“Or don’t you like to write letters. I do because it’s such a swell way to keep from working and yet feel you’ve done something.” ~Ernest Hemingway
Like Hemingway, I think writing is a letter is a swell thing. Although my format these days is most often a note rather than a letter, I think it still counts. Taking the time to put words down on paper reflects something more.
I have grappled with how to write about this without sounding like I am praising myself for taking time to write notes. The truth is that one of the reasons that I love to write notes is that I love to buy notecards. I grapple constantly with a major stationery jones. I see pretty cards, fun envelopes, beautiful paper – I want them. When Chronicle Books sends me an email about a “percentage off!” and “free shipping!”, I believe that it is being spend-thrifty to go and buy a box or two of cards that I have had my eye on. Otherwise, I might see them full price somewhere and cave in to their allure. Well stocked with wonderful receptacles for notes, I need to produce so I can justify getting some more.
I am sentimental about such things too. I have envelopes from the hotel where we went on our honeymoon. I once used one to send Dan a Valentine’s Day note, but I still have one left in my stash. I have awesome thin envelopes with pictures on them that we got while we were in Bolivia. Some cards that I buy, I like so much that I keep them for my own pleasure. They are like mini art pieces. Some I frame. Some I tape up on a door or wall. In my office at work, I have strung ribbons along my walls and I hang cards from them with paperclips. It is a happy look.
Correspondence that I receive are similarly sentimental. Several years ago, I was going through my postcard collection that I had when I was a kid and I came across postcards that my mom and my grandma had written to me. When I found them, both my mom and grandma had been dead for several years. Seeing their writing meant much to me, and I continue to treasure those finds. I have all of the letters that Dan and I exchanged during college when we were apart during summers and his term abroad. At the time there was no email and we were too poor to pay the long distance call rates. On many of the envelopes, he wrote a little note to Howard, the postmaster in my small town. Howard came to our wedding and laughed at how much he enjoyed those notes. I have a big box full of birthday cards, thank you notes, and miscellaneous correspondence. Naturally, I have everything Sam and Ali have written to me. I am a packrat, but I try to be tidy about it.
If I send a note in the mail, my hope is that it brings the receiver a small amount of happiness, or warmth, or comfort, or pride. If I leave a card or note for a co-worker, I hope that it helps them understand what they mean to me and our organization. It is an easy gesture that can bring with it much more than the effort that it took to produce it. Like Hemingway, when I have finished a note, I do feel like I have done something.