Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Letter-Writing for Writers

Remember when you wrote real letters--hardcopy sent via street mail? I imagine there are some younger people who have always used E-mail, but at some point in their lives nearly everyone has written letters.

I became a prodigious letter-writer in the 1970s, staying in touch with fellow science fiction fans, model builders, and other friends across the U.S. and Europe. This continued through the 1980s and for part of the 1990s, until nearly everyone got on the E-mail bandwagon. (I think about 25 percent of my correspondents were using email by 1985.) By the turn of the century, I wrote only the occasional hardcopy letter to older friends and relatives.

Several years ago I went back to writing letters regularly to people who also use E-mail. It's a nice break, printing out and mailing missives the old-fashioned way. Sometimes I write them by hand.

Interestingly, I find myself using all of my writing skills and technique, even dialogue, in letters. The vocabulary is adjusted to the recipient and/or subject, but I get as much satisfaction from a well-crafted letter as I do from a good article or short story.

In addition, writing letters gives me something to fall back on when I'm temporarily stuck and can't get into one of my commercial projects. It gets my mind off being frustrated over the block, and keeps me in the writing groove. Try it.


Angela Crocker said...

I agree. Letters - real ones that require postage - are a necessary art. I'm a communications consultant, tech gadget geek and social media coach yet I still write letters to "pen pals" and family elders. I eagerly await their paper replies. In some ways they are grounding ... keeping us connected to the real world in a world full of technology.

Michael A. Banks said...

"A necessary art ..."

That is a fitting term.