Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Dear friend,

While I was taking notes at the board meeting I realized my handwriting skills have deteriorated badly. I haven't written anything in long hand for a long time, outside of quick notes that only I have to read and they are seldom legible to me at times. I decided to write more in my paper journal and to write more in longhand to keep my skills and muscle memory from atrophying beyond use. After all, what would happen if there were no computers, no laptops, no electricity to run them? How would we communicate then?

In this electronic age we seem to have lost the common touch, the intimacy of writing, actually putting pen to paper and writing a letter to someone. We can keep emails on hard drives, flash drives, disks and even print them out on paper, but how many of us actually take the time to do that? How many people have a folder or bundle of ribbon tied emails hidden away in a box and kept as keepsakes? I know I don't. I have emails in electronic format and a few emails I need for reference printed out, but there are no ribbon bound emails, or even large files of emails yellowing with time and age, languishing in a shoe box or cabinet or drawer here or anywhere.

While watching a movie last night as I ate my dinner I decided to send a close friend a letter. I wrote it out in Word the way I always do but decided that was too impersonal, too cold for what I needed and wanted to say. I decided to write the letter in long hand. I didn't know how difficult it would be and how the muscles and tendons of my fingers would complain at the exercise. I am used to writing in a kind of shorthand when I do write in my paper journals and it was a struggle to keep from falling into old habits while writing this letter. It took me an hour to write out three pages that fit on a little over one page in Word, but it is worth it. I wasted a few sheets that will go into the recycling bin and I even flirted briefly with pen and ink before deciding it was safer and would take less time (and my fingers and hand would rebel less) if I used an ink pen. Luckily, the ink pen I used, unlike most of those I have bought recently) didn't skip more than once. I had to go slow to keep from making the words completely illegible and to keep from writing in shorthand, especially since the friend can't read my shorthand -- no one can. I just finished and I am proud of what I wrote. I changed a few things from the original I wrote in Word and printed out, but it is finished and is a more intimate and personal letter than it would have been in email or printed out on plain white copy paper. I wrote the letter on parchment.

Letters written by hand are also a little less likely to be ignored. They are tangible proof of regard for the person receiving the letter and evidence that what you said took time to write and to compose. It is so much easier to type out the words and send them on the flashing energy waves that disassemble and reassemble them on the other end, but I'm glad I wrote the letter by hand. Maybe my friend will keep it in a box somewhere bound in ribbon or even string and read it once in a while. At least I know it will last longer than an email and will hopefully mean as much to them as it does to me when I wrote it.

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