With depressing regularity, I find essays and news articles about the “Lost Art of Letter Writing.” I even wrote one myself for Newsweek in 2001.
Yet, however uncommon it may be to receive a letter, the art is not lost. No one needs to research arcane manuscripts to discover how the ancients communicated with pen and paper. Office supply stores still sell envelopes; card shops, drug stores and bookstores sell notecards; and even supermarkets sell stamps. Postmen travel their rounds. We all know how to construct written messages as we prove daily with texts, emails, and tweets.
Maybe all we lack is that focused moment when everything magically comes together — paper, envelope, pen, stamp and purpose. Perhaps what was once a common solitary activity needs to be reintroduced in a more social setting.
A museum in Canada recently set up a letter writing station in conjunction with an exhibit, promising to stamp and mail any letters that people wrote on site. The Jaffee Center for Book Arts at Florida Atlantic University holds Real Mail Fridays once a month to couple letter writing with coffee and cookies. And several libraries and local organizations are hosting their own letter writing parties. Should I organize something for Post Whistle in my area? Stay tuned for more on that idea.
In the meantime, Valentine’s Day approaches, and that’s a great reason to pop something in the mail. Let’s make the Rare Art of Letter Writing a little more common in our own corners of the world.