I Beg to Differ

While sitting in a composition class one day, a handful of students raised their hands to discuss the current topic: Is letter writing dead?

Upon hearing their perspectives, my heart sank, and my soul was crushed (slightly dramatic…but basically, their answers were beyond disheartening to my English-loving soul). As it was, the majority of my classmates politely scoffed at  the outdated nature of letter writing. Heartbreaking. My classmates must be delirious to not recognize the value of letter writing, I thought to myself, as I classified the responses into three categories: a polite and not extremely vocal scoffing at letter writing (I begged to differ), an impolite and blunt voicing of disgust for pen and paper (I certainly begged to differ), and the final and only seemingly upbeat opinion—mine, of course—that letter writing is an art.

To begin, let me first express the sheer joy that blank sheets of paper and brand new pens give me (if you haven’t seen it yet, read my first post, My Battle with Consistency). If the excitement of a blank page doesn’t completely captivate your entire being, I then question your sanity. The possibilities of a blank sheet are endless; the mind proves fruitful as ideas flood the page (if I don’t switch topics now, this post will become a perpetual illustration of my affection for possibility).

I am an advocate for making even the most insipid, tedious tasks special. Rather than sending off quick emails or texts (for topics that don’t require immediate attention due to the not-so-rapid nature of letters), I choose to sit comfortably, retrieving a little blue box from my bookshelf. The insides of the box are saturated with hints of colored sealing wax, drips of ink escaping from well-loved pens, colorful envelopes, and stacks of homemade paper of varying textures and hues. However, being that this box belongs to me, there is order, despite a first impression of creative chaos. Each stick of sealing wax is tucked neatly into old, wax-paper pockets meant to store photographic film. Letters received are stacked in chronological order. Postage stamps are organized by price. Wax-seal stamps sit proudly in one corner of the box, arranged by height of handle.

I carefully sift through neat stacks of paper and envelopes before choosing a complementary pair. I seek out my most beloved pen (although, I am currently saving loose change to buy myself a beautiful wooden or marble dipping pen… Check out the ones I’ve been recently pining for at Nostalgic Impressions). Carefully, methodically, cautiously, I copy down the recipient’s address on the outside of the envelope, avoiding any misspellings or errors. There is no backspace button for handwritten letters; correction fluid on colored paper is tacky and fountain pen ink quite permanent. Each stroke of the pen must therefore be intentional. Each word must be meant entirely.

That’s the beauty behind letters; they are strikingly different than quick text messages, ill-thought-out emails, or even the spoken word, which is tossed around so carelessly with such loose meaning. Letters have a special value and worth that not only delights the recipient but satisfies the writer.

Besides the extensive thought put into the writing of a letter, the best part of the “letter experience” is the final step–sealing. In my eyes, I am sealing away my thoughts safely, as warm wax slowly drips onto the envelope. It, again, is a methodical, timely step that is representative of craftsmanship and personality. I moisten the metal of my insignia as I let the wax cool for a few moments I quickly press the insignia firmly into the small puddle of richly colored wax, leaving, in a sense, a lavish fingerprint.