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Do you write letters on a regular basis? Is this an important habit to model for our children? How do we renew appreciation for letters?

What do you do in your family to encourage letter writing? Do you save letters, and if so, do you ever share and reread them? I would be interested in how others keep letter writing alive in the world.

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    May 2 2013: Yes, I write letters and make mail art. I think it is a peaceful and intimate way to tell someone they crossed your mind for more than a nano second. I still send Christmas cards hand written and most years hand made. I start in October. I have given classes in making mail art postcards and then sending them - with every technological advance we eat up more of our time - now we have none.
    The art of handwriting and expressing our selves in more than a short, limited amount of characters is important. Complete thoughts being processed from beginning to end.
    There is a charm and character to letters, cards and postcards never felt in emails and messages.
    • May 2 2013: That is so cool. I have also made my own holiday cards many times, and I have a number of friends who have designed postcards or decorated their letters and envelopes with art. In fact, I have kept hundreds of such letters and have been incorporating them into a blog called Life Letters. It's been amazing and fun to reread and enjoy all those old letters again.
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        May 3 2013: Have a friend who has used them to wallpaper her guest bathroom - you don't want to leave! She is one the ceiling now!
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    May 1 2013: Social media is to letter writing as Katrina was to New Orleans.
    • May 1 2013: Hopefully both New Orleans and letter writing can be salvaged, and both can emerge in new, stronger incarnations. I plan to do my part for letter writing at least.
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        May 1 2013: Good on ya girl! Getting and answering letters was a huge part of my sanity preservation regimen in the Vietnam War. There is nothing like being alone with pen, paper and almost tangible visions of the loved one with whom you are "talking". I must say I do not see much hope for a revival of the habit, but I hope your optimism is rewarded. Thanks for a thoughtful post!
  • May 7 2013: When i was younger (16-17 years) i used letters to communicate with my friends. Was very difficult call them en these moments by telephone. But now, normally use laptops. The problem is that we are can not take with us the dictionary and may be dependent on a machine. The errors in the e mail messages are very grave, for example, reduce the words and we ignore the rules of writing. It is awesome. There isnt control.
  • May 7 2013: When I was younger I lived with my dad, so me and my mother used to write letters back and forth all the time. This was before the convenience of self phones though.
    I love writing though. I write down things before I type it, because I'm weird like that, I just like the physical action of writing.
    My son, he's six now, he likes to write, he goes around the house and just writes down random words he sees.
    Once his handwriting and spelling is better, I would like him to become pen pals with another child his age anywhere of his choice. I would like for him to continue writing and perhaps grow a love for it if possible.
    Even though it's not the main source of communication to have, it's good to have it.
  • May 7 2013: I have a few random thoughts on the art of letter writing. When I was in Peace Corps a few years ago - in the middle of the South African bush, an hour's walk from my post office village (not even a shopping village!), I sent 1,004 pieces of mail (mostly to the States) and received nearly as many replies. (I did not have access to email, and even if I did, the instant gratification would have paled to the wonderful wait and anticipation of thoughtful, creatively designed replies. Everyone saved my letters and aerograms from my travels around Southern Africa. When I was in India, I tried sending some postcards and it took FORever, but soooo much more meaningful for the folks back home than email blogs. Observations based on teaching middle schoolers - they have no clue what it means to "address an envelope". They said they don't even receive snail mail thank you notes from their GRANDparents, just email letters. Last random thought: in 1990, I took a Smithsonian Resident Associates class at the National Postal Museum in D.C. on "The Art of Letter Writing". We were in the museum after it closed, touring behind the scenes at the exhibits and learning all about stamps and history of letter writing. It was sooooooo gratifying. I'm now using stamps I found in my mother's desk drawer that HER mother had left behind in her desk years ago - lots of 4 cent and 6 cent "commemoratives" and a bunch of cool 8-cent on the moon landing, etc........ I saved them for a while (in case they were ever worth something) but am having fun adhering them to envelopes for the purpose for which they were intended. I just need LOTs of them per envelope, now!
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      May 7 2013: Wow Janet, incredible! I don't think that I can formulate an appropriate response after this touching comment. You truly do know the value of letters in today's society. I have seen almost 8 decades pass and I think of myself now, typing this message, and think about how far technologically our world has come. It's a bit frightening to be honest. But life goes on. Anyways, I send my grandchildren letters every month talking about everything from my daily pursuits to the frustrations that I encounter. I really do think that they enjoy this as opposed to opening up an email. Although my hand is not as steady as it once was, they can see the effort that I put in to each of my letters, even if it is something that they do not understand yet at their age. Hopefully they will continue this tradition that I have attempted to instill in them one day after I am gone.

