A Month of Letter Writing

In January, we have National Handwriting Day an excuse for those of us who like the art of writing to celebrate what is becoming a dying skill in this age of digitally processed information sharing. Following on that, a new challenge has popped up in February, called A Month of Letters. The goal of a month of letter is to send a letter, postcard, or respond to any handwritten message, by mail, every day of the month except for Sundays and President’s Day (since it is a US challenge).

Original iconWhat I love about this challenge is it exercises two things, one, handwriting, and two, sending letters. I grew up in a time when instant communications was picking up the telephone and dialing someone’s house and if they were not their, you either left a message with someone else, or it just had to wait. If you wanted to communicate with someone in another city, you could call, but most times, the cost was prohibitive for anything other than critical messages. The rest wrote letters.

I spent most of my teenage years away at boarding school, and at summer camp. The idea of using a phone was just not viable. I wrote letters. Lots of letters. And I liked getting letters. If you write letters, you get letters. At least most of the time. I did have a few friends that were not good letter writers, but most wrote regularly.

Flash forward to 2016. The number of people writing letters has dropped so much that finding writing paper is a challenge. There has been a resurgence of writing, especially writing with fountain pens, but there has yet to be a similar uptick in the physical act of sending letters. But, hopefully, challenges like A Month of Letters and Postcrossing are two ways to stimulate the love of mail. If, like me, you are fascinated by letters, there is a wonderful book called To the Letter: A Celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing that you might enjoy as well.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go and write a letter. I just do not know who I am going to send it to. It might be you.

National Handwriting Day – 23rd of January

It is that time of year again, National Handwriting Day!  From my friends at Fahrney’s:

This Thursday (January 23) is National Handwriting Day in the United States. Established in 1977 as a day to acknowledge and celebrate the handwritten word it was created by the Writing Instruments Manufacturing Association “as a chance for all of us to re-explore the purity and power of handwriting”.

On the topic of handwriting, specifically writing letters, I finished reading To the Letter: A Celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing and really quite enjoyed it. It was a little bit of the history of the written letter, despite Simon Garfield’s initial statements that it was not the purpose of the book. It was a bit of biography, because after all, that it what most letters, that are kept become, the basis for a biography, and a review of the evolution of the post as we know it today. It was a fascinating read. And while he did not outwardly attempt to say that this medium of electronic “mail” is bad, he certainly highlighted many of the failings of not putting pen to paper and sending a letter.

So for National Handwriting Day, I encourage everyone to pick up their pen and write someone they know a letter. Put a stamp on it and mail it! And once you have done that, it is also time for the Annual Handwriting Contest! And like last year, I am going to put my mind to it and my pen and see what I can come up with. You should too!  Deadline is the end of January.

So let’s get writing!

Srsly?

If you have been following along with me for any period of time, you know that I have a thing about language.  And not only language but formal use of language. And a few people will tell you that I cannot spell to save my life (thank goodness for the red wavy line).  That being said, when I get an email like this, I cringe:

BABE… i guess your not getting any of my email huh? ive been tryign to email u so many times but this dam laptop is such a piece of garbage and keeps freezing.. anyways how u been?

Of course, it is a spam message. At the bottom of a very long, almost unreadable, 1000 word message is a come on link that I assure you, you do not want to click. It is a typical example of this sort of thing, but what really surprises me is how bad the language is.  Not just the random capitalization (and lack there of) and the slang shortcuts but just bad English. It concerns me that someone thinks this is the right way to to send mail. And since they have sent it, that people might actually write and talk this way!  If this is the future of the English language, I have a very dim view of the next generation.
Not to mention the spammers.

Follow up to National Handwriting Day

I have been busy since the last post, which was on Fahrney’s Handwriting contest to celebrate National Handwriting Day. I did not win, but don’t cry, I did do well. The winning post is “The Personality of Pens.”  I was selected as one of their favorites. I will smile and think I came in fourth, but it was fun to just write it. You might want to take inspiration from this and sit down and write something of your own.

In the meantime, I am going back to working on my day job.

