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The Lost Art of Writing Letters

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As the Canada Post strike drags into its third week, my emotions are two-fold. First, I feel sorry for the newly minted CEO who happens to be the husband of a dear friend of mine, and secondly getting increasingly irked by the endless discussions led by TV's talking heads about the relevancy of "snail mail" in this day and age of social media.

The million-dollar question was endlessly repeated from one 24-hour news channel to the next: 'Will people actually notice?"

For me, the answer is a big fat yes. Let's put aside the fact that as a freelancer and online shopper, the mail means the world to me. But I'm talking about something much more valuable.

Sure I email, Twitter and Facebook. I quickly silence the long distance telemarketers when I tell them I usually use Skype. However there is one thing does seem to have been left behind with other casualties of technology: the art of writing a letter.

I received a tweet by another dear friend about her stored box of letters from years gone by. It caught my attention and her and I immediately erupted into a flurry of exchanges relishing our own respective boxes filled of said letters, reaffirming our emotional connection to the written word -- and when I say 'written' I actually mean pen-to-paper type of 'written.'

I'm pretty sure this was to the collective chagrin of our respective followers as we didn't even think about having this conversation privately, but just like any two friends caught up in the moment, we were in our own bubble, comparing our own boxes detailing years of yet-to-be developed emotions told by one folded paper at a time.

One inked word at time.

One stamped envelope at a time.

Before you could say "retweet" we were willing to trade our BB's for one day to live in a Merchant Ivory love letter scene. Complete with a Jeremy Irons voiceover, gently purring the prose that he wrote for his beloved.

What's left in the dust of yesterday's desks and mailboxes is the art of writing an actual letter. Not an email. Not an update and not a blog. An actual long-form letter.

I'm of the generation, which is smack dab in the middle of this technological revolution. I grew up, just like many of my friends, writing actual letters to each other. Stemming from the innocent grade school Valentine's Day cards, to little hand written notes we would pass under our desks during high school then (young) adulthood with international love letters. There were no text messages, no BBM chats, and no IM pings.

We actually put pencil or pen to paper and wrote it out -- stroke by stroke, letter by letter, word by word. Of coursing adding the circles for dots, hearts to show our passion and teardrops to show our pain. All lovingly drawn and strategically placed to ensure our point was made.

And then there were the letters I would get from my grandparents in Mumbai (then Bombay) India. My grandfather was a director in the film industry and an avid writer at heart. My grandmother grew up reading Shakespeare. Both knew the value of good prose. It would be those thin light blue tinged papers that would fold itself closed creating an envelope, beautifully finished with blue and white piping and an 'Aero Mail' distinctly printed on the corner. These were those types of letters where you actually needed a proper letter opener so when doing so, you weren't disturbing the words that were gently created on the page.

These letters were one tiny resplendent jewel box after the next. Light in weight but solid in emotion. After their standard heartfelt greeting hoping to find me "in the best of health," their stories would then flow beautifully forth from one loving sentence to the next , wonderfully decorated by an inkblot here and a crossed-out word there.

And those valuable edits would let me into their minds as I saw on paper the actual formation of their thoughts that completed their sentences. The deeper the indentation of the letters meant a stronger point. Even the slightest change of their penmanship was a barometer of their energy level. All in all it was simply magical. So thank you Andrea G. for your tweet, which sparked this memory leading me down this reminiscent journey with my own treasured trove of emotions filling and deflating my heart as I gently caress the hand-embossed words, one single letter at a time.

In this day an age where we rely too heavily on spell check, numbers in place of words, formatting palettes and the 'caps lock' option on the keyboard (2 really drive THE point H.O.M.E.), there is no doubt about what has been left behind: The art of emotion only found in actual letters. Hidden jewels waiting to be excavated again.

As I continue to embrace enthusiastically today's Skype, Facebook and Twitter-buoyed social media world I await with bated breath for Canada Post's return.

As I have letters--waiting to be sent.

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