this: I'm pretty wordy in my writing, even still. In a society driven to shorten to 140 characters or less, I continue to get hung up trying to use my big words on Twitter. I continue to send over-long emails asking a whole series of questions, and cover all manner of Big Ideas. But instead of waiting anxiously to see if you got a return envelope in the mail that day - or the next, or the next - all you have to do is make the smallest 'click!' on the margin to check one of your many virtual inboxes.
In a way, it's instant gratification. In a way, for those letter writers among us, something's been lost. The craft of the letter - gone.
Maybe the blog is the new letter?
I have more - much more - to say about this. I might need to take you down memory lane tomorrow, to tell you all about the searing heart-on-sleeve letters my poor husband used to get in his mail cubby.