I’m getting cards ready to send to my nephews for Halloween. I love them. The nephews, yes, but I really mean the cards. Everything related to cards and letters and mail. Writing out dates and messages and my signature – none of those return address stickers for me! Stamps, paper, pens, the post office. Yes, I love it all. Especially the post office. The physical building that houses the United States Postal Service and the crazed workers therein. Love.
Lately I’ve run into some interesting and funny things about both handwriting and mail. First, this hilarious essay in the Wall Street Journal about literary figures who continually complained about mail service and would probably not be angry to see the sad state of the US Postal Service. Except the ones who complained the most were also the most prolific, so I actually think they would be pissed to see the end of Saturday mail delivery.
Then this article, also in the WSJ, about how writing by hand actually makes you smarter. I must confess I wholeheartedly agree and even edited a great book about it, “Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting,” by Kitty Burns Florey.
When I write by hand, a whole different level of thinking and communication takes place. My thoughts actually form differently, and I feel much more connected to them as well as to whomever I’m writing. That sounds hokey, but, for me, and according to research cited in the article, it’s true. I don’t understand why people don’t want to keep handwriting in their lives. I know handwritten communication is not the quickest, but for some purposes, isn’t it the most effective? I think of taking time to write something by hand the same way I think of many other valued skills – practicing making a signature dish without following a recipe or learning ways to remember and retain names easily.
The last little thing I’ve been enjoying related to handwriting and the mail is Arcade Fire’s song “We Used to Wait.”
(I’ve been told it also has a really awesome [and needlessly nostalgic?] video, but I haven’t seen it as I do not have Google Chrome, and I’m too lazy to download it. Sigh.)
In the song, Win Butler talks about writing letters, signing your name, living in the suburbs, and what those letters – and waiting for them – used to mean. I guess I shouldn’t call out the video for being needlessly nostalgic because it could be argued that the whole action of writing a letter is needlessly nostalgic. But the song is great (if a little too Springsteen-esque), and since I still like letters and mail and stamps, I’m probably going to be here a little while longer, practicing my handwriting and thinking.