January 23rd – National Handwriting Day

When was the last time you picked up a pen and wrote a letter? Nothing large, but more than what you would traditionally put on a pre-printed birthday card.  A month? A year? More? Sadly, if you answered less than a year, you are in the minority. And that is a sad statement. I am writing this post using a computer, not pen and ink. There are a number of reasons for this, but despite how much care and feeling I put into the post, it will not likely echo from the screen. There will be no variation in line width, no variable height to the letter, no tactile feeling of the paper under your fingers. Your eyes will flick over the words, quickly, and move on to the next post, on the next web site. Unless I can hook you with my words, you will barely remember what I wrote by the time the next page loads.

Not so with a letter. Oh, you might not remember the exact content of it, but you might remember the condition of the envelop, or the colour of the ink.  You might remember a passage when you see it laying in a drawer, or on a desk. But quickly the contents of the letter would come back. Shape of the letters would impart themselves, colour the words, and bring about a tone that the uniformity of a typewritten word can never convey. And yet, people are finding the convenience of sending an email, or a shorter text, the norm, rather than pouring their soul into a handwritten note.

But if you would like to change this, now is your chance. January 23rd is National Handwriting Day and if you are going to change your ways, this might be your incentive.  If you are feeling very adventurous,  Fahrney’s Pens, here in DC, are having a little contest that might further spur your creative juices.

In either case, take the opportunity to set pen to paper and write a letter.  Start small.  A small note is a good way to start.  Soon you will be sending letters everywhere.  And discovering the joy of handwriting.

When was the last time you wrote something?

The question is not rhetorical.  When was the last time you actually sat down to write something.  On paper, with a pen?  Sure, in this hustle and bustle most of us live in, we all spend our days “writing,” but that writing is almost always with a keyboard and the ink is electrons on a screen that are as tenuous as the power needed to make them appear.  But when did you write something?  Do you even remember how to write?  Not just fill in a form for a new job or for tax reporting, but a letter, written longhand.

Back in January, unknown to most, was National Handwriting Day was celebrated by Fahrney’s Pens here in Washington, DC with a little contest.  Write, longhand, on paper, a letter about one of three topics.  The winner would get a new Parker pen.  Well, I did not win, but I did enter and was a runner up on the topic of Cursive Handwriting Being Eliminated from Public Schools.

So, here is the essay I wrote, and Fahrney’s Entry is the actual submission:

Your opinion on cursive handwriting being eliminated from public schools curricula throughout the country

A report I read, not so very long ago, indicated that in the very near future, the average American would not be able to fill in a simple government form. And it was not that they could not understand the language of the form, but that their handwriting would be so bad, that even if they could fill it in, it would not be legible. And that is only the tip of a very large iceberg. For generations, people have made fun of the medical community for their handwriting, or rather their bad handwriting. And there have been as many studies done indicating that it was this poor writing that has lead to numerous medical errors.

But this is 2011 people will argue and with computer technology all around us, who needs to be able to write? I find this argument to be, well, short sighted. For example, if you have ever travelled by air to another country, you will discover that you need to fill in a form in order to enter that country, or return to the United States. And those forms are not electronic, they are paper, and you need to use ink to fill them in and they need to be legible. Many a delay is caused because the agent at the counter cannot read the document. Similarly, when applying for a job, or completing initial paperwork, most of those forms are still hard copy, requiring you to fill them out and sign them on the spot. Sloppy handwriting will only delay the implementation of your benefits

But is that enough justification to spend valuable class time learning how to properly form our letters? Education experts argue that it is not. These are the same experts that argue that recess is not required and more time needs to be spent on the basics. And I would agree, time needs to be spent on the basics, and handwriting is one of the basics. The experts focus on the formation of letters, but handwriting is so much more than just the letter. It is the flow, from letter, to word, to thought, to completed sentence. The experts do not argue, for example, that we no longer teach children how to add, or their times tables. After all there is no reason they cannot use a calculator for this simple arithmetic. But it is more than learning the number, just as writing is more than just learning the letters. Handwriting is the basis for good and proper word usage. It forces you to pay attention to what you are doing, and ensures that your thoughts are focused on the task at hand. It is much harder to be interrupted by the trivial when you are concentrating on your writing. And, at the end of the day, when it comes to communicating with our fellow human, there is nothing more powerful than the written word.