On Letters and Writing

Writing is such a vulnerable and personal thing to share because it is the only way people can ever get a glimpse into your mind and understand how it is that you process the world as you experience it. Even as someone reads a letter you have written, they are in direct communication with your thoughts and heart.

Generally, I prefer to write on actual paper. I used to buy my journals from our nearest bookstore, before it closed for business. I’d select the smoothest pages and take home the journals that were either college-ruled or unlined, and maybe had a beautiful design on the cover.

When I was living with my last boyfriend, I found a journal that his wife started but never finished. She died of cancer when she was about twenty six years old and as I turned the pages, I felt sad that there was no way for me to learn anything about her. All that there was to read was a line making a reference to the devil, and I understood that she blamed him for her illness. I admired the design she selected, because it was red and gold and looked like a book in which a princess would have written her exciting secrets.

E-mail remains a great convenience, but every month I send out several letters to friends. I write to my best friend who has moved out of state. I send her silly cards because she knows that I’ve never been one partial to bright strawberries or clouds or flowers. I write a brief update on who is handsome, minor achievements of the week, and I call her my sugar plum.

I write to my former social studies teacher from junior high because he still doesn’t see the point of Internet and e-mailing and he refuses to learn. I may be one of the few people who understand the teacher hieroglyphics in which he writes the latest details on what’s happening at work and who is married to who and how terrible the situation is with the school district and the profession of teaching.

I write to my prison pen pal. The choice to do so was not easy and I had numerous reservations before I finally wrote my return address at the end of my first letter. We’ve been writing to each other since before the holidays and he has maintained a very respectful tone as well as conveyed a few insecurities. He shares that he doesn’t know why I chose to continue to write, but that he appreciates it and looks forward to all my letters.  He sometimes refers to me as Miss Tabares and always signs off with, “Respectfully, Reggie.”

When the time comes to sit and write a story, my fingers get antsy and my neck gets stiff. I worry that I won’t create the connection that must exist between reader and author. I remember the compliment from a former friend who said, “You’re a great writer because you connect to your readers. You’re not just talking at them.”

But few genuinely great writers ever truly feel that they are any good. In fact, I loathe myself a little whenever I publish on a blog or a website. I roll my eyes at my own words and think, Why in the world would anyone care to read this?

Whatever does become published in a wide open area is going to take on a life of its own. A blog will reach some, but miss others. It will connect the writer to the reader in a way that is briefly intimate, but real nonetheless. Someone will be moved to tears, while others will respond with terse words or indifference, or worse, strongly-worded reactions.

Yet letters will, for a moment, be a close and personal interaction that begins with the first stroke of the pen and moves along as the stamp is affixed, the letter is delivered, and then is promptly pulled part by the eager fingers of the receiver.

Image via Moleskine.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashley.lynn.cook Ashley Lynn Cook

    Beautiful article. I keep diaries, although I used to write in them much more than I do nowadays, but I’ve kept up for about 13 years now. I plan to give these diaries to my future daughter some day, and hope that she’ll pass them down to her daughter. I’ve always been fascinated to see the inner thoughts, loves and wants of my ancestors and their books/letters/journals. And I hope that my daughter will be able to see another side to her mother and that will make us all the more closely connected on a whole new different level. :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/brittany.comas Brittany Comas

    I really love the way you express your feelings about writing. I also prefer writing on paper rather than on the computer. It seems so much more intimate, like it’s really yours. Your writing definitely reached me in a positive way. Thank you for sharing this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pinkgrapefruits87 Lauren Nespoli

    I always love reading the things you write because they’re so honest and I can often relate to them, and I like getting to know people through what they write. I’m fine with communicating online, but when I want to write a story or something it helps if I put it on paper first. but then I have to type it and edit it, and it takes twice as long as if I would’ve just typed it in the first place! I love that you keep in contact with former teachers. I do that too, and I love it but sometimes I’m like, “I’m such a dork, no one else does this!” As much as I love getting e-mail I definitely love getting actual mail too! Plus it’s fun to buy cute stationery and stuff to send letters!

