Master This: Handwritten Notes

By Jane C.

Picture by Jane M
Picture by Jane M

In elementary school and junior high, I used to pass handwritten notes under my desk to friends in class. Now I send texts and Snapchats, still under my desk, of course. I used to know the exact shape and curves of all my friends’ handwriting, now I’m not so sure if my best friend writes with loopy loops or straight “y”s. I used to handwrite all my thank you notes to relatives and friends. Now, these are more and more often replaced with brief emails and quick phone calls. In the days before Twitter, I used to regularly keep a journal. The feeling of putting pen to paper is starting to feel too weird too often. The pen wobbles in my hand after long periods of not having written something… anything. While I’m writing, er typing, this, my friend sits opposite me doing math homework, complaining that it feels “so ninth-grade” to write a heading on notebook paper. While I’ll probably be fine if I never have to turn in another piece of math homework again, I miss homework that involves writing.  Writing—actual written writing—is a dying art.

In Spike Jonze’s futuristic film Her, the protagonist works for a fictional company called “Handwritten Greeting Cards.” But, the future may not be that far off. There is an app, Inkly, that already basically does the same thing. Kids aren’t even being taught cursive in school anymore.  And when asked, many prefer typing to writing, as they find it faster and easier to correct mistakes. Kids today are probably learning to type their name on an iPad before they can write it. This makes me cry a little bit, and then lunge for my laptop to write this post. Irony.

I love handwritten letters. My love for receiving them is only second to my love for writing them. As an adult, how many other opportunities do I have to get my feelings out with glitter glue? Not very many, so I’m ready to take advantage of every chance I get. I have boxes and boxes full of homemade cards and letters that I look at frequently, and that I regard as some of the most special, beautiful things I own. There’s something about holding something in your hand that someone made for you. A handwritten or homemade card says so much more than its contents. It says that someone went out of their way to do something special because they think you’re special. And we all deserve to feel this way. Make someone feel this way! Now! If you haven’t been counting down the days, Valentine’s Day is tomorrow so this is THE PERFECT TIME.

Things you need to write a letter: a pen, a piece of paper, and something to say. You may also require some luck actually locating any of these things. But at least a thought is something that you can just make up. Voila!

Don’t wait for a special occasion: say hey, say thanks, say hey I meant to say thanks, say I love you, say sorry I forgot to say I love you. Say anything, because, any day is a great day to get, or write, a letter.

Go from thoughtful to unforgettable: A great letter often contains inside jokes, googly eyes and glitter glue, hand-drawn cartoons, reckless professions of love, sentimental soul searching, stickers and photographs. Insider tip: To save yourself the embarrassment of having to ask one of the employees at Michaels, “Hi… Um… Where can I find the googly eyes?” let it be known that the googly eyes are usually found in either the first or second aisle. Trust me. I’ve been there.

Making the store bought vs homemade decision: In my understanding there are usually two factors at play here: time and perceived creative ability. And in my experience, it usually takes me just as long, if not longer, to search through aisles of greeting cards to find a card with a sentiment that is “close enough” to saying something I might actually want to say. I dread shopping for cards. On several occasions I have gone to multiple stores to find “the one.” Fun had card shopping is inversely proportional to the number of cards opened that look promising on the outside but say something horrifying on the inside — and it’s a pretty steep slope. Unless I find the perfect one, I always feel a little bit of pain handing over my selection to the cashier, knowing there has to be something better out there and that the cashier knows it too. It’s a lose-lose. Because to be honest, before I ever read what the card manufacturer has to say, I always read what’s written by whoever gave me the card. That’s always the most important thing. Further proof that it should probably be the only thing. A letter should be all soul and no sort-of’s.

If you feel like your construction paper and collage game is a little weak, and the card selection on the street is even weaker, a stationary set might be your solution.

If writing makes you nervous: leave a note on the inside cover of a book, a post-it note in an unexpected place, a lipstick kiss on a mirror, a doodle on a dorm whiteboard, a scrap of paper on a pillow wishing sweet dreams. Make someone blush, make them smile, make them feel something.

Letters may not be the most practical or efficient method of communication, but they’re definitely one of the most fun. You don’t use a letter to say the things you need to say. You use a letter to say the things you want to say. And once it’s written it’s real. Even if your print is messy, it’s a lot prettier, a whole lot cooler and way more personal than watching a phone screen light up or logging in to find a notification in an inbox.

No one gathers up emails or screenshots of texts, prints them, wraps them in ribbon and saves them in a special box under their bed or on a closet shelf or hangs them on the wall. It just doesn’t happen. Not once. Ever. So here’s to reclaiming the art of the letter.

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