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It Must Be Letter Writing Season

It must be letter writing season. The days are short, it’s cold, and I feel like writing letters.

The problem is that writing someone a letter has fallen so far out of fashion that writing one not only has no guarantee of a reply, but a reply, if received, is actually more remarkable an act than the original letter.

There’s one exception: Legislators. If I send a letter to a legislator, I will get a reply eventually. Even the President responds, although it takes longer.

For everyone else it seems that receiving a letter from someone is a little like seeing them drunk and doing something a bit silly. They’re wary and don’t know what to make of it.

“Yeah, I, uh, got your letter. So are you ok?” they’ll say, in a phone call later, or maybe an email.

The good news is that the handwritten letter has retained all of it’s power to convey a message with seriousness. The bad news is that’s all it has retained, apparently. Oh, well, the search for a reliable pen pal continues.

There are still places to go to find people to exchange letters with and I’ve given that a try. Exchanging letters with someone just to exchange letters is artificial, and it always seems to run out of gas. That or spring comes and letter writing season ends.

During letter writing season there’s more time to write and less demand on time from the yard (for some, anyway) and it’s not that hard to keep up with fairly significant traffic. Then spring comes and all of a sudden there’s extra cleaning, mowing, and myriad other activities. Letters go unanswered, and who’s to blame someone for not following an unanswered letter with another?

Another pen pal lost, and in the fall the cycle begins again.

At least there is enough going on in our world to give me plenty of reasons to write to legislators. It’s not the same as writing to family & friends, but getting a letter from the capitol has its own reward. For a moment I feel like an important message has arrived and I’m conducting critical business with our nation’s leaders.

11 comments… add one
  • Randall H. December 21, 2012, 10:32 am

    Great post! I agree about the whole “artificial-ness” of writing letters to people you don’t already have a relationship with. Often, nothing “clicks” and the letter writing feels more and more forced, eventually withering on the vine. But the itch to write letters always returns!

    • Steve December 28, 2012, 5:51 pm

      Hi Randall, Thanks for the comment!

      I noticed recently that some of our fellow bloggers put mailing addresses on their contact pages, and I thought it was a great idea. So I’ve sent off a few letters, and added my address to my own contact page.

  • Ashli December 26, 2012, 7:21 pm

    I love to regularly write letters to my list of people. And I know when I write them, I will receive no response. I just love to write to people. I love stationery, pens, stickers, stamps, and handwriting. And I know I would love to have the special feeling of getting something other than trash, bills, or advertisements in the mail. I’ve always wanted a pen pal, but no one is reliable. Maybe some day!

    • Steve December 28, 2012, 5:58 pm

      Hi Ashli,

      Yes, finding someone reliable is hard, but from what I can gather it’s a matter of perseverance. Sometimes a missing response doesn’t mean anything more than one has gotten busy, and once a letter gets cold, it’s common to feel that it’s too late. A second letter sometimes does the trick.

      Recently I ran across PostCrossing.com and decided to give that a try. I don’t know how long I’ll stick with it, but long enough to use up a large stack of postcards I’ve collected is likely 😎

  • PostMuse January 7, 2013, 8:48 am

    I exchange letters just to exchange letters all the time, and, sure, sometimes it fizzles, but most time it is incredibly rewarding. And I end up corresponding with people I would probably not know in “real life.”

    When a letter goes unanswered, it is sad, but one moves on and lets that little bit of disappointment go. And, sometimes, months and months later, a letter will get written, and it may be filled with apologies, or it may contain sad news, or it may just continue the conversation with no explanation. My mom told me that a letter is not a letter until it has a response. I think about that all the time when there are letters waiting for my response (and there’s usually lots!), and know that eventually I’ll make that letter real.

    • Steve January 11, 2013, 11:45 am

      Hi PostMuse,

      I agree that it’s important not to get hung up on whether a person replied after one letter. We get busy, and nothing seems to have a half-life as short as an unanswered letter. After a few weeks, it can start to feel awkward to reply, thinking that the sender knows the real status of things.

      But the sender doesn’t. I sent a letter to a fellow blogger just before the holidays, and he’s yet to respond. Maybe it got lost in the holiday jam, maybe it’s sitting on his desk right now and he’s waiting for the right words to come to mind. It’s ok. I’ll write him another.

      When I read some of the letters I’ve received it feels like people put a lot of effort into them – is there a resistance to just writing by the seat of the pants?

      • PostMuse January 23, 2013, 12:14 pm

        Funny that in this day of instant communication, where people hurriedly type replies, then hit send, usually without checking for spelling, or making sure they “smile from the wrist down,” that snail mail sits unanswered. But, I do think there is a resistance to “writing by the seat of the pants.” Maybe because mail is something special, even before the Internet. I don’t think anyone ever took a letter for granted.

        I received your letter today, written in such a lovely shade of ink, perhaps a blue/black but almost grey. Thank you. And I will write a proper reply.

        • Steve January 23, 2013, 1:37 pm

          Glad to hear it! The ink in question is Noodler’s 54th Mass. Nice color.

          And I look forward to your letter!

  • Jen January 11, 2013, 9:01 am

    Have you considered joining the Letter Writer’s Alliance? http://16sparrows.typepad.com/letterwritersalliance/
    They have a pen pal service (among other things) and my pen pal and I have kept in touch for a while now. I write letter but usually get nothing in return; still I do it for the pleasure of doing it, not for the receiving of letters (it would be nice to get one every now and then though).

  • Jen January 11, 2013, 9:02 am

    Well never mind, I missed the link in your blogroll;) Anyway, happy letter writing!

    • Steve January 11, 2013, 11:40 am

      Hi Jen – and thanks for the comment.

      Yes, I’m recent member of the LWA. Haven’t written too many letters, as I’ve been focusing on a few of the bloggers similar to me. But I’m always happy to get mail, and will respond to whatever I get – address is in the contact me page.

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