When I was starting out as a writer, my mother took me to talk with a journalist-friend-of-the-family: this visit had a practical purpose, as we wanted to find out if there was any chance of my fulfilling my “work experience” week at the newspaper she worked for. More importantly, though, it was a chance for me to talk more generally with someone who made their living from words. I think I already knew that journalism wasn’t where I was heading—I dally too long over sentences. Anyway, I’d already published a small handful of poems (establishing an embarrassingly traceable juvenilia…) so when she let us know that the work experience slots were already filled, we talked instead about the dailiness of writing. In the context of this conversation, the subjects of both diary-keeping and letter-writing arose.
Letter-writing in particular: because for a long time I’ve been a letter writer. Though my letter writing goes through its fits and starts (sometimes I’ll maintain a steady stream of handwritten chatter with a dozen correspondents; other times I’ll straggle behind, taking a month or two to answer a single letter) letters are part of who I am.
Of course, the old “snail mail”—which I still think is a remarkably speedy service in most instances—is constantly being threatened with obsolescence. I read recently that the United States Postal Service has decided it can’t go on guaranteeing next-day delivery for first class letters. O! To wait two or three days! Well, it just increases the anticipation. The USPS is also considering once again abandoning its Saturday delivery service; that same service was the source of astonishment to me when I lived in America. Every time a letter arrived on a Saturday it seemed a particular blessing. Yes, the post service doesn’t have quite the same reliable income it used to as we jump into our inboxes online. I do it too.
Still, I write letters. The charm of the handwritten remains. With apologies to those penetrating the mysteries of my “style” for the first time.