“Lonely days are gone, I’m a goin’ home
My baby jus’ wrote me a letter”
So goes the refrain of that big Sixties hit “The Letter”, Alex Chilton sang for his then band The Box Tops in a raspy voice he had in the studio after a night of wild partying. Of course, the letter he was singing about was that ‘old fashioned” artefact, a handwritten letter…
But then, The Sixties are long gone, and so seem to be the days when we all used to think in detail, sit down and express our thought and emotions in writing with our own hand a letter to practically everybody — from secret love to the water company. Email has taken over.
Sure, it is more convenient, quicker, the mistakes you made, or thoughts and sentences you wanted to change, are simply erased, not be seen even by you. But, is that the ‘true’ letter? Does it really reflect the full spectrum of your emotions, ideas and what you really wanted to convey? Also, should all those misspellings, changed sentences be really erased, and what do they really show?
Through the centuries, handwritten letters developed into an art form in itself. They always had that human touch involved, the capability to present the full spectrum of your thoughts and emotions, including all your frailties expressed in all those mistakes, or change of mind expressed in all those corrected, rephrased or erased sentences. Compared to it, email is exactly what it is — an electronic tool that not only serves to instantly send a message but also as some sort of a shield that is supposed to represent you as somebody you are supposed to be, maybe not always as who you truly are.
Chilton’s ‘letter’ concentrates on one person, it is an artefact, a physical proof of all those emotions that the person who wrote it had to focus on, actually strengthening personal focus on what is written, what is to be conveyed. Isn’t that what writers should really do with their words and what they really want to express?
Maybe each writer should write a handwritten letter once in a while, even if it is just a complaint to the water company for all that mud that is coming out of your faucet. It could certainly have a stronger impact…
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