      God Bless!

      -Todd C.
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    May 6 2013: I personally have never wrote a letter and I think with how easy it is to use emails now letters are slowly dying out. However I can appreciate how personal letters are. I once got one from a past girlfriend of mine and I was very touched by the gesture. I got rid of the letter once we broke up however I think that may be something I regret as I get older. I do love the idea of letters being reserved as a more personal method of communication because of this I don't really mind that not as many people write letters now but would love it if they stayed around as personal gestures.
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    May 6 2013: Actually,I am starting to write letters .as a colleage student ,I have little oppotunity to meet my old friends face to face.I‘m worried about our friendship.Although we can talk through phones or send emails,I feel it makes our connection less valued and stay in words.I want to send them letters to show my appreciation,my care .It is more tangible and considering. On the other hand, I am not very satisfied about those e_tools for it takes much more time than i expected in the daily life . Sometimes,I feel I‘m too virtual .
    • May 6 2013: I still write to and receive letters from my college roommate of almost 40 years ago, as well as some of my high school friends. I've also kept most of the letters I've received and have been using them as material for my Life Letters blog.
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    May 6 2013: Although I can't say I write letters on a regular basis, I will always take the time to send a handwritten reply if someone has taken the time to write to me by hand first. In general, I'm okay with the shift to email, since it has many tangible benefits (faster, more efficient, less taxing on natural resources, etc), but I do think that handwritten notes are nice for special occasions like birthdays and holidays, as well as still being absolutely necessary to communicate gratitude when someone has gone out of their way to do something kind for you.
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    May 5 2013: Yes, I write letters regularly. The only problem is that people are often too lazy to send letters now because it means a journey to the post office and an email can be written and sent in a couple of minutes without leaving the room.
    A handwritten letter is something precious, because it has been held in the hand of the writer and an effort has been made to get it to the recipient. It shows that more thought has gone into it than an email but unless it is sent willingly it doesn't have much value.
  • May 3 2013: I love writing letters. It certainly takes more time to write a letter than it does in writing emails, but it's clearly more meaningful. I do keep most of letters I’ve received from others so far, too—for they remind me of the feeling of “appreciation” I had at those very times. Anyway, I haven't tried anything to encourage my siblings to write letters just like the way I do.
    No need for persuasion.
    The value of writing letters with their hands is not appreciated unless they truly appreciate it.
    Just the way of doing it somehow draws their attention.
    With curiosity, they once mimic what I do and find it quite enjoyable to write and receive letters.

    I’ve seen some school teachers who force their students to write letters on every special occasion.
    Not only is it an ineffective way, but it’s also a devastating factor in the joy of writing letters.
    Just like studying math with the frowning look on one’s face, writing letters against one’s will would be the very thing that ruins the value of “doing it”.)
    • May 6 2013: I agree that people should not be forced to write letters, but there must be some way to get young people excited about doing it themselves, which sometimes involves the suggestion that they write a letter or card. Modeling letter writing as a parent and as a teacher is also important. Hopefully when people receive a heartfelt letter they want to reciprocate.
  • May 3 2013: Hi Laurie!
    I feel awful... I think the last time I wrote a letter was on my Mom's typewriter... I don't think I need to count the years.

    I live in the Netherlands, and a few years ago, all of our post offices shut down, ordered by the state. I live in a country with NO post offices. It's a bizarre idea, and one that makes me wonder where I am supposed to go to even mail a letter these days... Yes, there are mailboxes around, but they don't do me much good if I don't know where to buy a stamp.

    A friend of mine delivers mail, but main depots are closing down left and right, due to the lack of mail. Mail bags that used to be filled with hundreds of thousands of letters, are now filled with tens of thousands. Needless to say, she is grateful she still has a job.