  • http://www.facebook.com/becca.sands Becca Sands

    I really, really loved this. I’m that person who starts a post for my tumblr, and it’s brilliantly funny and witty until I actually go back and read it, and then I just delete it without ever looking back. We are our own worst critics, and I’m glad you ignore your doubts that anyone would want to read your writing long enough to publish it. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/gabby.ambrosio Gabby Ambrosio

    this is beautiful. there is something so sacred about our words that makes them hard to share, but the act of sharing them in what makes me feel alive.

  • http://www.facebook.com/carolyn.wahlskog Carolyn Wahlskog

    You’ve definitely inspired me to start sending more snail mail!

    I’d also like to share with fellow hellogiggles readers that I’ve worked with an organization called “Midwest Pages to Prisoners”. There are many others like it. We send letters and books to inmates across the country. If that type of writing interests you, you should check out their website:

    happy day :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001507511645 Ashley Maffioli

    i love getting snail mail. it makes me way happier than seeing my email full. i just wrote about 4 letters to different friends last week and were all really glad i did. i think once you remind people of how personal and fun it is to write a real letter it catches on pretty fast.

  • http://www.facebook.com/me.dana.you.notdana Dana DeRuyck

    Man, I definitely get snagged on that “Why in the world would anyone care to read this?” mentality all the time. Thanks for this post. You’re awesome.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1792442650 Jenna Buckle

    This is so gorgeously written! I feel the same way about writing pieces for my blog, so it’s good to hear that I’m not the only one. Thanks for tackling this topic!

  • http://www.facebook.com/abbeykos Abbey Kos

    I’ve been thinking about getting a prison pen pal for a few years now…thanks for writing this, Marianna, and thanks for sharing Midwest Pages to Prisoners, Carolyn.

  • Marianna

    I have so many letters and emails that need to be written and I find myself running out of time to do so. I can understand why some people let the craft go, but it’s so rewarding when you steal an hour or a few minutes just to do it, to share something on paper.

  • http://www.facebook.com/carinasantos Carina Samantha Santos

    I was looking through all the letters from people I had met over the Internet that I got a few years ago, and I realized that I missed doing that a lot. This might have been the jolt I needed to continue doing so.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1060550697 Laura Mayaneli Brown

    I agree with you to the fullest extent. As I was reading this entry I kept thinking that I was writing this article! You took the words directly from my mouth. I was conversing with a friend the other day about how letters/postcards are more personal than anything else, and we touched on the fact that texting has sort of ruined this idea of ‘personal’. When something is hand written, it shows that you have taken the time to personally convey your emotions to whom ever you are writing to. I personally enjoy admiring the other’s stationary and handwriting. Also, how things are written. You see, when texting, we tend to use abbreviations such as “g2g” or “lol” or “ttyl”. And honestly I hate it so much because inside I know that these “abbreviations” are soon to show up on a Junior paper and completely change the face of grammar in school throughout the WORLD. Texting is so abrupt that it is even scientifically proven that mentally we anticipate the worst when someone does not reply. Some people are so consumed with texting that they completely eliminate reality. I’m sure that most of you who are reading this comment are muttering to yourselves about how this might have happened to you. Well, let me assure you that it has happened to me too. Have you ever been in an argument with a friend because of what you said in a text? Oh yes, I sure have. If only texting could convey emotion… Not only does this occur in texting, but also on email, facebook, and whatever else you can think of! But this is all beside from the point. Writing is something that we use to communicate, get a passing grade in school, convey emotion, describe, and so much more. Personally< I think that writing is necessary for everybody because not only do we use it for everything mentioned above, but also to express ourselves. When I have no one else to go to, I pour my feelings through my fountain pen onto paper. Literally. Well, not literally but really! I've found that writing has helped me in many ways. It's been therapeutic for me. It's.. changed me. It can be anything you want it to be. It can be kept to yourself, or shown off to the world. But Marianna, I think it's great that you have written this, because not that many people realize how great letters and writing can be. Thank you for sharing this to your fellow readers and I!

    • http://www.facebook.com/WritingInBed Marianna Tabares

      I’m almost terrified to hear the answer but did they really stop teaching kids how to write in cursive??? Extra question marks to express the raising of my eyebrows.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1386805767 Raquel Lupe Anaya

    i’ve got a love for postcards. I like to send them out every few months to some of my closest friends, most of whom live a ten minute drive away from me <3

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