I’ve written more letters in this last year of my life than all the other years of my life combined.
Some of them have been on paper. My grandmother writes me beautifully-cursived letters from time to time; she has an arsenal of pretty hotel stationary she’s stored up and likes to use. Fellow Adelphean Gemma and I both long for the days when people wrote letters on the regular, so we tried it this summer. She wrote me one while I languished in a Virginia summer. I wrote her one back. She was visiting, so she wrote one and delivered it to me in person when she came. I never wrote her back.
My friend Gabriel and I exchanged a few letters recently. We’re both classicists of a certain kind, and narcissists, and better at talking about certain things to a piece of paper than each other. A returned letter botched our schedule, though, and we never got back on track.
Just recently I started a long-winded Facebook correspondence with someone. It’s not quite paper letters, but the sentiment is the same, and the relationship is the same. Not surprisingly, this one’s kept up more than any of the others. Maybe it’s because the two of us are just better at it, or have less to say so more to say, or maybe it’s because it’s a lot easier and cheaper to sit down and type a Facebook message than craft and mail a letter. I don’t know exactly what the reasons are, but the results are the results no matter what, so.
I find letter writing so quiet, and beautiful, and therapeutic. Something about the pressure of carrying a whole letter on your own leads people to make small, honest declarations about themselves, and I love that. Things that would seemingly come out of nowhere in a conversation make perfect sense in a letter, because writing and reading a letter is like sharing and glimpsing someone’s innermost workings. But it’s crafted, and formal, and revised in some sense, and I also like that.
In this digital world of immediate connection, bastardized spelling and grammar, and rampant anti-formalism, I understand why letter writing has died out. I can’t really even do it, and I so desperately wish I could. But I wonder if there’s a way to make conversation more like writing a letter. I wonder if I can approach speaking to an intimate like writing her a letter. I’ll try, and let you know how it goes.