by Jane Kirkpatrick
When was the last time you received a hand-written letter? Didn’t it make you feel special? I do my best to write notes when people have written to me or when we’ve been guests or just because, even though my handwriting isn’t always the easiest to read. My husband says he can’t read my grocery list. I tell him people compliment my penmanship at book signings. “They’re looking at it upside down” he says. He has a point.
A few years ago I received a call from a man whose mother couldn’t read what I’d written in her book. I figured it out: “May all your memories nourish and transform” He went on to tell me that his mother was dying and that she wanted me to know how much she’d loved a book I’d written set in Florida. “She wrote you a long letter because that book brought back so many memories of her own growing up in that state,” he told me. “She was too embarrassed to send it to you.” “But did she keep it?” He asked her and he said she nodded. “Then you’ll have it, her children,” I reminded him. “And her memories did nourish and transform.”
Carolyn See, author and instructor in creative writing at UCLA in her book Making a Literary Life asks her students to write a letter a week that will “make you sweat.” She suggests handwritten letters that are sent to people the students admire, that they’re grateful to, perhaps. The act helps them as writers get in touch with their passion, emotion. I wrote such a letter to a former professor and to a great aunt who put a hot water bottle in my bed when I stayed with her in high school on cold Wisconsin winter nights. Both brought memories to mind and gratitude for all they’d given me in my life.
I like writing with a pen or pencil now and then. I often make notes to myself with pen and paper and not just on the computer screen. There is something about permanent ink on white that makes me think carefully about my each word I write down. Including the signature that is often, for me, Warmly…but it carries with it my sincerity. And it counts as having written. Isn’t that what we writers are all about? And sometimes writing an encouraging note to a friend is the finest writing around. I think I’ll go do that right now, hand-written, of course!