This morning I wrote a letter. A two-page, hand-written letter.
I stumbled on a Blogher entry about writing letters a week or two ago and it got me thinking. As a kid, before I could even fathom laptop computers or phones that fit into jeans’ pockets, I wrote letters. My cousins and I exchanged letters for years in elementary school. They never said much, usually just accounts of my days. But somehow I managed to fill pages and pages with mundane, information. Those poor girls.
Now I spend 8-10 hours a day eye-to-eye with the QWERTY alphabet, writing, editing, blogging, emailing, updating statuses and commenting on others’ online existences. God, its exhausting. If you had told me in 6th grade — as I sat with my pad of paper and pen writing stories and ignoring a math lesson — that I would one day bang out a 1000-word blog entry on a small mobile telephone device during my morning commute to NYC I’d have said, “What’s a blog?”
I’ve adapted. Having a delete key, the “command + z” function, spell check and predetermined text has allowed my life to continue on its excruciating fast path, and even helped speed it up at times. But this morning, as I wrote my letter, ignoring the cramp in my wrist, I discovered just how much I’ve come to rely on technology to cover up my faults.
As I wrote my letter this morning, I kept misspelling words (and I consider myself a strong speller) and stumbling over phrases. I’d start new paragraphs and then think of something I should have added to the previous one. I jotted down comments on post-its that I wanted to add at the end.
The final product has numerous scribbles covering up errors that I’m embarrassed to say exist—especially since the recipient is someone who comes to me, knowing I work in the editorial industry, for advice and proofreading help. After she sees my words without the approval of spell check, I’m afraid I’ll look like a fraud.
At the same time, when I shoved my pride in the corner and reread what I had written, I discovered the letter had a rawness that left it almost unrecognizable. It was my voice, in a natural state. No one had tightened the language or cut out the unnecessary descriptions. It’s pure thought—something hard to find in modern-day literature. Although its necessary in order to create a polished, smooth read, the amount of editing that goes into our writing strips it of all the passion that created it in the first place. It’s become an art to create an emotion-packed story… how about we just don’t take it out in the first place?
Reading what I wrote made me smile. It may have mistakes, but the friend reading it already knows I’m not perfect. And I like to think my friendships are founded on a fondness of one another’s imperfections as much as it is the positive qualities we admire.
In the past ten years I can only remember writing letters to my grandparents when I was away (since they aren’t online) and the odd letter in honor of a special occasion. But I think I’m going to step up my letter writing. Raw thoughts and feelings can be a gift. Definitely one I would like to receive.
First things first though, I have to work on improving my hand writing because that the moment it looks like it could come from a 5th grade boy.