Some Finds and Thoughts on Letter-Writing


To follow up on my last article about the benefits of journaling, I thought it may be interesting to write about another one of my literary loves: letters.

To think that there was once a time when, after a long day, one could sit down with a cup of tea, collect one’s thoughts and present them in a fashion that would be worth a day’s delivery to the recipient, seems hard to conceptualize for those unfamiliar with the form. In an age that expects immediacy and directness – think of the texts, the brief Facebook messages, Tweets – we have lost a universal medium that forced an individual to develop their skills as a story-teller, an essayist, a full-fledged writer. As one of the few means of communication, it was a straight-forward proposition: either you can write (and in the process develop your abilities as a writer) or can choose not to (and thus keep your thoughts and ideas to yourself). Presumably choosing the former, one would then put themselves under the obligation of producing something truly worthwhile, something that captured one’s life, one’s thoughts, one’s dreams, one’s reactions to the very world around them, and it would have to be of such an expected quality that it was worth the postage, worth the delivery time, worth the long-delayed response of the recipient.

Now? Think of how much thought and effort one puts into a Tweet, a Facebook message or an Email.*

Perhaps I am being a little bit of a letter-writing romantic since, as someone who grew up writing plenty of letters to friends an pen pals, I’m biased. I’ll admit now that were you to peruse my bookshelf you would find an entire section dedicated to The Collected Letters Of … (I’m partial to Aldous Huxley and Oscar Wilde – if you’ve ever wanted to pick at someone’s brain, letters really give you great opportunity to do so).

The only reason why I have been thinking about letter-writing recently is because I have come across some very interesting letters lately during my normal internet perusing. My apologies that they all revolve around death. As Vonnegut would say, “So it goes.”

If you have time, you may be interested to read about “10 Fascinating Last Letters Written.”

Many might ask themselves if you knew death was near and you had an opportunity to write one last letter, who would you write to and what would you say?

On a very similar note, here is a blog post uploaded yesterday written a gentleman named Derek K. Miller who just died of cancer. He wrote “The last post” before he died, which begins with the haunting words “Here it is. I’m dead, and this is my last post to my blog.”

Lastly, The Telegraph is reporting on Osama bin Ladin’s four-page will published in a Kuwaiti newspaper recently. It is dated December 14, 2001, and emphasizes more familial issues than actual distribution of his property. All there really is to say is that it’s interesting.

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*(Though I am fairly harsh in my critique of the lack of thought and introspection that goes into modern modes of communication, I will admit that the only true heir apparent to letters that capture the ideas I am presenting are blogs. Unfortunately, even then it is but a weak relationship given the fact that blogs will never be as universally adopted as letters – why should one put forward an effort when one’s message can be made clear in 140 characters?)

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