Sunday, June 19, 2011


The living room fills with the tiny click-clicks of a keyboard. I haven't bothered to put my ear buds in or even glance at the lovely stack of books on the coffee table that have tried to tempt me with their gleaming, paperback covers. Vanilla Turkish Taffy twists like a sticky ribbon in my fingers as I fiddle with it and squint at the text on my laptop screen.

It's not right.

If my sentences could dance, they'd jerk and jive like someone threw ice down their backs. "Too awkward," I mumble. I separate paragraphs and stare each sentence down. I make a list on my miniature legal pad of what, exactly, I'm trying to accomplish by writing this letter. There's an art to letter-writing, I think. And I'm not sure I've mastered it.

I won't compare letters to telephone calls or even emails. I won't pretend that I, like many people in Jane Austen's time, can read or even write a criss-cross letter. But there's something about composing a letter that will never change: the privacy of it. And nothing says "microcosm" than opening up a page full of handwriting. But here's a confession. I haven't handwritten a letter in a long time. I actually tried to do it recently, but my handwriting isn't that great and, well, I write a lot. I'm one of those rambling writers. I feel like I have too much to say, and I get excited, and, being a writer, I feel that if I have just one more paragraph, I can make you feel as if you were right there with me. Or that's what I'd like to do one day.

I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter - Blaise Pascal

So if you receive a letter from me that's only a page long, you'll know I've labored over it, haha. Whether I'm handwriting a letter or typing it, I often feel like the air around me disappears. I try to imagine the person I'm writing to. Would my words make her smile? Can that joke sound funny without a "just kidding" directly after? Will he understand what I'm saying when I try to relate?

This is why people are paid to write greeting cards, right? When I browse the card aisles, I can't help but admire even the cheesiest of lines. The point comes across. The message is clear. This is why people will buy expensive cards with golden, swirly words and only sign their names on the inside.

No matter how much trouble a letter can be, it's one of the best feelings in the world to send it on its way. I feel warm and happy, knowing that my letter is changing hands, hitching rides in people's pockets, flying overhead, or sailing across the sea. And very soon, the seal will be broken and the letter unfolded. There's magic in that.

Photo from We Heart It


  1. I have the same problem with writing things longer rather than shorter. For my creative writing exam last year I had to completely rewrite my synopsis because it was over a page too long...

    I haven't mailed a handwritten letter in ages, but for a couple weeks earlier this year I wrote "letters" to my best friend almost every morning during 1st period-- 2-4 pages, usually-- and gave them to her at the beginning of 2nd. They weren't proper letters in the sense that they were well-thought out and personal-- it was just me scribbling my soul into paper for her.

  2. A creative writing exam? Not that it's unheard of or something, but woah. I remember taking a kind of one, where I had to write a story and then switch POVs. I don't know how I managed it. Both stories sounded very much the same, haha.

    Oh, that's very cool that you did that for your friend. It's fun when you get into a rhythm of writing the letters; I wrote to a friend every two weeks or so while she was away, and it was a lot of fun. I kept sticking pictures in the letters though, so once again I typed it. Gah.

    Those letters you wrote to your best friend must have been fun to read :)

  3. "If my sentences could dance, they'd jerk and jive like someone threw ice down their backs."
    Ack, yes! I experience that so often and you've expressed it excellently!

    I love this post because, well, I love writing letters! When I was young(er) I used to write letters to my friend who moved away. Then she got into the internet (before I was) and our letters stopped. Sad day. :(
    But don't worry, I later found more satisfactory correspondences. One friend in particular (who lives about 30 minutes away, haha) puts up very nicely with my rambling letters. She is quite amused by them. ;)

    And Vanilla Turkish Taffy? That sounds absolutely delicious!

  4. I enjoyed reading your sound just like me!
    I love the photo also. I absolutely adore Weheartit.

    Have a great day!

  5. Melee Ah, yes, something like that happened to me as well. When I first moved to Florida, I wrote letters to my best friend who was still in New York. But email had become a big thing (gosh, I feel old), and when we started using that instead of letters, we eventually stopped writing. I think it was so easy, that we wrote too much and got burnt out.

    Yesss! The Turkish Taffy is very delicious! Strawberry flavor is good too. It's the Bonomo brand - my parents used to eat it when they were kids. I love vintage candy (is it vitnage now? Haha).

    @tmpliterary Hi Tammy! Thanks - you too! And I'm glad you enjoyed the post. We Heart It is way to addicting, haha.

  6. there certainly is magic in that, we should do it more often.

  7. This is just perfect. I feel the same way when I write a letter, doubtful but still ready to bleed into it. I long to be able to write shorter pieces that mean more than a million words but I too get trapped in "just one more paragraph". I'm sure your letters are perfect, hold on to such things <3

    xx and hugs


  8. Oh my, what a lovely post.
    I love hand-writing letters to my nearest and dearest ... and it is very much a labour of love ... I really should make the effort more often.

  9. Lovely writing. I don't think I've written anything besides a thank you card for ages, I'd never heard the Pascal quote, but that's very true. It's a lot easier to write on the computer, because you don't have to pace yourself, if you have a good understanding of what you want to accomplish you can just jump around. Whereas with a letter you need to have a coherent synopsis of your own work already in mind and the flow of ideas needs to be pretty much perfectly mapped out. I'm completely in awe of the people who were able to sit down and write a letter without drafting first. Not a completely necessary skill now, but it does make you feel strangely inferior when you're typing an email.