    My daughter is showing me the importance of writing letters. She has just learned how to write, and is determined to write letters to her Grandma in America. And the best part is, she gets a letter back! Time to find out how to get some stamps... perhaps via internet?
    • May 6 2013: That is so interesting! I wonder how many other countries have gotten rid of post offices or made it more difficult to send a letter the old fashioned way. I'm glad that your daughter is excited about letters. She will treasure those letters from Grandma.
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    May 1 2013: When I was young, including the time I was at university, I wrote letters. What I think has displaced letters more than email has is phone plans and Skype. When I was a teenager at college, the cost of telephone calls meant that I spoke with my parents only once a week for fifteen minutes on the phone. Now kids can call home whenever they feel like it and do. I know a great deal more about my children's lives because of the telephone than my parents knew of my life through letters.

    I have not gotten used to Skype, but my daughter spoke once a week for two years to a friend in Switzerland. They could connect more immediately that way than would have been possible by letter.

    What we retain as tradition in our family is the making of cards. On any birthday or occasion, my kids are eager for my card to arrive for them. but it is the drawing they are waiting for rather than the words. Further, I have written reflections, if you will, for the kids in the sense of filling a moleskine and passing it along when done as a keepsake for them. So that's not a letter but it is long-hand writing they will have to remember me at some point.
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    May 1 2013: Before letter writing there was the tradition of storytelling and spoken word. Then we invented letter writing. Now we have email and SMS. Someday we may have thought-transference. The 'letter' is a method - a tool - in my opinion, to accomplish what I'm trying to convey. In modern poetry there is an argument on whether a poem must be spoken and told rather than just written, to see the inferences and enunciation's of the author. I can see where the effort of taking the time to write a letter can have greater romantic appeal, but I think that's more a function of the author and reader than the actual conveyance of the item called "letter".
    • May 1 2013: It's true that there are many ways to convey a message. I guess I must be a romantic because I've saved hundreds of letters from many different senders, some significant and some just fun. I've been incorporating them into my Life Letters blog, which is meant to promote the dying art of letter writing.
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        May 2 2013: And that's wonderful! That works for you. Please do not interpret my reply as 'discounting' your appreciation, or the value, of the craft of letter writing. I merely presented my view - I think more in response to 'model for our children' than anything else. Also, I use the word 'romantic' in the classic sense, of which I am very fond of.
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    May 1 2013: I grew up in a family culture of writing letters. My grandfather used to write letters to my mother every month. When he was very old and a bit senile, my mother still used to receive postcards from my granpa which contained almost gibberish. I witnessed my mom crying looking at these postcards secretly.
    I also came to know that most treasured of my mom's possessions is a bunch of fading letters that my dad used to write to her when he was staying away for work during the initial part of their marriage. I used to write to a cousin of mine, long, philosophical letters when I was adolescent. It helped my language skills.
    After emails came, I had few pen friends - some from overseas. I enjoyed writing to them and loved to get mails from them. I still remember to be writing to an American lady and developing a disembodied romance :) I feel sad to have lost a very good friend in her.
    I think letter writing is an artful communication that we are slowly forgetting.
    • May 1 2013: I like the word artful regarding letter writing. That is what I really love in a good letter, and I don't find it often in emails.
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    May 1 2013: Yes, I do still write letters. The best way to "renew" appreciation is to send one. people love to get letters. it's like a notification flag but more personal and better..
    • May 1 2013: And the sending of the letter hopefully initiates a cycle of response by letter. I certainly value a tangible letter much more than an email with a red flag!
  • Apr 30 2013: I think letter writing has been superceded by e-mail. Those of us that wrote many letters before e-mail remember them fondly. Getting a letter was so much more personal than an e-mail. I feel the same way about reading hard copies of books rather than .pdf files.

    I did do something a bit unusual when my kids were growing up. Two or three times a year I wrote them a letter as if they were an adult and described what was happening in their lives, my life, and usually some perspective on an adult topic of some sort (finances, sex, education, raising children, business, religion, etc.). I wound up with about 30 letters for each kid.

    The thought was initially that I might die before I could talk to them as adults, and if i did, then the letters might convey my thoughts and might be interesting. Since I managed to stay alive, I sent each child a few of the letters at college when they went away from home.

    I was a bit disappointed with the response, but I guess much of it was repetitive with my parental rhetoric as they grew up. I made a copy though and sent thought I might give them a second copy when they had kids of thier own. Maybe they can learn from my mistakes.
    • May 1 2013: I think it's fantastic that you wrote those letters to your children, and the fact that they didn't appreciate them at the time doesn't mean that they won't down the road. I just posted a blog entry (Life Letters: regarding a childhood friend of mine who died at 38 - I have dozens of letters from her that I treasure. A letter can be read and reread, savored and saved.