I just found this in the drafts folder from my old blogging engine. (We’ve just switched over to a new engine - probably more on that in a later post when the dust has settled). Not sure why I didn’t post this before now. But here it is. Better late than never.
I’ve thought a lot about letter writing over the past few years. I even bought a book on the subject. Like many others I love getting hand written post, be it a postcard, a note-card or even, more rarely, a letter. Getting something through the post that is hand written feels like a luxury. And I treasure these. But, I treasure emails from friends as well.
Writing a letter by hand takes time, and for me, feels like it needs a bigger investment of time than an email does. I use the words “feel like” deliberately there. I can, and do, spend quite a lot of time crafting an email until I’m happy with it. Until I feel that it says what I want it to, in the right kind of tone. And, ideally, which isn’t so long that the recipient doesn’t have time to read it. I’ve noticed that I tend to write emails like this when I’m alone and when I can give it my full attention. I treat it as I would a letter. This feels good. In the book I bought is the following sentence, which I apply to emails as well:
In style, the best letters should resemble not shouting in a theatre but whispering in a corner with a friend.
The joy of email for me, though, is also an immediacy thing. I do a lot of “saw this, thought of you” style emails. Pointing out something to someone that they may have missed, or that made me think of them. These are quicker, more throwaway, more like a telegram. Despite my use of twitter, I still send these via email. Occasionally via a twitter direct message, but almost always in a targeted manner. Again, from the book :
The very idea of writing a letter to more than one person at once is ludicrous. Letters should be precision-targeted.
When talking about something someone has written in an email I tend to say they “said” something, not they “wrote” something. To me this feels like a conversation. And I like that.