Saturday, August 13, 2011

Someone else’s handwriting--today’s version of the singing telegram

    I just heard about a project [Snailmail Your Email] going on during July and August that gives people a taste of the pleasures of receiving mail by letting you send an email message in for a volunteer to handwrite and put into the mail.  I don’t know about your loved ones but I’m pretty sure my own mom would have felt baffeled, not thrilled, to receive mail from me transcribed by a total stranger.  A big part of the excitement of a letter in the mail is seeing the handwriting that belongs uniquely to each person you know and care about.  I don’t even feel I know someone well unless I’ve seen her handwriting! 
    Your loved ones are not dummies.  They know when you put effort into staying in touch and when you take the easy way out instead.  You can’t connect by wearing a mask.  I suggested to the reporter from CNN that it’s like the difference between real stunts in a movie and CGI.  You can’t hide the fact that one took skill and courage while the other took the click of a mouse.   How much are your favorite people worth?  Let's hope it's 5-10 minutes with pen and paper. 
    That evidence of effort is what makes the worst handwriting better than the best email.  It’s not that hard to keep a box of stationery and a pen and a roll of stamps next to your keyboard.  Stop every now and then when you’re pounding out standardized email in generic Courier type, and think about how much better your words would look if you wrote them in your own hand.  It’s like having them show up in a party dress rather than T-shirt and jeans. 
    Nothing can replace a piece of mail written in your own penmanship (whether you make chicken tracks or museum pieces) with words you have chosen.  Your reader knows that just for a few moments nothing mattered but the two of you and the connection between you. 

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