A pen and paper revolution against junk

When was the last time you received a meaningful, personalized letter in the mail?

Many of you likely are stretching your memory, perhaps back to a recent holiday or your last birthday when you found a few cards from friends and loved ones sitting in your mailbox among the direct marketing pap, like gold nuggets shining through silt.

Letters - real letters with a return address and receiver address inked out by hand on a stamped envelope containing a page or two of greetings and thoughts by someone you most likely know - seem just as rare as precious metal in a mountain stream in this e-dress dominant era.

There's no doubt that e-mail changed how humans communicate with one another soon after it became hip to fire off electronic messages to friends and strangers around 1994. It definitely affected how we perceive traditional letters: the moniker "snail mail" is often used with a joking, derogatory tone to describe hardcopy correspondence.

Have you noticed how this notion of e-mail cool is evolving into the norm? It feels odd when you meet someone who either doesn't have an e-mail account or has one but doesn't remember it from lack of use.

Much, if not most, of my correspondence with family and friends is through either phone conversations or e-mail. Yes, e-mail is quick, convenient and I do like it, but it's the fast food of modern communication. I find using it exclusively to keep in touch leaves me feeling a bit emotionally unsatisfied and unhealthy.

Most of the e-mail I receive is garbage, and the near overwhelming amounts of it I get at home and work makes me doubt e-mail's perceived superiority over the traditional letter when it comes to clearly communicating ideas and feelings.

Who doesn't love going to the mailbox, panning through reams of mumbo jumbo, and finding a personal letter addressed to them? Nobody. Just sitting there, unopened in your hand, a letter lets you know someone cares about you and respects you.

These simple observations have made me realize that I can fight my own little revolution against time-consuming crap correspondence by simply making the effort to create a new habit of writing traditional letters.

I've heard it takes two weeks to make a new habit, and my letter writing has been going on for more than two months now. There's something intrinsically powerful about the effort put in to constructing a letter that enhances its compositional contents, and this fact alone has helped me stick to my habit.

Paper letters have the physical and emotional weight e-mail will never have, and creating them regularly is an emotional exercise in sanity that swims strongly upstream against the torrent of correspondence hitting our virtual and curbside mailboxes each day.

With family and friends, I prefer sending traditional letters on a weekly basis in addition to all the e-mails and phone calls I make to them. Also, when I have important business correspondence to take care of, I make it a point to send a well-crafted, traditional letter for the first few contacts. My reasons for doing so in both cases are the same: letters that arrive in the mail make people take notice. I know I do when the postal carrier delivers them to me, and that's what makes ink-on-paper letters more powerful than e-mail, more revolutionary.

Have a comment? Take a bit of time to write a letter to Erik Hansen c/o this newspaper; he'll definitely take notice.

Erik Hansen is editor of the Beacon Hill News & South District Journal, an associate publication of the Magnolia News.[[In-content Ad]]